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Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority rethinks fall, winter events as COVID-19 forces cancellations

Posted at 6:23 PM, Sep 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-24 18:23:04-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Leaders in Tallahassee are trying to keep the spirit of a few favorite fall and winter activities despite having to make adjustments due to the coronavirus.

Parks and Rec is now prohibiting mass gatherings like the Sundown Concert Series, where locals, tourists, and vendors fill Cascades Park for seven straight weekends each fall.

Tallahassee favorites like Winterfest, and even the New Year's Eve celebration will have to be reimagined.

It's a hard hit for Tallahassee fun-lovers, tourists, and business alike.

According to the Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority, the city will lose at least $100,000 between the Sundown and New Year's Eve events, and Winterfest alone would draw in as many as 150,000 people.

It doesn't mean the city won't be celebrating.

Not all hope lost. TDIA says they'll use the opportunity to add more diversity to the city's celebrations.

"We've always had a Christmas tree that's in Kleman Plaza," said Emmanuel. "This year we really hope to do something to celebrate Hanukkah so we have a little bit more inclusivity with our events. But it won't be a large scale event. It'll be something to memorialize the holidays and kind of bring a little bit of cheer."

Emmanuel says they're relying on the proven outdoor air and social distancing methods to help businesses recoup some of the losses from the lightened traffic.

"One thing that we will have planned prior to that is to work with the city and Parks and Rec to do what a lot of communities are referring to as safe streets and soft streets where they're pedestrianized so it allows for the restaurants in the area to put more tables and chairs into the roadway," said Emmanuel.

Ashlan Simon, who's managed Andrew's Downtown Bar and Grill for 13 years says they're already preparing for the financial hit.

"We thrive on those big events that we have downtown, so we kind of do expect the difference there," said Simon. "And it's also unfortunate too because I think it's something that Tallahassee just looks forward to."

Emmanuel said TDIA has already paid the 14 artists that were scheduled to perform in the Sundown Concert series and hopes that they'll be able to engage and employ them for other events in the city, so they'll have an audience and you'll have some entertainment.

A total of 85 events TDIA had scheduled for the year have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.