Thousands of people flock to Paw Paw Lake area each summer. It is expected that this year will be no different. However, what they will not be attending is Coloma’s Glad-Peach Festival as it was canceled for another year by the festival board at their first planning meeting of the 2021 event on March 24, 2021.
In the correspondence sent to the Tri-City Record, it stated, “Many reasons, but uncertainty of being able to safely gather the biggest reason to not move forward in 2021.”
Fallout of affected local festivals
Generally speaking, hosting a festival helps bring communities together with a common goal. It can foster a sense of pride and offer the chance to pass down the history of an area, and boost the economy. The same is true for the Coloma Glad-Peach Festival and the Watervliet Independence Weekend Festival, both being affected for 2021.
The committees that make up the boards that put on these festivals and events are made up of people that want the best for their communities. They spend hours thinking of events not only for its year-round residents to enjoy, but they also want to showcase the small towns to potential visitors. It is during this planning time where one can see community collaborations, relationship building, and community pride come to life.
It is the economic benefits that are impacted by the influx of people that can be beneficial for many businesses when visitors come to town. These people need places to stay, gas, food, and even a souvenir or two. The free advertising on social media when these visitors post comments and share their photos about all the fun they had, the good food they ate, and the sights they had seen, is another way that the ripple effect of these events can impact the economic climate.
The truth of the matter is that all these benefits last a lot longer than the event its self. The connections that are made in the planning time, the memories that families and friends make while experiencing the events and the connection to something bigger than one’s self improves people’s view on life and creates a happier community all around.
One thing is true; hosting a festival comes with a special set of risks. When the event is a successful one it will enhance the community. But the opposite is true if something were to go extremely wrong, like being the cause of COVID-19 cases to rise. When it is all said and done, the festival teams have to keep in mind the people that they serve and base all decisions on what is best for all.
Fireworks have been extinguished in Watervliet until Labor Day weekend
Every Fourth of July weekend, to celebrate Independence Day, the downtown area of Watervliet has been full of people showing their patriotism by waving their flags and wearing red, white, and blue. Kids join in the parade and everyone gathers to watch the fireworks at 10 p.m. sharp down at Hays Park. A tradition that has been carried on for decades; however this year, it is postponed until Labor Day weekend.
The event committee would like to make this happen and feel like a couple more months will make a huge difference in keeping the community safe. “Although we know it’s not the same as the 4th of July weekend, it may be the best we can do this year, with safety coming first,” says festival committee member Amy Loshbough. Planning for the Labor Day weekend and what those events may look like will begin soon. Plan on spending Labor Day weekend in Watervliet!
Athletes may miss participating for a second year in the Gene Bednarowski 5K Cherry Run/Walk that has been held on Saturday mornings during the Watervliet 4th of July Festival weekend. The event is held in memory of Gene Bednarowski, a former Watervliet mentor, teacher, and coach. Proceeds from the event support a scholarship in his name. Last year, however, this race was held virtually as one of the races in the Michigan Fruit Belt Series.
These cancelations bring with them an emotional impact as well. “We have had this festival for our community for years,” said Judy Campbell, formally of Watervliet and currently residing in Coloma. The Campbells consider this weekend one of their favorite weeks of the whole year as it served as a time for their family to come together and celebrate.
The Campbell family started a tradition of making matching 4th of July t-shirts about ten years ago. At the suggestion of her daughter, Joni (Brock) Fohs, formally of Watervliet, the family would all get together and create their Pinterest inspired gear to wear each year at the parade.
Campbell says that when the festivities were canceled last year they decided that they would carry on this family craft night and wore them to a family BBQ instead of the parade. She continues, “It looks like we’ll have to do something like that again this year.”
Not all is lost
These cancelations bring with them a social and emotional impact and they cause an economic one as well. People are frustrated with the loss of something to do, something happy, the loss of excitement and fun that these Tri-City festivals bring to all ages. Communities across the state of Michigan are also feeling the loss as more and more events are being canceled for the summer of 2021.
On the bright side, whether tourists or local residents visit the Tri-City area, within Berrien County, or anywhere in the State of Michigan, they will still get to experience a small communities’ spirit, camaraderie, and rich culture rooted in agriculture. There will still be places open to experience the culinary delights that are offered by the fresh crops of the season.
The unique shops will still have that one of a kind gift and great souvenirs to purchase. The local agri-tourism spots will still be hosting events for visitors to experience something that they might not ever have before. The great outdoor recreation locations will be welcoming those that enjoy nature trails, disc golf, water activities and more. Our museums are taking their message to new social media formats to keep history alive in our hearts.
As always, these things are here all year for people near and far to enjoy, so check them out for not all is canceled this summer.