Canal Winchester cancels spring and summer events

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Nora Koch, 3, of Pickerington rides Midnight, a pony with the Pony Party Express available for children at last year’s Canal Winchester Blues and Ribfest. The event will not be held this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many annual spring and summer events are on the chopping block in Canal Winchester in response to the coronavirus shutdown, but the city is hoping Christmas in the Village, Trick-or-Treat and a veterans’ ceremony will go on as planned later this year.

There is no May 2 tree giveaway this year, Touch-a-Truck on May 22 is likewise cancelled and the May 20 Kris Sims Memorial Relay for Life Dinner fundraising dinner—where elected city representatives wait tables for tips and employees volunteer their time cooking and serving in support of Relay for life—is postponed until next year.

According to Mayor Mike Ebert, proceeds from the dinner, held in the Steube Community Center, average $1,100 in donations, with an attendance of 65 to 75 people.

“Named in honor of the late Kristen Sims, who worked to bring Relay for Life to Canal Winchester, the Kris Sims Memorial Relay for Life Dinner has been held for many years in May as a charity fundraiser benefiting the American Cancer Society,” continued Ebert. “The dinner features a three-course spaghetti dinner.

The 2021 event is tentatively scheduled for May 19, 2021.”

“We made the cancellation decisions upon the governor and state health director’s announcement of the stay at home and safe distancing orders,” said Ebert, who reported the board of directors for the Labor Day Festival are expected to make a decision on that event within a couple of weeks.

Canal Winchester’s annual tree giveaway and associated programs are part of an initiative to increase the city’s tree canopy coverage and prevent soil erosion. Details regarding the 2021 giveaway will be finalized later this year.

The Touch-A-Truck event was set to kick-off a series of family-friendly summer events at Stradley Park by offering children and adults an up-close experience with fire and police vehicles as well as plows and other large work trucks. A 2021 date will be determined later this year.

“These events and others have been canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ebert. “City officials feel it is in the best interest of the public to postpone these events until next year.”

Ebert said financially, cancellation of smaller events will not hurt the city budget and it could help in a small way in the form of overtime pay for public works employees assisting with setup and cleanup.

Destination: Canal Winchester announced the annual the Art on the Canal Art Stroll and the Blues & Ribfest are both postponed until 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic

In public notices on April 7 and April 14, the organization expressed concern for public safety and noted the extraordinary circumstances influencing their decision. While a date for next year’s Art on the Canal is expected to be announced in the coming months, the 2021 Blues & Ribfest is scheduled for July 30 and 31.

The Blues and Ribfest and Labor Day Festival draw between 30,000 and 40,000 to the city— which supplies event space for the two festivals—and bring revenue along with the crowds to businesses and the city’s bed tax fund.

“Labor Day is a homecoming for Canal Winchester alumni,” said Ebert. “Graduates travel back home to Canal Winchester from as far away as California to connect with classmates from as far back as the 1950s. That is the social part that could be sadly in jeopardy.”

While Ebert said it is difficult to estimate the financial impact of the shutdown on the city since March because tax collections are at least a month in the rear, he reported there is no doubt revenue from sources like the bed tax will be significantly less than average now and in the months ahead.

When asked if he foresees alternative events in case restrictions are lifted later this year, he said it depends on the environment and how comfortable the city feels about large gatherings at the time.

“I don’t want any of our events to be an incubator to a new outbreak of the virus,” said Ebert. “I view the residents’ safety as first and foremost regardless of loss of event revenue. We could possibly have some type of smaller event or two, we will just have to wait and see what happens next. Again, I want to stress, public safety is my biggest concern for events and rental of facilities. We have got to do this right and not base the decision on sentimental feelings.”

Visit canalwinchesterohio.gov to keep informed about the city’s COVID-19 response and to view the calendar of events and all notices.

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