While some events have been canceled and the logistics of others changed due to ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, there still will be opportunities for people to visit and have fun in downtown Bel Air this summer.
The monthly First Fridays events scheduled for this Friday, as well as July 3, have been canceled, according to a news release issued by the Bel Air Downtown Alliance. The Main Street Social events for June and July also have been canceled.
Bel Air residents and visitors are still encouraged to observe First Fridays, however, except to do it “your way” by visiting a shop or restaurant and making a post about it on social media with the tags #FirstFridaysMyWay and @downtownbelair, according to the news release.
“We want people to continue coming to downtown to visit, as it is the heart of Harford and we love our small town,” Christopher Pineda, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, said Monday.
Business activity downtown is starting to pick up, as restaurants can offer outdoor dining and retail stores can operate at half their customer capacity, in accordance with orders from Gov. Larry Hogan as he institutes the first phase of Maryland’s reopening plan after much of the state’s economy has been shut down for weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The novel coronavirus is still present in Harford County and Maryland, though. Officials with the nonprofit Downtown Alliance, which typically hosts multiple community events to bring people to downtown and support local merchants, want to ensure community safety. The organization announced previously that its annual Maryland State Barbecue Bash has been postponed from August to October.
“It is with regret that our organization must cancel and make changes to our community events, but we know that it is our responsibility to keep our community safe,” according to the news release. “We truly miss you, and we hope to see you soon.”
The annual Summer Movie Series, typically held in Shamrock Park where families can watch movies outdoors, will be shifted to the parking lot at 121 S. Main St. and will be a “Drive-in Movie Series.” The lot, known to many community members as “the tire lot,” is adjacent to the Black Eyed Suzie’s restaurant.
Alliance officials expect the first showing will be June 26; tickets will be sold via Eventbrite so organizers can have control over the number of people who attend, according to the news release and Pineda.
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Organizers are still planning the logistics, and “the layout is still to come,” Pineda said.
The Belle Aire Market, an open-air artisan market usually held on Office Street, also has been relocated to the tire lot. The Town of Bel Air is making some infrastructure repairs along Office Street, Pineda noted.
The market is scheduled to open June 14, but there will be a number of safety protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in accordance with guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the release.
Changes include single points of entry and exit, limited attendance and a requirement that all participants wear masks, plus more protocols that will be announced at a later date, according to the release.
Retailers and restaurants downtown have been doing “pretty well,” and business operators encourage people to visit, according to Pineda. A section of East Pennsylvania Avenue near the Buontempo Bros. restaurant at Pennsylvania and Main Street has been closed to support outdoor dining, Pineda said.
In terms of safety amid the pandemic, Alliance officials are “just evaluating and monitoring what’s happening with the CDC and what Gov. Hogan’s reopening guidelines entail,” Pineda said.