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Dayhoff: Everything has changed during disappointing year filled with cancellations

Folks at the Reese fire carnival crowd the food booths in search of fair food on July 15, 2019. Last year the carnival featured more than 20 rides, food, and games and was crowded from July 15-20, 2019. On July 9, 2020, the fire company announced that the original date – and make-up date for the carnival this year was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Folks at the Reese fire carnival crowd the food booths in search of fair food on July 15, 2019. Last year the carnival featured more than 20 rides, food, and games and was crowded from July 15-20, 2019. On July 9, 2020, the fire company announced that the original date – and make-up date for the carnival this year was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kevin Dayhoff photo)

Ever since the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 hit home in Carroll County in March, it has been a year of one disappointment after another as we continue to play chess with God as to who will get sick and die and who will not. One by one all the cultural, artistic, and social touchstones of our community have been canceled. Restaurants and businesses were closed — only to be recently reopened “lite” with great care and caution.

Traditional high school graduations were canceled. The Carroll County Arts Council’s PEEPshow was moved online. The City of Westminster’s street festivals and strolls have been canceled.

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On July 15, the Westminster director of recreation and parks, Abby Gruber, and publicist Samantha H.P. Schlitzer drew the short straw and announced to the public that after a great deal of hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth, the city had canceled Westminster Fallfest for this year. The obituary, er, public announcement read, “The City of Westminster has canceled the 42nd Westminster Fallfest in light of the ongoing coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Scheduled for September 24–27, 2020, the event features carnival rides, food, vendors, and entertainment at Westminster City Park…”

On Facebook, Westminster Fire Department first responder Hank Swann winced in pain, “No funnel cake? ... No deep fried Oreos or Twinkies?”

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Westminster Mayor Joe Dominick spoke for all of us when he said, “Making the decision to cancel Fallfest this year was painful for my Common Council colleagues and I, as Fallfest is one of Westminster’s most popular community events.” 

In an article by Catalina Righter in the Carroll County Times, she reported, Council member Tony Chiavacci said, jokingly, “As long as Ms. Gruber will agree to have a funnel cake truck brought onto Willis Street, I’ll support the mayor’s idea of going ahead and canceling it.”

Well, if you saw the expression on his face it was obviously humor at a difficult moment. We may need to arrange for an emergency funnel cake drive-through event — something like what most of the fire companies have done throughout the county with the drive-through food events. It hurts all of us to see folks like Chiavacci and Swann in pain from fair food withdrawal.

On Facebook, many folks agreed with the popular former Clerk of Circuit Court, Larry Shipley, when he commented that canceling Fallfest was a “Smart choice.”

On July 9, the Reese and Community Volunteer Fire Company announced on Facebook, “For the first time in over 70 years, we are saddened to announce that the 2020 Reese & Community Volunteer Fire Company Carnival has been canceled due to matters beyond our control…”

Then last Tuesday, Righter reported in an article, “Gamber and Community Fire Company has canceled its 2020 carnival as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic…

“Traditionally, Gamber’s carnival is the first of the summer season in Carroll. With concerns about the novel coronavirus and restrictions on large group gatherings, the company originally delayed it to the week of Sept. 7 …”

We owe a debt of gratitude to the “smart choices” and decisions of Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer, and fellow Carroll County Health Department folks such as Maggie Kunz, Richard Brace, and Rachel Tabler.

Maj. Singer, US Army Reserve (Retired), a combat veteran who served in three deployments over a 10-year period in places like Kandahar, Afghanistan and up along the Pakistan border, is no stranger to difficult assignments.

Singer, along with the hard-working folks in his office, need to be publicly thanked for their leadership and grace under pressure while making extremely difficult decisions in interpreting the COVID-19 safety guidelines for the health, well-being, and safety of all of us.

Meanwhile, as much as we would like it to be a past-tense event, this crisis is not nearly over. We have enormous challenges still ahead. Fortunately, in addition to the Health Department, the leadership of the Carroll County commissioners is not to be overlooked. Carroll County just launched a cutting edge website called Carroll Forward — for one-stop shopping for all the latest, cutting edge information on protecting our community against the spread of COVID-19.

Find Carroll Forward on the Carroll County government website, carrollcountymd.gov/carrollforward. Special thanks goes out to Chris Winebrenner, Chris Swam, and Valerie Hawkins, to name a few for all their work on Carroll Forward.

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We do not want history to repeat itself. We do not want another wave this fall — like what happened during the Spanish Flu in 1918. No one wants to stay quarantined in their house for long periods of time again — and businesses and restaurants do not want to close.

It seems that not a day passes in which we don’t get different data points, changing and confusing information from the media and conflicting updates. So until we know for sure what is going-on with the coronavirus and how COVID-19 does affect us, wear a mask, maintain social distancing, wash your hands, and check on your friends, family, and neighbors.

We do not want Carroll County to be where we figure out which part of the changing information is right and which part is wrong. Our lives and the lives of our loved-ones, family, and community are at stake. Don’t ask — wear a mask. Do your part, stay 6-feet apart. Thanks.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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