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COVID-19 still forcing cancellations and postponements of popular community events

Santa Maria Elks Rodeo
Unidentified saddle bronc rider participates in the 2019 Santa Maria Elks Rodeo. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The COVID-19 pandemic is still wreaking havoc on large-scale community events throughout the nation, including in Northern Santa Barbara County.

Just recently, the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo & Parade announced it was moving from its originally scheduled time in early June to a new date on Sept. 2-5.

Elks Recreation said the decision to postpone the event was made after "considering event guidelines and capacity restrictions, social distancing requirements and overall concern for the community’s health and safety."

"With all the distancing guidelines and capacity guidelines, we've decided to go ahead, the Elks Rec Board of Directors decided to move it to Labor Day weekend with the hopes that we will still be able to get in our rodeo and parade for 2021," said Elks Rodeo & Parade spokesperson Johnna Clark. "It's really in our favor that it is and outdoor event, but there's still guidelines that we're going to have to follow, so it will look a little different, but we're going to do our best that it's as much of the tradition and fanfare that everybody's grown love."

Clark added that current plans will have longtime event continue with a very similar look to those in years past, but with a few minor changes.

"There will be a few events that will be missing this year," said Clark. "We will not be having our Beard-A-Reno or our Mini Rodeo. We believe that by July 1st what rodeo will look like. I think based on where our state is and what kind of capacity and social distancing guidelines, then we will be able to make a determination exactly what rodeo will look like Labor Day weekend."

She also said Elks Recreation believes the move could end up benefiting the long-running showcase that dates back to 1944.

"All the plans are in place," Clark. "We're moving forward and we're excited that actually Labor Day weekend will even help us bring in more tourism, it being that three-day weekend, and so, we're excited and we have high hopes that we're going to be able to pull this off if we continue to open."

The announcement came just days after it was revealed the Lompoc Spring Fest and Flower Festival was cancelled this year.

Organizers said Ryon Memorial Park is not being rented out because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The Day of Hope, the annual fundraiser for Mission Hope Cancer Center, is also being affected for a second straight year.

Typically held in April, the event is being pushed back to August just like it was in 2020.

"For 2021, we thought it was best to plan for at least a year in between both events during the pandemic," said Jessa Brooks, Dignity Health Vice President of Philanthropy.

Similar to last year's modified version, the 2021 version will include an event added in 2020, and perhaps bring back the conventional format that features volunteers selling Santa Maria Times newspapers throughout the area.

"Day of Hope for 2021 is going to be very exciting," said Brooks. "We again plan to do a community car parade, which was very well received last year, and in addition to that, we are very hopeful we will be able to do teams again this year, but that has not been determined."

Later this month, the Santa Maria Strawberry Festival will take on a new format, pivoting into a "drive-thru experience."

This year's event will be called "Strawberry Cruzin'," and will feature dozens of food vendors offering curbside service:

The decision to switch to a drive-thru format was made in an effort to keep both visitors and staff safe and ensure proper precautions are taken.

Strawberry Cruzin' will be held Wednesday, April 28 through Sunday, May 2.

The status of the Santa Barbara County Fair is currently undetermined.

Interim Santa Maria Fairpark CEO Autumn Acquistapace said current health restrictions make it impossible to plan for the fair at this time.

She added that she is focused on Strawberry Cruizin' right now and that it will likely be at least a few weeks until the fair board of directors can make a final decision on whether or not the fair will be held in some capacity.

Another Santa Maria event currently being impacted is Downtown Fridays.

The weekly outdoor festival would have typically kicked off in March, but is now currently being held in a modified format.

Last week, it started "Food Truck Friday," an event that features several food trucks parked at various downtown locations from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Downtown Fridays creator and organizer Ed Carcarey is also in the planning stages of creating another new modified event.

"We're planning to do something small, to start something small, maybe in May or June, where we can control the number of people there based on the criteria that we're seeing that the state, the county and city are giving us, and hopefully we can expand it from there," said Carcarey.

He added that he is looking at holding the event in the top parking at the Santa Maria Library.

"For every city and state, it's critical that we get back to normal and get back to these events where we can get together," said Carcarey. "We were created to connect. We're not connecting right now. We are isolating ourselves, which is doing so much damage. We have to get back out there. I think that helps everybody."

California / Community / Coronavirus / Entertainment / Lifestyle / Offbeat / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County
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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.

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