As we approach the big holiday weekend, one diminished somewhat here in Lima because of the cancellation of the Star Spangled Spectacular, there’s no question that the events many have anticipated greatly have either been virus-altered or cancelled altogether.
Unlike, say, Florida or other warm-weather states where there is never an off-season for outdoor entertainment possibilities, I think these new realities really hit us harder here in the Midwest where winter clamps its icy fingers on the landscape for seemingly endless bullet-gray days as we wait for our warm-weather outdoor fun.
One of my weekly readers and frequent pen pal, Jake Little, recently told me he refuses to use the actual name of the virus, rather referring to it the same way profanity is handled in cartoons, with a series of symbols from that upper row of the keyboard.
Locally, parochial school festivals at St. Rose and St. Gerard, both with long histories of providing entertainment and camaraderie, were canceled. And, a little less than a 100 miles to our east, don’t plan on attending the Ohio State Fair because that’s fallen victim as well.
As a full-time laborer despite my being less than a year away from turning 70 and taking on the title of sexagenarian, which sounds a whole lot more fun than what those 70s actually will probably be, I’m certain I don’t attend outdoor entertainment as often as others. However, I sure feel after six weeks of quarantining from the second half of March to the beginning of May festivals, fairs and concerts sounds very appealing. The problem is finding them.
Three summers ago, Jane and I made a festival the focal point of a long weekend in Milwaukee after I got a tip from my pal Rich Sutton to check it out. We received a heavy dose of live music just off the shoreline of Lake Michigan at an event called Summerfest, one which draws so many visitors that it’s been dubbed the largest music festival in the United States. However, this year, thanks to @#$%&!, for the first time in 53 years, the event was cancelled.
Another festival that Jane and I have experienced to celebrate autumn is the Circleville Pumpkin Show off Route 23 south of Columbus. There, we’ve seen such travel indispensables as the world’s largest pumpkin pie, which included 400 pounds of flour, 360 pounds of sugar and 60 dozen eggs among other ingredients before baking the gigantic pie for 10 hours. Of course, also on display at the festival are the pumpkins entered in the competition for the largest gourd. Typically, there are at least three that will tip the scale at more than a thousand pounds.
The entire town is ablaze in orange for an event that takes place the weekend before Halloween. As of now, the event’s board of trustees are pondering how to proceed, and the event’s website directs those interested to check back on July 16, which I’ll be doing.
As for our local fairs, our contiguous county of Putnam managed to present its fair last week, albeit at 50 percent capacity and with other concessions. We here in Allen County are waiting for what our late August fair will be and, if so, what it will look like. One thing we do know is one of the biggest shows the fair ever booked, three-time Grammy winner Brad Paisley, has fallen victim to @#%&!. Social distancing would have limited the audience to 2,500, which just wouldn’t be enough to pay the tab for one of country music’s top draws.
Unfortunately, there is neither the time nor the physical venue to present the Paisley show as it will be in an innovative concert series developed by Live Nation Entertainment called the Live from the Drive-In Tour.
The tour is comprised of nine concerts, one of which is on July 12 at the Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana, about 20 miles from Indianapolis. Capitalizing on the renewed interest in drive-ins since so many theaters remain closed, Live Nation created a concert that mimics the drive-in experience. Admittance is by the car, and the cost of the ticket that can accommodate four concert goers per car is $125 and, provided you can find three friends or family, that costs a little over $30 a ticket, quite reasonable for a national act.
Each car receives a tailgating zone about the size of a two-car garage, where fans can set up lawn chairs. While grills aren’t allowed, coolers are for carry-in food and beverage (including beer). As many outdoor concerts provide, there’ll be plenty of LED screens, helpful for those far away from the stage. The 6-foot buffer zones between each tailgate zone ensures social-distancing practices are followed.
Of course, at the end of the Live from the Drive-In website, there is a disclaimer: “By attending Live from the Drive-In concerts, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to (@#$&!).”
I think for the many who simply have to break out of their compounds searching for some entertainment and some sense of normalcy, they understand that assumption of risk. No doubt, for some the risk is too great. For others who’ve been looking far too long at little more than the man or woman in the mirror, they’re ready for those concerts, festivals and fairs.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at email@example.com.