Fun and games are back in style in Stowe: the Independence Day fireworks are back on and the Stowe Arena has the OK to open its ice rink.
The select board voted unanimously Monday to hold Stowe’s fireworks display with restrictions to curb the possible spread of the coronavirus.
A similar stipulation was attached to opening the ice rink to the public.
These things won’t look the same as they did last year — fireworks will be viewed from inside or around cars parked 6 feet apart and skating groups will be scheduled, with ample time between and limited in number — but at least Independance Day in Stowe seems to be unfolding with some semblance of normalcy after the pandemic changed everything this spring.
Ice in late June
As soon as the rink has ice, the Stowe Arena will be open to skaters. Late June is the target for having a skating surface.
Specifics on how to keep skaters safe from the virus are still in theworks, but the overall shape of the plan is together. People will be required to wear face masks before entering and when off the ice, and their temperatures will be checked at the door and their attendance logged for contact tracing.
Once on the ice, people won’t be playing games. Under current state guidelines, only training and drills and non-contact activity is allowed. Groups will be limited to 25 people.
Face masks won’t be required while people are exerting themselves skating, but coaches, employees and other supervisors will have to wear them.
When a group’s done, there will be a 15- to 45-minute margin before the next is allowed in. Employees will spend that time sanitizing the area to ensure it’s germ-free for the newcomers.
Matt Frazee, recreation director, said he’s confident he and the arena manager can arrange a solid safety plan. His main concern is staffing, especially if other ice rinks don’t open until well after Stowe’s.
“Waterbury indicated that they weren’t anticipating opening until at least August,” he said, and it’s unclear when Montpelier’s rink will be functional.
Additional workers will be needed to clean the space multiple times a day. “It’s just the matter of what we’ll be able to staff for what purposes,” he said.
Volunteers may be the solution. Adam Rice, a member of the town recreation commission, said he would be happy to lend a hand, and he could rally more volunteers to ensure the rink runs smoothly and safely.
When the select board voted May 26 to revoke all special event permits, Stowe’s Independence Day fireworks display went with it.
But the explosions are back with a bang, and, yes, the show will be different from years past because of the pandemic.
“There’s no road map here, no previous experience for us to go by,” said Town Manager Charles Safford.
Here’s the plan so far: People will be asked to arrive in their cars, watch the spectacle from inside their vehicles or close by, and leave as soon as the show’s over.
There will be no events before or after the rockets fly, and no concessions.
Stowe police and volunteers will coordinate parking, ensuring cars are at least 6 feet apart. The idea is to create a buffer so people can get out of their cars and deploy a lawn chair or blanket. It won’t be business as usual, but at least it will bear some resemblance to a normal Fourth of July celebration.
As with the arena, Stowe’s fireworks may be the only show around, so there’s no telling how many people will show up.
Safford expressed concern about crowd control, but Police Chief Don Hull was confident.
“Logistics-wise, we can make it happen,” Hull said. “If we can have some volunteers help park the cars, that would take a load off the police department.”
Elise McKenna, director of Stowe Vibrancy and one of the residents who worked to get the event back on schedule, said she will be able to find enough volunteers to support the police.
The location is still up in the air. The usual Events Field won’t work for a drive-in show, so alternatives are needed; one option is the Mayo Farm fields.
“We’re exploring the best place to do it to maximize parking and visibility,” Safford said.
Because of the cancellation and then revival of the event, the service cost was increased by 10 percent — $11,000 total — and there will be no revenue from concessions. Concessions brought in about $4,000 last year, Frazee said.
Safford said he’s not worried about that cost. Budgeting will be tricky this year regardless, because of the deep economic impact of a statewide stay-at-home order and sharp restrictions on tourism. The shutdown of restaurants, bars and hotels has hammered the town’s 1 percent local option tax on rooms and meals.
Compared to other monetary woes on the horizon, Safford thinks the fireworks are well worth it.