“We’ll sing in the sunshine. We’ll laugh every day.”
— Gale Garnett
Maybe it was just an overwhelming, tribal response to COVID fatigue. Or the allure of perfect south Georgia weather, a sort of collective spring fever. Or maybe an unstoppable case of nostalgia, a longing for the good ole days ... of, say, 2019 ... that brought everyone out of hiding over the weekend. No matter the reason, the first few days of May 2021 looked more like May of any other year but 2020 with citizens — many of them eschewing the face covers that have become an ingrained part of our society in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic — actually attending fun events that sprang up, like happy mushrooms after a rainy evening.
And there were plenty of these events in southwest Georgia over the weekend.
First of all, the Chamber of Commerce couldn’t have ordered up more perfect weather. That’s always been an iffy factor, pandemic or not. Anytime an outdoors activity is planned in south Georgia in the spring and summer months, organizers immediately start praying for rains to hold off long enough for their event to take place.
Next, the COVID fatigue factor was ever-present. At event after event in Albany, it was as if participants had been fed — and dutifully repeated — a single line: “We’ve been cooped up for more than a year with COVID, and it just feels like being let free to get out and go to an event.” They said it at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds, the Tift Park Market, the downtown Sidewalk Sale, the Cancer Ties Fun Run. Even at the Albany Mall parking lot carnival.
“This was just too beautiful a day and too fun an event for us not to get out of the house after being stranded there for the past year,” one couple at the fairgrounds for the Exchange Club’s Car Show, Swap Meet and Demolition Derby said. (The “swap meet,” by the way, was for car parts ... people aren’t that fed up with being cooped up with their life partners.) “We wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”
Rashelle Beasley and her crew at the Convention & Visitors Bureau generally offer advice to promoters and planners who bother to ask to help keep event overlap at a minimum. Getting an event listed on the CVB’s community calendar is a good way, Beasley said, to help prevent competing events.
“A lot of people don’t bother, but by getting their events on our calendar, we’re able to help planners have as big events as possible,” Beasley said. “This past weekend, though, I think was just spontaneous. I think a lot of people were just ready to get out, and they were happy to have events they could go to. I saw a lot of families out at the fairgrounds for the car show.”
In addition to the Friday and Saturday car show at the fairgrounds, other local events that drew their own level of crowds over the weekend were the venerable Tift Park Community Market, a sidewalk sale held by downtown Albany merchants, the aforementioned carnival at the Albany Mall, a spring musical put on by Deerfield-Windsor School’s theater department, and a Cancer Ties fun run and other events downtown on Sunday.
Certainly there are plenty of local events that have, in the past, drawn thousands and thousands of visitors to the hub city of southwest Georgia. But those events — Indian festivals, homecoming gatherings, flower shows, kid events, concerts, holiday celebrations, conventions — all now have to be viewed through a pre-COVID lens. Some have questioned whether the world will ever return to such carefree times, given the grip that this particular pandemic has on the world’s people and the refusal by many to take vaccinations that would held spur the onset of herd immunity, which scientists say is needed for the virus to die out.
But for a blissful few days, Albany, Georgia, had it going on over the weekend, helping most everyone involved forget this dark cloud that’s been hanging over us. For these few days, at least, there was sunshine.