Almost a year ago I wrote a column called “2019: A Year of Change,” which reflected on the many changes we experienced internally at the Chamber last year. If you had told me then that all of those changes in 2019 wouldn’t hold a candle to 2020 and we’d be living through a pandemic most of the year, I would’ve had a hard time believing you!
In my 11 years with the Chamber, most years are pretty well a repeat of the one before. Banquet in February, Terrell Jubilee in April, Tractor Show in June, Auction in October, Christmas Parade in December. Other than impact from weather, we know pretty well what to expect year after year. Until 2020.
Terrell Jubilee and the Stanley Ballard Sr Christmas Parade were both canceled for the first time in history. This would’ve been the 39th annual Jubilee. We aren’t exactly sure which anniversary the parade would’ve been, but we know it’s a tradition that dates back more than 63 years. Those were very difficult decisions to make. We know the community looks forward to these annual events. Trust me...we were just as heartbroken and disappointed as everyone else. But we knew those were the right decisions for the safety and health of members of our community. The people are more important to us than the celebrations and tradition.
Even with all the unexpected changes of events in 2020, we have to recognize just how blessed we are. As a community, we’ve not experienced a significant number of COVID-related illnesses like some others. As an economy, businesses have survived perhaps the toughest year they’ve ever experienced. As a City, our leaders have been able to remain pro-business -- helping companies stay open while keeping citizens safe. As a Chamber, we’ve been able to adjust and find new ways to continue our support of local businesses and the community.
In 2020, we’ve all learned to pivot. Instead of ongoing planning for event after event, we switched gears to become a go-to resource for all local businesses to assist them with questions related to COVID, PPP loans, closures, occupancy limits, reopenings, guidelines, required signage, etc. To promote local business during a pandemic, we’ve had to get out of our comfort zones and try new things. Some have worked, some haven’t. But along the way we’ve learned that it is possible to be successful without doing things the ways we’ve always done it. A lesson learned out of necessity to survive. For instance, we had our first online auction in history. It went so well and feedback was so positive that we plan to switch to a hybrid format in 2021 with an online bidding format for the silent and premier auction sections. Some of our local businesses have established online presences or new ways of delivering their products and services to customers. Something else that is sure to stick around after COVID disappears.
COVID forced our hand this year for certain, but we’re so grateful for the nudge it gave us -- the opportunity to think outside the box to serve this community we are so proud to be part of.
As we near 2021, we are optimistic that we will get to return to some normalcy. While we know we aren’t out of the woods just yet, there is a vaccination that will soon be available and people are now more vigilant about doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID or other illnesses. However, we want to encourage you to not let your guard down. Let’s all continue to do our part so we can hopefully come together in person again in 2021. We are ready to resume tradition, with some new twists.