ST. JOSEPH — As COVID-19 limitations continue to prevent large gatherings, a number of popular St. Joseph summer events scheduled through August have been canceled.
On Tuesday, St. Joseph Today announced it was canceling all Brown Bag Concerts, Friday Night Concert Series, Chalk the Block, Antiques on the Bluff and the Lake Bluff Artisan Faire for the summer.
The opening of city’s farmer’s market has also been delayed, with the hopes to open as soon as possible.
“It seems phrases like ‘with a heavy heart,’ and ‘a decision not made lightly’ are being heard too often right now. But this was heartbreaking,” said St. Joseph Today Executive Director Amy Zapal. “The health and safety of our visitors, residents and members is critical to St. Joseph Today. With the well-being of our community in mind, we have decided to cancel events scheduled to run May through August.”
The discussion for pulling the plug on the annual events, which are predominantly held in downtown St. Joseph, began in mid-March when the coronavirus put a stranglehold on society.
Zapal said the best thing they can do is work with the Southwest Michigan Tourist Council, the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber and Cornerstone Alliance as they look toward the rest of the year.
“We have so many moving parts for events like Chalk the Block. You have artists who come from all over the world and the country,” Zapal said. “It takes advanced planning. Much like any large event, there is so much work that goes into it. Without travel plans, many of our artists stay here through host housing. It would be a kind thing to do, but with social distancing measures in place, I would hate to have anyone commit to something like that.”
Chalk the Block was scheduled for July 31-Aug. 2.
Among the other canceled events are the Lake Bluff Artisan Faire, set for May 30, Antiques on the Bluff – featuring June, July and August shows – the Wednesday Brown Bag Concerts that run June 24-Aug. 26, and the Friday Night Concert Series that runs June 19-Sept. 4.
“The intention of our events is to bring visitors out to enjoy our community,” Zapal said. “As soon as you consider COVID-19, I believe that it is best to hold for a minute and do some back work to solidify us for the rest of the year.”
Zapal said the responsibility for canceling the events rested on her shoulders. However, she said the organization’s board was in support of the decision.
She said the opening date for the St. Joseph Farmer’s Market has been delayed, with no definitive start date set.
“We are hoping to be able to safely reopen the market as soon as possible,” she said. “Farmers markets were deemed an essential service. This would be a great way to support our local farmers. But we’re looking to work with the city commission and the Berrien County Health Department. It might stretch it a little further and vendors might be farther apart than in the past.”
As for the fall events, Zapal said they may need to make decisions months in advance.
“We want to it be as safe as we can. Gathering 4,000 people for a barbeque is a tricky thing to have approved,” she said. “No matter how frustrating this is, we can get through this together. I’m so inspired by what our local businesses are doing to continue to support the community. I know we will be stronger for this.”