A year ago today, I was making final west coast travel plans to supervise set up of a client’s properties during the first week of March.
Two weeks later, I was informed the event cancelled due to concerns about spreading the newly discovered COVID virus. In addition to the exhibit floor, the focus of this annual show was education for public health department officials attending from all over the country.
Not too long after that, trade shows and other face-to-face marketing events started falling like oak leaves in the Fall. By the end of March, our warehouse was full to the brim with properties that either had returned early or prepped properties sitting idle with unused shipping labels attached.
This one-year anniversary is not one I really wish to commemorate. The traditional first anniversary gift for a marriage is paper. For my anniversary with COVID-19, I am writing its name on a piece of paper, folding it into an airplane and releasing it into a big recycling bin.
All this being said, I hope that the vaccine continues to roll out successfully, there is a decrease in the spread, smaller meetings and events eventually start to come back by summer and we can start experiencing what the “new normal” will be. As of this writing, the National Restaurant Show, is scheduled to open at McCormick Place in Chicago on May 22. Fingers crossed. Also, Illinois just began allowing gatherings of up to 50 people in large spaces, like hotel ballrooms and meeting rooms. All steps in the right direction.
In an effort to make the holiday as normal as possible this year, Shelley and I did venture to Denver to spend a socially distant Christmas with our kids. Airports were quiet, planes half full, N95 masks in full use. I know that travel like this is still considered risky, but we were all healthy, had limited our exposure to others for quite some time and don’t have underlying conditions that would put us as further risk. We felt it safe to do if we continued with the recommended precautions.
We stayed in a hotel that had over 250 rooms and were two of about ten guests for our five day stay. The weather in Denver was sunny and in the 60s for most of the time, so we could enjoy outdoor patio seating, bring carry-out food back to the hotel or even have an impromptu picnic. There was a day trip to Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park on Christmas Day. Other than wearing masks and socially distancing, there was a brief feeling of normalcy that was definitely needed, even if Christmas dinner consisted of sub sandwiches from Safeway.
Some sense of normal is what we really all crave at this time. At least that’s what I am hoping to find.
As my daughter awaits her next assignment with the National Parks, my son is starting to experience a slow opening of the hospitality industry and at Prairie, we are keeping busy with some smaller projects, maintenance and preparing for when it all starts to come back.
In the last few weeks, we have been having conversations with clients about what they need to do to get their programs up and running once we do see an opening, and business travel will be allowed and encouraged. Some are starting to plan private events with targeted invitees attending with specific appointment times. From what we have heard, the option of a virtual trade show simply is not cutting it for many. It may stick around as an added element of a show or meeting but it’s definitely not a viable replacement right now. The vibe is that we all want things to be somewhat normal, but it will take some more time.
The gift for a second anniversary is cotton. Harder to make an airplane out of cotton but I can always grab an old t-shirt out of the rag pile and mop up the floor with it. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point.
Stay safe and warm (it is after all, winter in Chicago), wear a mask, wash your hands and get in line for your vaccine.