Seasonal alternatives: COVID’s impact on local events this autumn

Fall in Bellingham is truly a great experience, there are many fun and unique events to enjoy and the great outdoors is beautiful this time of year. However, this season most in-person activities and events have been cancelled, according to the Bellingham.org website.

The Pandemic may have struck a blow on the usual bonanza of local events around Whatcom County, but luckily many local organizations have pulled together to create some safe ways to celebrate. Stony Ridge, Bellewood Acres, Bellingham Farmers Market, SeaFeast, and local churches are just some of the many instigators of alternative events.

The CDC still is suggesting caution for the majority of group events and activities, listing orchards, pumpkin patches, and small outdoor gatherings with safety precautions to be of moderate risk. Since Whatcom County is still in phase two, events are still able to happen outdoors with masks and social distancing, so while many events have decided to go ahead and cancel, others have tried to adapt to these new regulations.

Northlake Community Church usually held a large Pumpkin Bash carnival style celebration each Halloween, but because of COVID that just wasn’t in the picture this year. Instead, Children’s Pastor Steven Mason organized an alternative event of Trunk-Or-Treat, a two-hour event where about 25 families decorated their cars and brought candy to give out.

To be safe, all church volunteers wore masks and gloves. Candy was handed out in contactless ways such as tubes or leaf blowers and a line with cones and arrows was spaced out to encourage social distancing.  

“Trunk-Or-Treat” 2020 -By Luke Westfall

“The big surprise was really how many people [there were],” said Mason. “And we realized there wasn’t as much going on in town as far as the typical events that would occur, which was part of the reason why we really wanted to something; because we wanted to make sure the kids had something fun to do.”

There are also events to participate in that are still happening this fall, including some markets that are both fun and a good way to support the local economy.

The local Farmers Market is still being held on Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and will continue running until Dec 19 and into 2021 on Jan 16, Feb 20, and March 20.

“We want to provide this essential service now, and into the future,” Said Farmers Market Director Lora Liegel. “Unfortunately, our market has grossed only about 40% of its normal amount. This has impacts for our organization because we charge modest vendor fees to sustain our operations. With reduced sales, the market has experienced reduced revenue too.”

Visiting the Farmers Market is not only fun and a good way to support the community, but safe as well. Some of the modified guidelines that they have implemented to follow COVID restrictions include a maximum of about 50 vendors, enforced wearing of masks and social distancing, and evenly spaced lines.

Visiting the farmers market- By Luke Westfall

“We continue to try to get the word out that we are providing an outdoor shopping experience, and are implementing protocols to keep our vendors, customers, and staff as safe as possible,” said Liegel.

Another safe and fun market in Whatcom County is currently holding is the Dockside Market.

Dockside is the new alternative to the SeaFeast festival usually held in September, according to the festival’s Executive Director Liz Purdy. SeaFeast has joined forces with local fishermen, the Port of Bellingham, and the Working Waterfront Coalition of Whatcom County to launch the market.

“Somewhere between 300 and 500 people are coming down each sale day,” said Purdy. “We’ve had over 1,000 pounds of product sold on a sale day and that’s all going directly to the fishermen.”

According to fisher-woman Hannah Feenstra, around half a dozen boats have shown up to sell their product each sale day. The unpredictability of the trade creates a fun and varied market space, with different seafoods being available on different dates.

SeaFeast 2020- By Luke Westfall

                The market is held at Squalicum Harbor, gates five and seven. It was held again on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and plans are being made for it to continue into 2021.

Orchards and pumpkin patches are also open this autumn. Stony Ridge had a season for self-pick apples and pumpkins, animal viewing, and the corn maze in October, and they reopened on November 27th for their Christmas trees and other winter activities.

                Another orchard, Bellewood Farms, still have some of their activities in session. Their Ten-Mile Café pies and other tasty treats are available for curbside pick-up, or in-store purchase. U-Pick apples and pumpkins are closed for the season, but their Christmas tree lot will be open in early Dec.

                Participating in these many local events and markets is a great way to get outside, have fun, and support local businesses, but if nothing else there’s always the option to just enjoy the outdoors! The leaves are beautiful, the temperature is crisp and chill, and there’s a multitude of hiking, biking, and walking spots waiting to be explored.

                For more information on fall activities around Whatcom County and how to recreate safely, visit Bellingham.org or the CDC website.


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