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By Joshua Maloni
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said there’s no immediate end date to social distancing or brick and mortar restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Moreover, though he said there is likely a way to have businesses reopen as people are still taking precautionary measures, he acknowledged the coronavirus would still pose a public danger into the summer months.
So, where does that leave outdoor events and attractions people have been longing for, as patrons remain safe at home and away from friends?
The answer is unknown.
On Friday, Artpark & Company Executive Director Sonia Clark posted an online message that read, in part, “While we remain cautiously optimistic that Artpark’s summer season will not be significantly impacted by COVID-19-related restrictions and precautions, it is now becoming clearer that some events will need to be rescheduled or cancelled. We have been in constant contact with artists and their representatives who remain committed to performing at Artpark, but have been forced to change their tours due to current circumstances.”
Though the Artpark box office is closed, the venue’s website has information for ticketholders.
“Please email [email protected] for all your questions and concerns and we will be sure to address them,” Clark wrote. “We have prepared the most exciting season and cannot wait to share it with you soon. We encourage you to do your part in following the guidance of public health authorities to stay healthy, so that we can all join together again this summer.
“Through these challenging times, we remain committed to our mission as a nonprofit organization to nurture, create and present the arts in our Artpark.”
Tedeschi Trucks Band’s popular “Wheels of Soul Tour” is booked to return to the Artpark Amphitheater on July 14. (File photo)
The Castellani Art Museum staff sent out an email Wednesday that noted, “Following directives from elected officials and guidance from leading health organizations, please note that the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University will be closed until further notice.
“To our members and supporters: We know this is a difficult time for everyone, with all the major changes we have had to make to our daily lives. We hope you are staying safe and healthy during this crisis, and that you have everything you need. We miss seeing you, and look forward to the day that we meet again. Drop us a line on social media or email to let us know how you are doing! We'd love to hear from you.”
Old Fort Niagara Executive Director Robert Emerson explained, “The fort has a full schedule of events and programs planned for 2020, but these are currently on hold due to the COVID-19 situation. The fort is currently closed to the public, but a limited number of staff are on site to provide security and routine maintenance. Events and programs scheduled for the near future will be rescheduled when the situation normalizes.”
In his March 26 message to patrons, Emerson wrote, “Just because you might be trapped at home doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the colorful history of the fort! Please visit our Facebook page for daily highlights of objects and stories that pertain to the fort’s history. You can also take a virtual tour through our website. There’s also a webcam atop the lighthouse that provides a view of the French Castle.”
John Kinney, president of Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours, said his company is preparing for a “new world” when it reopens to the public.
“At this moment in time, we can't say with any level of certainty, when the world will normalize enough for tourism-related activities like Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours (to) resurface on the ‘fun to do’ radars of U.S. residents from the tri-state area. Furthermore, the return of international travelers, which Niagara Falls, USA, relies upon so heavily, are in all likelihood going to be rarely seen in 2020, and maybe longer?” he said. “WJBT is preparing for a ‘new world’ when health professionals give us the ‘OK’ to open our doors.
“Clearly, WJBT will be making sure our facilities are free of the COVID-19 virus, and safe for all our guests. When this occurs, we will be excited to show-off Lewiston's beautiful new waterfront, which all Lewistonians should come and see after the finishing touches are completed during the month of April.”
Kinney reminded patrons his company, like so many in New York, overcame obstacles and hardships in the past, and can do it again.
“WJBT has dealt with many, many challenges over our 28 years on the Niagara River. WJBT dealt with the challenges of the closure of WNY manufacturing in the early 1990s, the shock of the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001, the SARS epidemic of 2003, the banking crisis of 2008 and 2009, and ever-increasing border security and passport requirements of the last 10 years,” he said. “However, the ramifications of COVID-19 may prove to be the most challenging for both our families and the businesses where we work to ultimately recover. Nonetheless, I am 1,000% confident this will eventually end, hopefully very soon. When that happens, WJBT will do our part to make life in Niagara amazing again.”
Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours President John Kinney is shown in front of one of his vessels. (File photo)
On Thursday, Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Pauly said, “We would hope summer festivals and events would be able to take place, however, we have to be prepared for anything – for them to happen, not happen, be postponed. It's a tough time for festival organizers right now.”
Additional planning meetings are scheduled for next week.
The Chamber of Commerce organizes the Lewiston Smelt Festival (traditionally May), Taste of Lewiston (May), Northwest Jazz Festival (August) and Harvest & Hops Festival (August).
Laura Jacobs, a media agent for the Lewison Garden Club’s GardenFest (June), said, “I spoke with Lewiston GardenFest organizers. At this point they are cautiously optimistic and moving forward with the event.”
The Lewiston Council on the Arts presents the Lewiston Art Festival each August, as well as weekly summer concerts at the Hennepin Park Gazebo.
LCA Artistic Director Eva Nicklas said, “We're optimistic that the Lewiston Art Festival will take place as always, and we'll just have to wait and see about the other events.”
Patrons who wish to help these organizations and companies can make a donation or buy tickets to future events (where possible). Visit:
Fort Niagara routinely draws large crowds for its unique events. (Photo by Wayne Peters)