"I can almost hear the tears in someone's voice as they type up that cancellation email to send to the newsroom or make that Facebook post," Paula says in her latest column.
On Saturday, shortly after I posted yet another round of event cancellations for Monroe County, someone chimed in with this response on The Monroe News’ Facebook page: “Yeah, and I heard Christmas is going to be cancelled too?!!”
To be fair: Christmas event decisions don’t have to be made just yet. I handle publicity for Christmas Magic in Monroe – Parade and Winter Wonderland; much of that planning takes place in the summer and early fall. In addition, the Christmas in Ida committee said two weeks ago that it is “carefully monitoring” the situation and its festival remains on the calendar at this time.
That being said, the intended dates of many concerts, lectures, theater shows and festivals in Monroe County have already come and gone. In the meantime, other event committees and sponsors have reached a “go, no-go” decision date or will get to that point soon.
I can almost hear the tears in someone’s voice as they type up that cancellation email to send to the newsroom or make that Facebook post.
We have to look back to the 1918 influenza epidemic for anything comparable to the wave of cancellations spinning out of the COVID-19 pandemic. While remote work, schooling and business appointments have become common in recent weeks, not everything can be replicated in that format.
Even during severe weather, businesses, shops, offices, volunteer committees and event planners have lot to consider. Can my staff or volunteers arrive on time? Will customers be disappointed or angry if we close or cancel? How do I get the announcement out fast and effectively? What expenses have to be covered or refunds given if we shut down?
Now consider these questions:
• What if that event is a major fundraiser for the agency?
• What if that event is a signature community project?
• What if that event is brings in business leads and marketing contacts for the coming year?
It is fair to say that a closing or cancellation is not an easy decision for any sponsor or committee to make.
One of the first local cancellations in response to the pandemic was the Celebrate Children Festival that had been scheduled for April 18. When that announcement was made March 12, local government offices, libraries, K-12 schools and restaurants were still open. Michigan’s stay-home order didn’t start until March 24.
I realized the committee reached a “go, no-go” point for the event. Hundreds of families attend the event at Mall of Monroe, every kid takes home a pile of freebies, dozens of community agencies schedule staff and volunteers to host information tables.
This is the dilemma that summer event planners now face. There may be special event permits to sign. A venue has to be booked. There could be deposits to pay for tents, catering, a stage or sound equipment. T-shirts, signage and printed material have to be ordered in advance. An effective publicity campaign needs to start at least a month out for major events and at least two weeks out for smaller ones.
Now consider this: How can anyone know what pandemic restrictions will be place in four to six weeks when there has been less than 24 hours’ notice on many rules and date extensions that affect Michigan residents now?
If you are a chairman or committee member for a summer event, you have my sympathies.
All I ask is that you get event announcements and updates to The Monroe News as soon as possible. We will help you get the word out through print, online and social media. Send the notices to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to The Monroe News, 20 W. First St., Monroe MI 48161
Paula Wethington is a reporter and the newsroom digital team leader at The Monroe News. Contact Paula at email@example.com.
This is among the news and features The Monroe News is making available for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. You can find other news and announcements at our coronavirus special section.
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