Communities are taking advantage of the warmer weather and planning events for guests to help secure a slice of normalcy
With spring typically comes the return of flowers, warm weather and the hope for summer. This year, it also marks the return of some spring events canceled in 2020.
Several events that typically take place this time of year were abruptly halted a year ago due to shutdowns associated with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, with more knowledge surrounding the coronavirus and government shutdowns at a minimum, several groups plan to move forward with springtime events, albeit in a little different fashion.
That includes the Livonia Home Show, which did not take place last year. This year, the show makes its return, though will be staged a little differently: instead of being held inside the Jack E. Kirksey Recreation Center at Five Mile and Hubbard, it will take place right outside the building at the inline skating rink.
"We're just taking the same model and putting it in the outdoor rink," said Dan West, president of the Livonia Chamber Commerce, the group putting on the home show. "It is our belief that, if we have it outside, more people will walk through it."
The home show takes place 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 24, and, unlike previous years, admission is free. Those looking to make improvements to their home are encouraged to come and speak to the several dozen exhibitors setting up booths.
Also joining the outdoor event circuit is downtown Plymouth. On the same day, a spring artisan market will take place 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Gathering Pavilion across from Kellogg Park.
Tony Bruscato, director for the Plymouth Downtown Development Authority, said they've seen success with other small-scale events in downtown Plymouth the last few months and decided to open with a larger, outdoor event.
"We're starting to warm up a bit and we wanted to have something for people to come downtown and participate in," he said. "They just wanted to be out and do something."
Calling the Ice Festival and its strolling atmosphere earlier this year a success, Bruscato said part of the event will also consist of a sidewalk sale. Shops looking to participate can set up their wares outside their business. So far, Bruscato said several have expressed interest at joining the sale, especially given how successful the model was recently shown to be.
"The Ice Festival was very successful because people were walking around downtown," he said. "It's because it was spread around town."
Events still on even with rising cases
While groups can plan as much as possible, there are still wildcards when it comes to staging events. The main culprit is the coronavirus itself.
Groups have to contend with the number of COVID-19 cases and what the general atmosphere is in the state. Even with Michigan leading the nation in new COVID-19 cases by population, groups say they can manage events so long as proper procedures are in place.
West said having the home show outdoors — where virus transmission is scientifically shown to be dramatically less than being indoors — made sense when looking to plan the event. The demographic the show tends to attract also skews toward older people, a group more likely to have received a COVID-19 vaccination already.
"Many of those people have been vaccinated already," he said.
When it comes to seeing how to put on an outdoor event, all one has to do is look to Garden City. The western Wayne County community successfully staged its Lucky Squirrel market event three times beginning last summer, and has learned how to best put on a gathering in a safe and COVID-friendly manner.
After canceling the first two Lucky Squirrel events last year, the city put on the market in July, August and September in the parking lot behind businesses on the northeast corner of Ford and Middlebelt roads. It expects to hold all five events this summer, with the first taking place 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 15.
With the loss of those early spring sales came a hunger from the dozens of vendors usually setting up shop for the monthly event. Registration for vendors for the 2021 markets opened Jan. 1 and the first market was filled in less than three weeks, said Theresa Manuel, administrative assistant for the Garden City Downtown Development Authority. Especially with the loss of two markets last year, it appears vendors are itching to return.
"People that have learned about the Lucky Squirrel, they're anxious to make some money," she said.
Spacing booths out has never been a problem since social distancing become the norm, Manuel said. Vendors were given squares to set up in that are slightly larger than what's advertised to help encourage distancing. Multiple entry points to the market also help keep guests apart from each other as well, Manuel said.
Still unknowns in the summer
Despite some spring events, it's still unclear the future for some of the area's premiere summer events.
The fate of several large-scale gatherings such as Canton Liberty Fest have not had final decisions made on whether they will take place this summer. Some, such as Art on the Grand June 5-6 in downtown Farmington and Art in the Park July 9-11 in Plymouth, are scheduled to move forward.
Some events have already gotten the ax for a second straight year. Those include the Redford Summer Festival and fireworks typically held at Bell Creek Park, as well as two events in Birmingham: the Art Birmingham fair and Birmingham Village Fair. The Livonia Spree was canceled for a second straight year, as well.
The outdoor home show marks the first major in-person event organized by the Livonia Chamber since a luncheon featuring Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took place March 9, 2020, one day before the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Michigan.
West said he knows it will take some people a while to feel comfortable being around many other people after the last year, but said he hopes the outdoor home show can help keep people feeling connected to the community while doing it in a safe manner.
"Some people are going to need more time to get back to going to community events than others," West said. "People are going to need time to put their toe in the water and go through the process before going back to community events.
"People just want to see people. They want to talk to people."
Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed the status of Art in the Park. The event is currently scheduled to take place this summer.
Contact reporter David Veselenak at email@example.com or 734-678-6728. Follow him on Twitter @davidveselenak.