If you have ever welcomed in the holidays with the Festival of Gingerbread, especially if you’ve witnessed the wonder of nearly 100 creatively decorated houses through the eyes of a child, you can be forgiven that pit in your stomach when you consider the 2020 season.
For eight months and counting, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many of the events and traditions we used to take for granted in our community.
Not a gingerbread fan? How about the Festival of Trees, a fundraiser for the Embassy Theatre Foundation, at the beautiful downtown venue? Or the “elves” who make the Botanical Conservatory – a downtown jewel 12 months of the year – a special treat for the eyes, ears and nose? Or the magic of after-dark drives through the Blue Jackets’ “Fantasy of Lights” near Franke Park?
Not all of our community traditions have a Christmas theme. Volunteers at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen found a way to do a COVID-safe Community Thanksgiving this year, a la carryout, and the downtown ice rink has reopened at Headwaters Park for those young and old willing to don skates and celebrate winter outside.
And not everything has an admission charge. This year’s “Night of Lights” was canceled because of COVID-19, but the lights are still there – Santa on the side of the PNC building; the giant Merry Christmas wreath at I&M Power Plaza; downtown window displays still brightening the old Indiana Hotel; the animation of Santa’s Workshop at the Community Center; the giant outdoor trees at Jefferson Pointe and on Broadway. And that’s just a start.
All year long, local organizations and volunteers have stepped up to learn new technology, rethink logistics and possibilities, and commit to the extra hours required to do “what we’ve always done,” if a bit differently. From online concerts and video tours to streaming stage shows – Fort Wayne wasn’t going to let the pandemic claim these holidays.
Not everything could be rescued, of course, but it says something about our community that people were passionate about trying and that there was an audience for those efforts. It would have been so much easier just to blame the novel coronavirus, cancel the usual holiday traditions, and wait until next year. But that wouldn’t be Fort Wayne.
So, mask up. Socially distance. Be responsible. But grab some holiday cheer. Your neighbors have worked hard to give you plenty of safe opportunities to hang onto treasured traditions.