The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce appeared before the Borough of Bath Council on February 1 to see whether the annual Spuds & Suds festival will move forward this year. The popular event was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but, with a waiting list of vendors already vying for a spot at the event, the Chamber hoped it could make a triumphant return this August.
Jessica O’Donnell, Executive Vice President of Affiliated Chambers, and Greg Kuhn, President and CEO of Omega Protective Services, tried to assuage any safety concerns early.
“We have a plan A and a plan B,” said O’Donnell. “We plan for the worst but have the best festival we can.”
She cited Christmas in Nazareth as a recent success. With the help of Kuhn and his team at Omega, mask-wearing was enforced and crowds were separated to maintain social distancing.
“To ensure the health and safety [of residents] is our number one priority,” O’Donnell continued.
While hundreds of shoppers, concert-goers, and food fanatics are usually packed into one or two blocks of South Chestnut Street, O’Donnell and Kuhn suggested that this year’s event could look slightly different.
“Maybe we do not bring in the big bands and utilize some local talent so that we do not have clustering in one area,” said O’Donnell.
Kuhn added that the festival could be expanded north on Chestnut Street toward the post office, adding 50 percent more space to the event. The number of people working at each booth or food stand could also be limited and food could perhaps be grab-and-go to limit eating at the event.
While the continued rise of infections made council wary, members also acknowledged that the tide could turn with the vaccination rollout. Every member of council said they would vote against the event if a formal vote was held that evening, so they instead tabled the decision and allowed the Chamber to start planning the festival should the public health situation improve.
“I do recognize the fact that things are getting better,” said council president Mark Saginario. “While I do not think we should give absolute approval of this, I would support going ahead with planning…with the caveat knowing that it can be canceled if things get worse.”
Councilwoman Phyllis Andrews agreed.
“I believe we should plan it,” she said. “Maybe by [August] things will turn around, but we just have to wait and see.”
“I am not in favor of it as of now,” she added. “[But let us] see where we are in a month from now.”
Councilwoman Michele Ehrgott also opposed committing to the event this early in the year. She also worried about what would happen if the borough waits too long to cancel the event.
“Even if we plan, I would hate to see [vendors] lose money,” she told council. “There are some of us who cannot get our first vaccine until the end of April…[so] we will not have a big picture until late May or June.” She worried if that would make it too late to decide on the event.
O’Donnell assured council that the Chamber works with vendors in the event of cancellations. She said that the Chamber reimbursed all vendors after Spuds & Suds was canceled last year.
By April or May, council will formally decide whether the event should go on.
O’Donnell added that she hopes the event, if it moves forward, will be one that all businesses and residents can look forward to.