Re-imagining the future of community events

Adjusting to a new way of organizing or attending events will take time

Our community hall in Alberta Avenue is still. Silent. What once was a bustling centre is closed, the parking lot empty.  

It’s May. If the pandemic hadn’t happened, Alberta Avenue Community League would have soon hosted one of the community’s biggest events of the year, The Bloomin’ Garden Show & Art Sale. Across the street would have been Arts on the Ave’s Ultimate Garage Sale, drawing hundreds of neighbours, volunteers, vendors, and shoppers to 118 Avenue. For a day they’d reunite, hug old friends, shake hands with neighbours not seen in some time, catch up over coffee, and watch the entertainment after a long winter. 

These two events were the kickstart to our short summer. Due to COVID-19, these events, among others, that were to take place in our community have been cancelled or changed. “There will be ways to walk through this,” says Christy Morin, executive director of Arts on the Avenue. But how? After many online discussions and brainstorming sessions, Arts on the Ave’s Ultimate Garage Sale will be moved to an online event at the beginning of June. No, it will not be the same.

The future of festivals will be different for some time. | Supplied

The future of events as we have become accustomed to will be forever changed. The things that were normal will be re-evaluated. The shared sip of someone’s drink because, “Hey, you have to try this!” The slow dance with a neighbour you just met because the music being played in the alley during Kaleido Festival moved the both of you. Little Timmy running up to his long-time friend at one of the Neighbourhood Connect block parties and hugging him because he hasn’t seen him in forever. All the close interactions that we once shared will change. 

After being in isolation and limiting our interactions with friends, family, and neighbours, that desire to connect once we reopen will be even stronger. But getting back to normal or adjusting to a new normal will be a slow process, taking maybe even years. Those attending events will be cautious. Those planning those events will be even more cautious. 

There are so many added factors to think about when planning an event now. According to corporate planner Jody Paulson, Certified Special Events Professional, the trend will be to have small boutique events or VIP events instead of large events in order to ensure everyone’s safety. And it’s going to cost. Extra expenses will include added PPE, extra insurance to cover cancellations or changes in event dates, staffing to take extra cleaning precautions, diligent check-in procedures like getting attendees to sign waivers declaring they are healthy before and on the event day. 

Tad (not his real name), a 30-year career server in the hospitality industry, said it best. “I found that many friends are enjoying their homes more than ever. We’re paying a mortgage and condo fees. Why am I not staying home more to enjoy my place that is costing me so much?”  

From both a financial and a health perspective, I foresee a trend to revert back to the days when people hosted kitchen parties in their homes. If the decision is made to go out, it will be very occasionally. At least for a while.


Featured Image: Art on the Ave’s Ultimate Garage Sale will be held online at the beginning of June. | Supplied

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One thought on “Re-imagining the future of community events”

  1. I don’t think things will change as majorly as you think. For a time, maybe, but I reckon we will go right back to normal as if nothing ever happened in due time. Call me cynical, but I just don’t see us learning a damn thing from all this.

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