COVID cancels more mainstays
VENICE — While some public gatherings are starting to slowly begin again, two area mainstays won’t be holding yearly traditions this winter.
On Monday, both Suncoast BBQ & Bluegrass Bash and Enander’s Winter Wonderland sent out notices they would not be taking place due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Suncoast BBQ was nixed in late March for its 2020 edition. Organizers said Friday they were “chagrined” to do it again, but don’t see a way to hold it in March 2021.
“Right now we’re exploring some other things we could do that could coincide with our current environment,” Suncoast BBQ & Bluegrass Bash Founder and Chairman Don Fisher said Friday.
He said it’s been one of the largest events in South Sarasota County, bringing in about 20,000 to the Venice Municipal Airport in recent years.
“I hate to pull the plug on an event that brings so much visibility to the area,” he said.
The event is a fundraiser for Suncoast Foundation for Handicapped Children. Fisher hopes other events can substitute a bit for the nonprofit. He knows they’ll hold their sportings clay tournament and, maybe, a BBQ and bluegrass gala later in 2021.
“But that’s far from a done-deal,” he said.
He said he procrastinated as long as he could before pulling the plug on the March event. But he saw no way to proceed.
“It’s reality. We can’t put at risk all of our volunteers, attendees and others.”
He’s hopeful it’ll return when the pandemic is under control.
“Nothing’s bulletproof. I’ve never been involved in something as frustrating as this,” Fisher said.
Along with that, Enander’s Winter Wonderland noted it is also ended its tradition of more than 20 years for this Christmas season.
There were several reasons it’s taking a year off. Parking permits and potential insurance problems led Bob Enander to make the decision, he said Friday.
“I’ve been doing it for 30 years and it got to where it was going to be too difficult this year so I’m going to skip a year and come back in full force next year,” Enander said. “It’s unfortunate but they are putting up a lot of rules and I didn’t want to be the one to enforce the wearing of masks.”
He said having volunteers put up tens of thousands of lights and then having to cancel it later seemed like a bad idea.
“It’s difficult times and I wish we could have done it,” he said. “I know we want to get back to it next year,” Enander said.