‘It’s been very difficult’: Uncertainty on large gatherings hinders planning of summer events


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — If you’re wondering what your summer is going to look like this year, you’re not alone.

Those who are in charge of planning large festivals and events in Rhode Island are worried whether their plans will go off without a hitch, especially following a year marked by social distancing and limited gatherings.

Gina Dooley, the president of the Gaspee Days Committee, tells 12 News it’s challenging to plan their annual parade in advance because they’re unsure what restrictions will be in place by the summer.

She said typically, planning for the event starts in September.

“It’s been very difficult,” she said. “[We’re] planning for a full scale, we just don’t know if it’s going to happen. We may have to back down, or scale it back.”

Her two back-up plans, she said include reducing the number of people taking part in the parade, or postponing the event until later in the summer.

Dooley said they’re also worried about their annual fundraiser for the parade, which takes place during Memorial Day weekend.

The R.I. Department of Health provided no updated guidelines for hosting large events.

Mike Healey, a spokesman for the R.I. Department of Environmental Management, said while it’s too early to know what the protocols will be, he said they’re doing everything in their power to ensure that large events, like the Newport Jazz Festival, will go on in some form.

“It’s definitely not too early for us to say that we’re 100% committed to working with the Newport Festivals Foundation to somehow stage these events this year,” he said.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker announced updated guidelines for large events heading into the warmer months.

Over the next month, the state will move two steps ahead in Baker’s reopening plan.

“Thanks to everybody’s commitment to wear masks, distance when appropriate, do their part to stop the spread, we can move forward with the reopening plan,” he said.

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