ANDERSON — As more Madison County residents become vaccinated against COVID-19, local tourism officials are hopeful that some of the area’s signature events and attractions will see a resurgence in attendance.
They caution, however, that several of those events likely won’t happen in their normal spot on the calendar this year because organizers are being judicious in their planning.
“When everybody started planning their 2021 events back in the traditional January-February timeline, there weren’t vaccinations going on at that point in time,” said Mark Thacker, executive director of the Anderson Madison County Visitors Bureau. “Those that were wanting to hold their event during the summer were pushing their events back to August and September.”
Nevertheless, several festivals and other celebrations are returning, including a Juneteenth event later this month, block parties hosted by the Anderson Black Expo, and the city’s annual summer concert series. The Anderson Symphony Orchestra is also giving some outdoor concerts during the summer.
“There’s a lot of optimism,” Thacker said. “There’s a lot of desire to get out, a lot of pent-up energy to get outside and do things.”
In addition to local businesses hoping to cash in on an influx of new visitors and beginning to recover lost revenue from last year, various community groups are hoping the festivals they sponsor will reinvigorate their fundraising efforts.
“They weren’t able to do fundraising events (in 2020), and that puts a big dent into what their plans are anyway,” Thacker noted. “It’s not like they completely closed up shop last year.”
He said many area businesses were able to weather the pandemic storm last year by dipping into reserve funds to pay the bills. But even with customers returning and expectations for the summer season running high, it will likely take those businesses awhile to return their bottom lines to pre-pandemic levels.
“I don’t think they’re going to make it up in one year,” Thacker said. “The attendance, people are itching to get out, but there’s still hesitancy to still get out. It’s going to take time for (businesses) to build their reserves back up and get things back up. It’s not going to happen in one year.”