Through our lens: ‘Just a little normal’ 

  • Peter Goetz swims across Puffer’s Pond on the first day of its reopening last Thursday. The hoops are there to help groups social distance when sitting on the beach. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mark Scheel, an employee with the Northampton Department of Public Works, replaces a sign on State Street last Friday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jake LaFountain jumps off the diving board Monday at the Northampton Country Club.  STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chairs are set out Monday on Island Road leading to the Oxbow Marina in Northampton with a sign that reads, “Old fashioned chat room. Physically distanced. Feel free to hang out and socialize.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Llewelyn Thomas, 2, has fun Monday in a playground at Nonotuck Park in Easthampton during the first day of the city’s reopening plan for outdoor recreation facilities. He was with his father, Robert Thomas of Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Protesters listen to a speaker during a rally to defund the Northampton Police Department at Pulaski Park in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS 

  • Diane Cote, left, and Irene Cote read Tuesday at Brunell’s Marina in South Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 6/25/2020 11:01:28 AM

It’s summer, and school is over, many camps are closed and everyone is wondering how to stay cool. Massachusetts is leading the country with the lowest COVID-19 transmission rate, according to the tracking website, underscoring the effectiveness of masks and social distancing.

You can feel the excitement as things are sorta, kinda opening up a little bit. Driving through towns, I find myself slowing down and staring as restaurants are full, and people are out and about. I even found myself amazed at a crowded boat ramp, though it was not crowded with people — only boats.

When I went to Puffer’s Pond in Amherst to cover the opening, I found groups of families positioned around hula hoops to promote social distancing. Linda Nedeau, who was walking eagerly to the pond, explained that she has spent lots of time there to swim and exercise. “Hallelujah,” she said about the reopening. “My brother calls it my happy place.”

I also stopped at the Northampton Country Club in Leeds on Monday when the temperature was in the 90s. The pool was open, with social distancing guidelines in place. I heard adults chatting, kids laughing and jumping off the diving board.

I saw pool director Kim Bierwert encourage Anais Giardina, 7, to jump off the diving board for the first time into the arms of her grandmother, Eileen Giardina. “She just learned to swim last week,” Giardina said.

A line had formed at the diving board as kids participated in a contest to make the biggest splash. Jake LaFountain’s mother, Michelle, summed up the scene best when she said, “It’s just a little normal. Their whole personality changes — they are happy again.”

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