Summer events: postponed or fate unknown

Block Party, Fire Muster, Western Welcome Week face uncertainty

David Gilbert
dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/27/20

It's shaping up to be a quiet summer in Littleton. With efforts to contain COVID-19 expected to continue for months to come, Littleton's summer festivals and events are largely postponed, canceled or …

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Summer events: postponed or fate unknown

Block Party, Fire Muster, Western Welcome Week face uncertainty

Posted

It's shaping up to be a quiet summer in Littleton.

With efforts to contain COVID-19 expected to continue for months to come, Littleton's summer festivals and events are largely postponed, canceled or up in the air.

The City of Littleton will not process event permit applications until further notice, said city spokesperson Kelli Narde, in keeping with Gov. Jared Polis' order barring gatherings of more than 10 people.

The Littleton Block Party, summer's unofficial beginning for many, will be postponed to an unknown future date, said organizer Greg Reinke.

“Right now, I have no clue,” said Reinke, who owns the Reinke Bros. costume shop in downtown Littleton.

Reinke canceled the event last year amid permit and cost disputes.

“We might do it in July, or maybe in August, or we might just wait until next year," he said.

Reinke said he's taking the virus seriously, and it's already touched his life — his brother came down with the disease, and spent much of April hooked to a ventilator in intensive care.

“We've really got to be smart about reopening,” Reinke said.

Also the head of the Historic Downtown Littleton Merchants Association, Reinke touted a concept to close down Main Street to cars on certain summer evenings to allow for social-distance al fresco dining as a way to reinvigorate sales.

“Downtown will retrieve its glory,” he said.

The Fire Muster is on hold as well.

Normally held the weekend of Father's Day in late June, the Fire Muster begins with a fire truck parade down Main Street, followed by an afternoon of fun and games with first responders at Arapahoe Community College.

The festival won't be held in June, said Paula Wiens, who has organized the event for many years with Schomp Automotive and Mile High Hook and Ladder, a club for antique fire truck enthusiasts.

“There are just so many unknowns,” Wiens said.

One idea, hatched by Division Chief Jerry Rhodes of South Metro Fire Rescue, is to hold a parade in the fall to celebrate first responders and health care workers.

“If we could make it happen, I think it would help our community heal,” Wiens said.

Postponing the event is painful, Wiens said, because she knows so many little kids go gaga for fire trucks and relish the chance to meet firefighters.

“We'll come back big next year,” Wiens said.

The Hudson Gardens canceled its summer concert series even before announcing the lineup.

“Canceling is clearly the socially responsible and appropriate choice,” the botanic gardens and events center said in a news release.

Last summer's lineup included Seal, Styx and Melissa Etheridge.

Independence Day at Belleview and Cornerstone parks is up in the air at the moment.

“The bottom line is that there are a lot of unknowns right now,” said City of Englewood spokesman Chris Harguth in an email.

The sprawling event, culminating in a king-size fireworks show, is jointly run by Englewood and Littleton.

“Conditions today may be completely different in July, so at this point we're in a holding pattern with our entire special events calendar,” Harguth wrote. “As we enter this phased-in approach for opening the state and city, we'll need to work thoughtfully with Tri-County Health, and within state guidelines, before determining which events are appropriate to move forward with.”

Western Welcome Week, Littleton's signature bash, now in its 92nd year, could look pretty different this year.

“It's a moving target,” said Cindy Hathaway, the August festival's longtime executive director. “There's no playbook for this.”

Artisans and crafters have been signing up for booths at a good clip, Hathaway said, perhaps motivated by the mass cancellation of many area craft fairs. Meanwhile, the event's sponsors, mainly local businesses on hard times, are pulling out.

Click here to learn how to become a Western Welcome Week sponsor

“We don't know if we'll be able to host every event and maintain social distancing, or even if we'll be able to afford to,” Hathaway said.

Events like the opening night fireworks, pancake breakfast and Stick Horse Rodeo tend to draw dense crowds.

The Grand Parade, the festival's high point, is in question.

“The parade is wait-and-see,” Hathaway said. “It's been the main event for 91 years, and I'd hate to see it go away in the 92nd. It's hard to do a virtual parade, and that doesn't really sound all that fun.”

Hathaway said she and the festival board are brainstorming new ways to hold events, and taking stock of which ones are conducive to social distancing. Art shows and trivia contests are high on the list.

“We're trying to be creative and optimistic,” Hathaway said. “Western Welcome Week is about community spirit, and there's always plenty of that in Littleton.”

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