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On Events, Fighting an Uphill Battle

I’m one of the lucky ones.

I have somehow managed to keep my full-time job as a Special Events Manager when most of the entire industry has collapsed under the weight of Covid-19. Events were one of the first industries lost back in March, and we will be one of the last to recover from this crisis. It’s painful to see a career that I was so proud of, and worked 10 years to grow, be destroyed in a matter of months. We all know events aren’t essential. They don’t save lives, they don’t provide a necessary service, but they ARE the life-blood of so many professionals that I know, adore, and respect. 2020 has been nothing short of an epic uphill battle with no clear end in site.

I may have been lucky at the beginning of the year but now I’m beginning to feel the buckling under my feet after organizing an event that seemed safe enough for even the most drastic restrictions and mandates was cancelled. It was a drive-thru holiday parade. Guests in their cars, small performing groups spaced WAY out, masks, gloves, and nothing shared, no touching, and social distancing rules. Four months of day after day racking my brain to create something special for the community that would fit within these new rules. I managed to design a layout that I loved and couldn’t wait to get set up. It included: bright and festive floats lit up in thousands of lights stationed along the route, holiday music blasting out from local singers and bands, mixed with community displays that kids love (think fire trucks, and SWAT vehicles), giant inflatable characters, and, even local artists and actors bringing out their skills in unique ways for the kids to see. The parade would end with our traditional Santa Sleigh float complete with Santa himself waving to all the kids as they exited the route. It felt right. It was going to be perfect. Until it wasn’t.

We got the call 8 days before the parade: our county had reached purple status where the hospitals were struggling to keep up. The public health department issued a stay at home advisory, and the governor issued a state-wide curfew of 10pm. They could no long support us continuing on with the event. It was officially too dangerous. That was it. There was no consolation prize. No pat on the back. Four months of work completely wasted and gone. I was completely useless and helpless. It hung in the air over me for days.

It felt gross to be able to undo everything we planned in four months in just 2 days. However, these were not easy days. It was calling these artists, performers and event vendors knowing that they too have lost everything this year. Knowing this children’s parade was going to be their saving grace for the holiday season, even a beacon of hope that the industry was slowly returning. It was painful to hear their distress and heartache, and most of them thanked me for at least trying and giving it my best shot. It took all I had not to cry for them.

Even though I was delivering horrible news to hundreds of people, I was humbled by their kindness and appreciation for my work. It helped me remember why I do this job, with all its stress and uncertainty, I do it because it means something. Events are a positive light in this world and I am going to keep pushing and trying new things until something sticks or covid disappears. Events aren’t going anywhere. They may just be dormant while we weather this storm. I know this industry will pick itself back up, and when it does, it will be more vibrant, creative, and humble than ever before. Events don’t save lives, but they do make life just a little bit more enjoyable to live.

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