Town Council cancels Holiday Stroll
As Covid-19 numbers continue to grow around the country and on the island, the Town Council made the decision to cancel the 2020 Holiday Stroll. In previous seasons, the Holiday Stroll, which takes place on the weekend after Thanksgiving, has provided opportunities for local businesses to sell their merchandise to tourists. This year, the council is encouraging those who are already on the island to shop locally, and discouraging outside travelers from coming to the island for holiday shopping.
“I think our concerns are with the number of people that come over for the day for the shopping stroll,” said First Warden Ken Lacoste. “There have been concerns with Rhode Island and neighboring states, with an uptick of positive Covid-19 cases on the island… I have serious concerns about the activities associated with the shopping stroll.”
Councilor Martha Ball added that Interstate Navigation will “not be running the high speed” ferry and the Harbor Church will not be used as a “warming station” for shoppers during that day, which it has traditionally done.
“Anything we can do to discourage it I would support,” said Ball.
Councilor Sven Risom agreed with Ball about cancelling the stroll. He added that everyone should continue to practice wearing masks, social distance, and wash their hands, and also reinforce the guidelines of quarantining for travelers coming from the mainland.
Second Warden André Boudreau said that “to attract more people here is putting lives at risk.”
Chamber of Commerce Director Cindy Lasser jumped on the call to provide details as to how the Chamber is handling the shopping season this year.
“We have a lot of stores that would really like to be open. The Chamber has taken the position not to do an organized event. After talking to 31 businesses about the shopping, a lot of the stores feel that there is going to be enough people around on Thanksgiving” to support a locally-focused shopping season, Lasser said. The Chamber has not been advertising the event either on its website or on social media.
Lasser also noted businesses on the island have received tents and heaters through the Take It Outside Grant Program. The new equipment was provided to expand outdoor shopping space in order to lessen the numbers of shoppers being inside a shop or restaurant at any one time. As stated on the Reopening RI website, the program is “to help businesses increase outdoor activity while reducing the transmission rate of COVID-19.”
“People are excited about the tents and heaters,” said Lasser. “But everyone gets it and the seriousness of it.”
Lasser concluded that however the council approached the final decision, “it’s entirely fair. Everybody I think will be good with whatever you decide.”
Tourism Director Jess Willi joined the call to inform the council that the Tourism Council also had not advertised or posted announcements about the stroll.
“We have not put the stroll on our calendar, we have not written our blog post, [no posting to] social media, [no] advertising around the stroll. We have done zero advertising on that in either direction,” said Willi.
Lacoste made a motion to declare that the annual shopping stroll should be cancelled for the 2020 season. Boudreau seconded the motion, which was approved. Councilor Chris Willi was absent.