While a chunk of the Fourth of July weekend has been shelved for a year with remaining events focused on social distancing, the visitor traffic in and around Buena Vista is strong.
“Right now, it’s what a typical summer feels like. Or at least it’s closer to normal,” Town Administrator Phillip Puckett said. “In the good ways, there’s a lot of economic benefit to businesses.”
He said that as businesses began reopening in early June, each weekend has had a different feel to it as visitors, locals and businesses adjusted to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the ever-shifting definition of normal.
During this time there have been a handful of reported run-ins in town about mask wearing, he said, noting that the complaints come from both sides: those who really don’t want to wear masks and those who really want the people around them to mask up. Current rules from Chaffee County Public Health require six-foot distancing and the proper wearing of cloth face coverings.
“Ultimately, all of this comes down to people taking personal responsibility,” Puckett said.
Fireworks are far and away the main event for the weekend. The annual blast, sponsored by the American Legion, takes place once again at the Buena Vista Rodeo Grounds on Saturday evening. Puckett said the event is a good fit for social distancing, seeing as most viewers watch the show from their cars or homes.
But other pieces of the red, white and blue pie just aren’t in the offerings this year. They include the downtown parade, Art in The Park, the Optimist pancake breakfast, Rapids & Grass Beer Festival and Mountain Mania car show.
Puckett said that prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the town had been planning to expand the number of special events for the weekend. “Our staff was stressing about making all that work. And we went from that to almost everything being cancelled.”
That said, there still are things going on for locals and visitors.
The Turner Farm and Apple Orchard on West Main Street is hosting a socially distanced Music and Memories, limited to 150 people. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. Bring a blanket or chairs and picnic. No dogs or alcohol. The event is timed so that people can head out to see the evening’s fireworks.
Guitarist Gene Farrar will provide the music. On the history side, expect some age-appropriate entertainment by Madame Cockeyed Liz, pioneer Alsina Dearheimer (mother of the “Bewna” Vista pronunciation) and a talk about the trains that once ran through Buena Vista.
The event is donation-based, helping Buena Vista Heritage maintain its three sites: Turner Farm, the Depot and Courthouse.
Kiki Lathrop, executive director of Buena Vista Heritage, looks at the event as a “kind of summer break away from the chaos.”
“We have the space to experiment with this and see if it is doable,” she said. “If we can pull this off, I think it could be very beneficial for other groups trying to figure it out.”
In addition, the Firecracker Business Walk is slated for July 3-5, with its grand prize drawing at 5 p.m. June 6. Participants pick up a card for $1 at Sorelle Deli or the BV Welcome Center and visit participating businesses, practicing safe distancing and other business rules. The winner will receive two nights at Vista Court Cabins, a half-day for two raft trip with The Adventures Company, Dinner for four at Eddyline South Main, and a $100 gift card.
And the BV High School cross country students are still hosting the Freedom 5k this year, but have created a virtual format. To participate, register at getmeregistered.com/get_information.php?event_id=134138. More info is on Facebook at BVFreedom5k. Race times can be submitted through July 4.