LIMA — A chorus of horns and cheers rang out from the Lima Community Church parking lot Wednesday evening for the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce’s first socially distant awards gala.
It was one of the community’s first large gatherings held since Ohio’s stay-at-home order was phased out in May.
The awards ceremony, originally planned for the first Wednesday of May, was postponed when Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton first enacted the state’s ban on mass gatherings.
The drive-in concept offered an alternative and was perhaps the most memorable of the Chamber’s galas in 18 years.
One by one, carloads of families and friends pulled into the church parking lot Wednesday evening, picking up a movie theater-style box of candy and soft drinks that replaced the gala’s traditional dinner.
Some watched from their cars, their radios tuned into the AM broadcast carrying the evening’s speakers, while others preferred to watch from lawn chairs brought from home.
As luck would have it, a storm system that swept through Lima earlier that evening cleared up just in time for the ceremony to begin, bringing a steady breeze with it.
“People needed something positive to celebrate,” said Nicole Scott, vice president of the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce.
The evening was casual, a departure from the Chamber’s typical awards ceremonies during which nominees and guests dress to the nines for dinner and cocktails.
This year, only the finalists were dressed up. There were no alcoholic beverages. And there was less chatting between guests, who mostly greeted each other from their vehicles or from six feet away — a preview of what’s like to come as graduation parties, weddings and large gatherings get underway despite the lingering presence of the coronavirus.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.