BAY CITY, MI — The COVID-19 pandemic is shuttering events around the state this summer, but one Bay City tradition is standing strong and is slated to be held later this month.
Bay City’s Sidewalk Days will be held from July 23 – 25 as a chance for the community to get out and do some outdoor shopping with local businesses.
“Sidewalk Days is an opportunity for merchants to showcase their products while offering great deals and fun in-store events. Some have clearance sales and others have other types of deals or incentives,” said Suzanne Maxwell, Bay City Downtown Management Board and Development Authority Executive Director.
Sidewalk Days is a primarily outdoor and open-air event but the Bay County Health Department is reminding people to take the usual precautions during the pandemic to play it safe and to make sure that everyone still has a fun and safe time.
Bay County Health Department Officer Joel Strasz said, “It’s outside, that’s good. People should be cognizant of distancing. If it’s crowded they’re going to want to avoid being in the midst of the crowd. If they’re going down out there, especially if there is a significant number of people, they really should have a mask on and employing good hygiene and doing everything that they can to stop the spread of the virus.”
Strasz also emphasized that those who are showing any symptoms of COVID-19 should absolutely stay home from events like this and to make sure that they are getting tested.
Downtown business owners are also taking the necessary precautions to make sure that the event is safe for employees and customers.
“Regarding COVID 19 precautions; we are asking customers and merchants to adhere to the rules set forth by the governor regarding masks, capacity, etc.,” said Maxwell.
Merchants like Howie Diefenbach, owner of Americana Antiques at 912 N. Water St., affirmed that they are taking proactive steps during the pandemic. His shop’s been busy disinfecting the premises and like other merchants downtown, is asking customers to wear masks, use hand sanitizer, and only handle items that they’re serious about buying.
“We’re doing everything we can humanly possible,” he said.
Meanwhile, Baysics Variety Store Manager Jennifer Eischer said that they will be offering a curbside option at the 926 Washington Ave. store for customers who wish to stay outside during the event.
“If a customer does not want to come in, we’ll come in and ring them up and take care of them that way, like our curbside service,” she said.
Owner of Regent Flower and Mercantile Brandon Strong said, “Since we’ve been open we’ve asked everyone to wear a mask. Well, now it’s mandatory, but we have hand sanitizer at the front that we ask everyone to use, we ask for minimal touching. The one thing I’ll have to keep an eye on for sidewalk sales is how many people are in the store at a time.”
This year’s Sidewalk Days celebration will feature themed days for participants to enjoy. July 23 will be Throwback Thursday where businesses are asked to look and dress like they did back in the day. Next up is Food Truck Friday, which will feature unique outdoor dining options from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. from food trucks parked on Washington Avenue. Saturday caps off the event with Sizzlin’ Saturday, which is themed around the idea of “sizzling hot deals” in the summertime.
More than just a regular sale
Aside from sales, downtown vendors will also be offering a variety of events and activities.
Herter Music Center at 901 Washington Ave., will have an old piano on display for people to paint and decorate to their heart’s desire.
“We have an old piano that is not functioning not very well but we decided it would be fun to have people just paint it and this year’s theme is going to be 2020,” said Herter Manager Natalie Martinez. “We’re going to try to have people write positive things about 2020 or pictures or something to go along the line with that.”
Martinez said that those painting the piano will also be required to wear masks, as well as those looking to enter Herter’s shop.
Diefenbach’s antique shop will have a vendor outside with a vintage-style ice cream cart to sell prepared, pre-packaged frozen treats.
Located at at 924 Washington Ave., Strong’s flower shop also has an extra reason to celebrate during Sidewalk Days and will be having some extra events. Regent Flower and Mercantile will also be hosting its one year celebration at the same time as Sidewalk Days. Strong said that his shop will be running sales on top of selling items like house plants and garden statues while also having drawings and giveaways.
Strong’s will also host a third event during Sidewalk Days, aside from the regular sales and the flower shop’s one-year anniversary. An art show featuring local goods will be held on Friday and Saturday, which will include the closure of Washington Street at the 900 Block.
Staying ever busy, Strong also owns and runs the Great Lakes Market, a travelling art show. With the pandemic cancelling vents left and right, Strong saw a need for artisans to have an outlet to sell their art.
“So I know all these artists and makers that almost all of their shows have been cancelled this year, and depending on who they are, sometimes that is their income,” he said.
Since he serves on the Event and Marketing Committee for Downtown, he was able to pitch the idea and make it a reality. The art fair will take place from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and will also involve careful precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Strong cited a recent Great Lakes Market event that was held in Midland over the weekend of July 12 and said that he saw a successful event with a majority of people following mask and social distancing guidelines.
“So it is possible to do it according to the CDC and the Health Department’s guidelines,” he said. “It’s different yes, but what isn’t right now?”
Maxwell said that Sidewalk Days has been a downtown Bay City tradition for well over 35 years.
“It’s always been a big deal. People look forward to coming downtown and enjoying the stores, the sales, and any event that goes along with sidewalk sales,” said Diefenbach. “Obviously, back in the day it was a much bigger deal, it’d be nice to get back to that.”
Martinez of Herter added, ” It’s something fun with all the activities that had to be cancelled, it’s nice that we can at least continue with this tradition.”
The event will also serve as a chance to showcase local business that had to shutter their doors during the pandemic.
“I think people will know that we are back open and we are doing everything as safe as we can for you and our employees,” said Eischer.
“I’m optimistic, you have to be when you’re self employed and you’re a small business. You have to be optimistic. All you have is today and the next day and you’re always hoping that it would always get better,” said Diefenbach.
A list of participating vendors was supplied by the Downtown Development Authority:
– Americana Antiques 912 N. Water St.
– Bay City Antiques Center 1020 N. Water St.
– Baysics Variety Store 926 Washington Ave.
– City Market 401 Center Ave.
– Electric Kitsch 917 Washington Ave.
– G.T. Homestead 109 3rd St.
– Golden Gallery & Custom Framing 113 3rd St.
– Half Mile Handmade 904 N. Water St.
– Herman Hiss & Company 905 Washington Ave.
– Herter Music Center 901 Washington Ave
– Jack’s Bike Shop 207 3rd St.
– Little House 924 N. Water St.
– MeadowCreek Clothiers 920 Washington Ave.
– Mitten Gourmet 401 Center Ave.
– Oily Apothecary LLC 401 Center Ave.
– Panache Boutique 214 Center Ave.
– St. Laurent Brothers 1101 N. Water St.
– The Pantry 401 Center Ave.
– Regent Floral & Mercantile 924 Washington Ave.
– Sweet Peach Boutique 910 Washington Ave.
– Uptown Girl 111 Center Ave.
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