Pandemic forces committee to rethink 2021 plans for Whately’s 250th anniversary 

Staff Writer
Published: 7/19/2020 8:01:19 AM

WHATELY — Members of the Whately 250th Anniversary Committee are already reconsidering plans for the anniversary celebration next year in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everything has been carefully examined in terms of both the events that we’re planning, and fundraising in light of the pandemic,” said Susan Baron, co-chair of the Whately 250th Anniversary Committee. “For events, our first priority obviously is the safety of the public and we cannot be confident that … social distancing will not be a concern at that point, and therefore have to look at what we can safely hold to celebrate the town’s 250th anniversary.”

The anniversary celebrations — which the committee began to plan for in September 2017 — are scheduled to take place in late June 2021, Baron said. But now, the committee is looking to spread the celebration out by moving certain events into 2022.

“Our feeling is, if we needed to push things off into the first half of 2022, it’s still in our 250th year,” Baron said.

Earlier this week, the committee met to discuss which of the events could safely be held in 2021, and which events may need to be pushed into 2022.

“We went through the list of events and decided which ones could be held in a world where there is social distancing, and therefore can remain … and which ones would not work in a social distancing world, and therefore potentially could be considered for the first half of 2022,” Baron explained.

Of the four “key events” — fireworks, a parade, a gala and family day — both the gala and family day are likely to be pushed into 2022.

She said those events lend themselves to close contact (dancing) and being indoors. The uncertainty over whether there will be a vaccine by that point, and how effective it will be, also plays into whether certain events can be held.

“It’s almost back to the drawing board, because some of these are things we hadn’t really thought of in that way,” Baron said.

Another concern of the Whately 250th Anniversary Committee is funding.

Three years ago, the town committed to appropriating $20,000 each year for three years.

“In 2020, we rescinded our request for $20,000 because frankly we felt the town needed the money more for other things,” Baron said, referencing the economic impact of the pandemic. “The town budget is being looked at very closely … so we did not ask for the $20,000.”

She added that the pandemic took hold at the same time as the committee kicked off its fundraising campaign.

“If businesses have been hurt badly by this, they may not be in a position to do what they may have done before,” she said.

Baron added that the committee hopes those who can’t contribute financially may consider in-kind donations of goods and services.

“We’re still hoping they’ll contribute,” she said.

Keith Bardwell, co-chair of the Whately 250th Anniversary Committee, said, due to the strain the pandemic has placed on the Massachusetts budget, Whately also won’t receive the roughly $10,000 the state would normally have appropriated for such anniversary celebrations.

“There was another blow funding-wise,” he said. “We’re struggling in many aspects financially to put on some of the events we wanted to do.”

With a year ahead of them, Bardwell said the committee still has work to do.

“There’s so many unknowns that it’s tough for us to make any plans,” he said.

Reach Mary Byrne at 413-772-0261, ext. 263 or

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