The Taneytown Parks and Recreation department is holding the first of what could be a series of community events Friday, a free drive-in movie at Thunderhead Bowl & Grill.
“In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant executive orders from the state to ensure the health and safety of its citizens, our community (like many others) was feeling the effects of isolation and our businesses were facing the challenges of surviving,” Director of Taneytown Parks and Recreation Lorena Vaccare said via email. “We were approached by one of them — Fun Events — owners of which proposed holding a drive-in movie for local residents. They’ve facilitated drive-in shows in the past and posited that the event could adhere to the conditions of the quarantine.
"Mayor [Bradley Wantz] and I knew that this would be a great opportunity for our community to enjoy an occasion that would relieve some of the stress they have experienced (and still are, in many ways).”
Admission for the drive-in is free but there was a 50-vehicle limit so those interested had to register first. As of June 11, the event was sold out, according to Taneytown Manager Jim Wieprecht.
Taneytown Parks and Rec announced the drive-in event on its Facebook page on May 29, posting a poll to get residents to choose a movie for drive-in. Voters had to choose between the animated “Lion King,” the live-action “Aladdin,” “Toy Story 4,” “How to Train Your Dragon: the Hidden World,” “Detective Pikachu” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.” The department announced on June 2 that “Lion King” was the winning movie from the poll.
Fun Events is setting up an 18-foot by 22-foot Jumbotron screen on a raised 6-foot platform and sound will be transmitted through vehicle speakers on a designated FM station, according to Vaccare. Vehicles will be directed to the appropriate parking area by Wantz or councilmembers Darryl Hale or Joe Vigliotti.
“Drive-in theaters are having a renaissance right now as coronavirus social distancing restrictions make them a safe place to go to the movies, at admission rates that are affordable for those struggling with financial burdens," Vaccare said. "We knew we wanted to offer this event at no cost to our community, and with the unfortunate cancellation of other previously scheduled events some funds became available to do so.”
The feedback from the community has already been so positive that they are going to line up another drive-in movie in Memorial Park, according to Vaccare.
“That location will hopefully enable a couple of our local youth sports organizations to offer concessions from their snack shacks, the better to support their fundraising efforts in what has been an extremely challenging time for them," said Vaccare. "We’ll take any suggestions we receive from our community after tonight’s experience into consideration to make the next event even better for them. Another poll with several movie choices from a different genre, a lottery for free admission ticket and we’ll definitely accept canned good donations again.
"That’s what it’s all about — engaging with, listening to, and supporting our community; helping them continue to be a strong, caring and united Taneytown.”
Concessions will be offered by Thunderhead, including options like burgers, salads, sandwiches, snacks and drinks. The Caramel Kettle will also be set up outside near the pick-up window for people to purchase handcrafted popcorn.
The department also encourages those that attend to bring canned food and other non-perishables, which will be collected at the entrance, to be donated to a local food pantry.
“We hope those who are able to attend come away having enjoyed a fun and safe family evening, a respite from their worries, and a sense of strong community support,” said Vaccare. “The occasion also offers an opportunity for attendees to give back — canned goods and non-perishable items will be accepted from those attending who wish to donate. The items will be collected at the lot entrance, and will be taken to the Little Free Pantry and to Trinity Lutheran’s food pantry.”
Vaccare said Wantz knew from the beginning the drive-in could be an opportunity to provide something unique and beneficial for Taneytown residents.
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“As we have all struggled through different forms of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, this event will begin to bring back the community support that our residents deserve," said Wantz, according to Vaccare. "Each event that we have had to cancel has been difficult for us. We enjoy providing opportunities for our residents to celebrate together, and this drive-in movie allows us to bring them together while following appropriate guidelines.”