While the cancellation of so many familiar events is disappointing to the thousands who attend, organizers are already looking forward to robust returns in 2021.
Charmetta Mann, 78, views the shutting down of events due to the coronavirus as necessary for the future good. “We are doing the right thing. We have to protect ourselves,” said Mann, whose ’57 Chevy Nomad is a fixture in Clayton’s July 4th parade.
To understand how crucial these steps are, Mann says one only needs to see graves in the Live Oak Cemetery of infants and adults who perished during the years surrounding the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918.
A new way to honor war heroes
Memorial Day is the kickoff to summer community events, and this year’s event in Clayton is among those being tweaked. But VFW Post 1525 Commander Mark Steinberg doesn’t think the lack of a large ceremony will diminish its significance.
While nearly 500 residents normally would gather at the VFW Flagpole in downtown Clayton to mark Memorial Day, Steinberg said the event is being scaled back to a simple placing of a wreath provided by R&M Pools of Clayton.
The flag will be lowered to half mast at 8 a.m. to remember those who gave their lives for the nation and raised again at noon. The public, practicing social distance rules, is encouraged to either drive or walk by during the morning.
Maintaining community ties
Concord Mayor Tim McGallian lauded the way residents and business owners are acting amid these uncertain times, believing the city will be able to reopen in a truly meaningful way in the long run.
“Not having (the downtown concerts) in our normal, everyday routine, every week, gosh it’s unbelievable,” said McGallian. “So the goal right now is to help people figure out things we can do.”
One example is maximizing the city’s cable television access for offerings like the Concord Couch Concerts that showcase local talent.
Lisa Potvin, Concord’s downtown program manager, believes everyone is discovering new ways to come together – especially virtually. “We are finding those emotional ties that you would in live events,” she told the Pioneer.
Clayton Business and Community Association (CBCA) member AJ Chippero acknowledges that events such as the Concerts in the Grove, bocce and the parades would provide badly needed breaks from the disappointment and boredom the public is feeling. So to help fill that void, he has reached out to bands scheduled to perform at Concerts in the Grove this year to create videos that will stream on the day they were scheduled to appear.
Concerns about a drop in donations
The biggest losers from the public’s rich support of the much-anticipated slate of events are the nonprofits, community organizations and individuals who would be the eventual beneficiaries.
With money raised at the BBQ, Art & Wine Festival and Oktoberfest, the CBCA donated more than $150,000 in 2019. In neighboring Concord, local musicians and farmers who bring a buzz to Todos Santos Plaza through the summer concerts and farmers market experiences are feeling the pinch. Concord’s Oktoberfest, the most recent addition to the large gatherings in the plaza, provides funds for local organizations too.
To help offset the loss of support, the Clayton Bocce Committee spearheaded a donation program that is purchasing gift certificates from local businesses to benefit those served by the Monument Crisis Center. So far, they’ve raised more than $3,500, much from the players.
“The courts have been a social anchor of the downtown,” said Ed Hartley, chair of the CBCA Bocce Committee. “We are all confident that once the community gets back playing that bocce will be strong, and even stronger, for having gone through this together.
“You don’t know how much you have taken something for granted until you lose it,” he added.
Kevin Cabral, CEO of the Concord Chamber of Commerce, credited the community’s resilience and hardworking nature for figuring out ways to weather this period.
“We will make the most out of this situation and move forward. It’s just the way we do things will be different,” said Cabral, pointing to things like wearing masks at large events.
List of canceled events
The following community events have officially been canceled in Concord and Clayton as of May 16.
Organizers of other events have yet to announce if their offerings might be adjusted based on changing conditions set by the Contra Costa Health Department.
- Summer concerts at Todos Santos Plaza.
- Farmers markets held on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Todos Santos Plaza. A small market remains open at Concord High 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays.
- July 4 parade and celebration.
- Memorial Day ceremony.
- Concerts in the Grove.
- Bocce competition.
- Art & Wine Festival.
- BBQ Cookoff.
- July 4 parade and Rotary pancake breakfast.