Coronavirus concerns cause hang-ups for Wareham’s summer activities
With warmer months fast approaching, summer plans that are contingent on continuing to control the spread of covid-19 hang in the balance.
Some of Wareham’s most anticipated summer events have been canceled, postponed or curtailed in other ways. Water Wizz remains unsure if it will be able to open at all this season.
Wareham Week spoke with several people in charge of planning the town’s summer fun, and here’s where things stand.
Onset Cape Verdean Festival
For the second year in a row, the Onset Cape Verdean Festival has been canceled due to covid-19. The cancelation announcement was shared on the Onset Bay Association’s Facebook page.
The annual festival celebrates Cape Verdean culture and heritage. When it was last held in 2019, the festival brought thousands to Onset. It included live music and over 80 vendors, 15 of which sold traditional Cape Verdean food.
The image shared on Facebook said the plan is for the festival to return next year: “God willing, see you in 2022.”
Wareham Oyster Festival
Similarly, the 2021 Wareham Oyster Festival has been canceled.
While oysters are undoubtedly the focus of the annual festival, vendors who sell everything from cotton candy and ice cream to clothing and jewelry also have a prominent role. Historically, the festival is held in May on Main Street.
Coronavirus concerns also prompted the volunteer committee that organizes the event to cancel the festival in 2020.
“We are looking forward to a great event in May 2022,” said festival organizer Linda Burke.
Onset Bay Association events
The Onset Bay Association’s myriad summer events are moving forward if and when it is safe, according to Kat Jones, the association’s executive director.
“We have a contingency plan for events, but there’s certainly some events that won’t happen,” Jones said.
Two of the OBA’s biggest events, the Onset Fourth of July fireworks and Illumination Night, are still “up in the air,” Jones said. She said the primary problem is that town departments — particularly those tasked with ensuring public safety — are understaffed.
“Our public safety is paramount,” she said. “With 30,000 people maybe coming into town, they have to know that they’ve got enough coverage, and they just don’t know that right now. So big events [...] may not be in the cards for this year.”
The pandemic-related limitations on fundraising present another hurdle. Jones said that the annual fireworks display costs upwards of $50,000, and emphasized that the association hasn’t been able to hold its traditional fundraisers in months.
There is more flexibility for smaller events, though, Jones said.
She said the association is “up to plan D” on the OBA’s summer concert series. The Onset Bandshell might be under construction, which presents added challenges on top of covid-19 safety concerns. Depending on how things play out in the next few months, Jones said the concerts could be held at the Bandshell, at the gazebo in Bayview Park or as a drive-in concert series at a still to-be-determined location.
The Chalk-Full-O-Fun Street Painting Festival is also tentatively scheduled for August 21. The location is undetermined — the event might be held along Merchants Way this year if the Bandshell is under construction, Jones said.
Ultimately, Jones said the association would follow state and local guidance as event plans are finalized.
“None of this is set in stone,” she said. “We have to adjust as we go through these phases of reopening.”
Wareham Gatemen Baseball
Although the 2020 Cape Cod Baseball League and Wareham Gatemen games were canceled due to coronavirus safety concerns, Wareham Gatemen President Tom Gay said the league had always planned to come back for a summer 2021 season if it was safe.
Preparations for the summer begin as early as the fall before, Gay said, and steps have been taken as if the season will go forward. He said everything must be in place by May 1 if the season is to go forward — including deciding what covid restrictions will be in place, getting uniforms and equipment and drafting players.
Because the players and interns that make the games possible come from all over the country, the organization typically relies on volunteer host families for lodging. That has been one of the biggest challenges during the pandemic, Gay said.
“How the host families are going to adjust to it or be even willing to do it is a big question,” he said. “There’s hundreds of issues that we’re trying to deal with right now to determine whether or not we can have a season and play some baseball this summer.”
Gay said that dormitory housing options were also being explored for summer 2021. He also encouraged anyone interested in becoming a host family to sign up at https://gatemen.org/host-families/.
The organization is also wrestling with another major question: Can fans attend the games?
“Without fans, that means no income,” Gay said, noting that financial considerations are also playing a factor.
Nothing has been set or agreed upon, but Gay said that he’s hopeful that “we will be playing baseball this summer as long as things keep getting better.”
Patricia Kells, president of Water Wizz, said that the lack of clear guidance from the state has been “extremely difficult” for the park. Water Wizz was unable to open at all during the summer 2020 season.
“To open up a water park, you need two to three months preparation,” she said. “We have to blow out lines. We have to clean all our pools out from the rain and the dirt all winter. They’ve got to be pressure washed.”
Kells said Water Wizz did all of those things last year because the staff thought the park “could open at some point.” But ultimately, that didn’t happen.
Kells fears the park will go through the same steps this year — which she noted “is going to be costly,” because Water Wizz must hire staff to do the work — only to face the same outcome.
Under the state’s current reopening guidelines, water parks would be permitted to reopen during Phase 4, which — according to the state’s website — began when “development of vaccines and/or treatments enable resumption of ‘new normal.’”
As of Tuesday, March 23, the state is in Phase 4 Step 1 of its reopening plan. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito clarified that some businesses scheduled to reopen in Phase 4 — including amusement parks and water parks — would not open until Step 2 of Phase 4, which would be announced at a later date.
“We still don’t have the definite approval that we can [open],” Kells said. “We’re basically waiting for Governor Baker to give us the approval.”