NELDON: Thankful for a safe version of my favorite tradition

This Saturday, Niles’ city streets will seem especially quiet, absent of the hundreds of floats and thousands of community members celebrating nonprofits, businesses, school teams and clubs at the Four Flags Area Apple Festival Grande Parade.

The skyline across from Niles High School will not serve as background to the Ferris wheel or the zipper. There will be no live music, puppet shows or carnival games to entertain visitors looking to celebrate one of Niles’ oldest and biggest traditions.

Although the Four Flags Area Apple Festival is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will still host some of the safer amenities at its inaugural Harvest Market this weekend. More than 80 craft and food vendors will spread out across the grounds, selling their wares at a safe, social distance.

Among those vendors will be my twin sister, who sells all sorts of handmade wares. This year, her booth features hundreds of headbands, scrunchies and mask fasteners. Like so many other artisans to be featured at the show this weekend, she has spent countless hours preparing items to sell, packaging them and preparing for a safe, clean market.

Though grateful that we can have some semblance of festival, I know many — myself included — are missing the event in its usual fashion. Since the Apple Festival board announced the festival would not go on as usual this year, I have often joked that I will have no idea what time of year it is without the Apple Festival. For the nearly 30 years I’ve been alive, I’ve never once missed an Apple Festival, and the thought of no parade, no pageant, no lip sync battle and no senior citizens dance breaks my fall-loving heart. I know I’m not alone.

As we miss the Apple Festival and other local traditions like Under the Harvest Moon, it’s important to remember that we can all do our part to be sure these events return next year in a much more normal fashion.

As you head out of the house, wear a face covering — and wear it properly. Cover your mouth, nose and chin. Whether the gathering is inside or outside, wear the mask.

Even when wearing your mask, do your best to keep at least six feet away from anyone who does not live with you.

Wash your hands before touching your face and immediately after coughing or sneezing. Do your best not to touch items others may touch with unclean hands.

If you do not feel well, opt for cuddling up on the couch for some movies or a good book instead of going out around others.

Many people have put in a ton of hard work to make this event possible this weekend. Now it’s our turn to do our job: ensure that the event goes on safely and that those who have made it possible leave the event well and healthy.

If the Apple Festival isn’t your thing, take these precautions so that events like church gatherings, fall musicals, high school sports, weddings and other community events can make a safe return to normal.

Regardless, I’ll be looking forward to seeing many friendly faces — or at least the top half of them — this weekend.

Here’s to doing our part so that this time next year, we’ll see your whole face!

 

Ambrosia Neldon is the general manager at Leader Publications. She can be reached by phone at (269) 687-7700, or by email at ambrosia.neldon@leaderpub.com.

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