Wauseon can add the 86th Annual Homecoming celebration to the list of victims claimed by the novel coronavirus.
Homecoming Chair Kevin Knierim announced Thursday the event has been canceled even as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has announced that some of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions are being eased. Knierim said the loosening of some rules wasn’t enough to justify holding the city’s premier activity, which was to be held July 30 and 31 and Aug. 1.
He said social distancing regulations made it impossible to organize Homecoming this year. “We couldn’t have committee meetings, we couldn’t go out and talk to business sponsors, and with the no-contact order we couldn’t get our for fundraisers,” he said. “We’re still tied up with the ‘stay home’ order.”
Throughout April, the Homecoming Committee carefully followed DeWine’s decisions regarding the pandemic, hoping restrictions would ease up enough to continue its plans. “We had been talking about it, waiting to see what the governor would say,” Knierim said. “But we finally decided to cancel due to not being able to function normally.”
Raffle tickets and brochures for this year’s event were printed in March, but the committee will hold them for use at next year’s Homecoming. Knierim said the incorrect date on them will be explained.
He said Homecoming fundraising efforts are already nearly two months behind schedule. And asking businesses that have been shut down during the pandemic for donations was not something the committee could do in good conscience, he added.
A contract with D & D Putting and Amusements to provide festival rides this year does not include a cancellation fee, so no money will be lost. Knierim said the Continental, Ohio, company is, in fact, working with the committee “so we can regroup for next year.”
He said contracts already signed with musical entertainment also don’t require cancellation fees. And many local vendors who pay for spots on the Homecoming midway are older and notified the committee they wouldn’t have participated this year anyway due to health concerns.
Still, “There’s a lot of big things we would have done,” Knierim said, including honoring local military veterans and Wauseon High School seniors, who lost their graduation ceremony to COVID-19. “It’s a vicious cycle, but I don’t know what to do at this point.”
The loss of Homecoming revenue may mean a hit to Wauseon’s Parks and Recreation Department and to the city’s annual Christmas parade, both of which receive a portion of the proceeds. Recreation Superintendent Matt Mennetti declined to comment.
Mayor Kathy Huner received word Thursday of the cancellation, a decision made entirely by the Homecoming Committee. She said she’s saddened by the news, but respects the decision and understands that preparation work for Homecoming is a process that takes time the pandemic isn’t allowing.
“Until we get the okay from the state, it’s very hard to plan for something two and a half months from now if we don’t know what the rules will be,” Huner said. “It’s one more thing that was taken away from our community and our citizens (by the pandemic), but know that it will be back next year.”
Knierim said Homecoming, though favored by residents, is non-essential. “We’re going to have to put it behind us and move on to next year,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.