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Old Home Day canceled amid Coronavirus concerns

July 03, 2020
The 2020 Gilford Old Home Day has been canceled due to concerns about COVID-19 and a number of related issues.

The Gilford Old Home Day Committee recommended the event's cancellation to the selectmen and the members of the board agreed with the committee's points.

The selectmen voted unanimously in favor of canceling this year's event on Wednesday after Parks and Recreation Director and Committee member Herb Greene read the committee's memo recommending the cancellation.

Previously, the board had supported holding Old Home Day as scheduled in August. Greene then presented the committee's recommendation and the long list of reasons why the difficult decision was made.

Greene said a major concern was about health and safety of committee members. Many members of the committee are in the high risk category for COVID-19 because of age and/or health conditions or had close family members who were as well. Greene said many members of the committee did not feel comfortable helping out during the event and he said without their help the event wouldn't be feasible.

There were significant concerns about the feasibility of social distancing given the nature of the event, especially considering the crowds that line the parade route and during other events.

"Even if we asked people to space out, there's really not enough room to ask people to socially distance," Greene said.

The current guidelines from the governor's office is to keep groups to no kore than 50 people and he said there would be no way to enforce social distancing during the event.

Another major concern is funding as revenues are significantly down. Revenues from program ads are significantly down, many vendors won't be showing up, and t-shirt sales were uncertain. Greene said they haven't done a lot of their usual fundraising and the town wide yard sale, a major source of funds, didn't happen because of the pandemic. Greene said a number of organizations that participate will not be taking part this year. One exception was the Gunstock Nordic Association, who was looking at socially distanced options for the 5K including having runners leave in waves.

Selectman Kevin Hayes noted that the Deerfield Fair recently canceled, making 10 state fairs canceled this year, and the New Hampshire Highland Games at Loon Mountain were also canceled this year.

Board Chair Chan Eddy said the board had made a motion to hold Old Home Day and proposed a motion to rescind that, which Hayes made.

Selectman Gus Benavides asked if it would be possible to only hold the fireworks. Greene said they could still run into issues with social distancing. He said some communities are trying to work with that, including having drive-up fireworks, though Gilford doesn't have too many places where fireworks could be done with social distancing.

Benavides expressed his respect and thanks to the Old Home Day Committee for their tireless work in what he said was the best Old Home Day in the state bringing out people from all walks of life. He said this was "very, very disappointing" and felt like a step back when everyone had tried to move forward. He endorsed the committee's decision, saying this was probably disappointing to them too.

"I would say I can't think of anyone it's more disappointing to," Greene said. "Many of those members have been on the committee before I arrived. I don't know if it's more heartbreaking to anyone than the committee."

Eddy said his family came up for the event from Hudson every year and loved it, saying they are going to be disappointed.

The motion to rescind the selectmen's decision to move Old Home Day forward was approved unanimously.

"We'll have to start planning for 2021 then," Eddy said.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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