Thursday, July 16, 2020

Special Event Considerations During the Pandemic

The battle of the bands. The local food festival. The summer soiree. These are some of the local gatherings that residents treasure, and have missed during the pandemic. Given the need for safe and responsible social distancing during COVID-19, when is it safe to host public events? 

Last month, Main Street South Carolina and the South Carolina Festival & Event Association worked together on the accelerateSC guideline document Guidelines for Re-opening: Festivals & Events. The SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism initiated the project and asked the two organizations to create a task force to develop this guidance. 

Well-respected, seasoned event planners — including Main Street SC representation from Aiken, Florence, Greenwood, Hartsville and Laurens — spent weeks researching, deliberating, evaluating and proposing best practices. The document is designed to provide thorough and specific guidance to community festivals and special events across South Carolina. As a guidance document, it does not mandate or authorize what can and should be done. It does, however, provide considerations to evaluate when making decisions about public events: 

  • Consulting with your local authorities. How can you address crowd capacity and control the number of attendees?
  • Assessing your budget. Can you meet additional health and safety protocols? 
  • Evaluating logistics. What are your plans for attendees that may become ill on-site? 
  • Communicating with all participants. How can attendees be prepared for the event?

For crowd capacity, another accelerateSC guideline document can be instructive — Guidelines for Re-opening: Mass Gatherings or Large Community Events. This particular document strongly recommends no events over 250 attendees, and notes that the cutoff threshold is at the discretion of community leadership. It also suggests criteria to think about when considering postponing or canceling a large gathering.

If in-person is not possible at this time, evaluate alternatives. Host virtual activities via online platforms or revise events in a way that can help reduce risks. Newberry, for example, is offering its summer outdoor movie series as a drive-in experience. Bennettsville also took this approach to its Fourth of July fireworks show. 

Find the guidance document on festivals and events here.