Local organizations plan full schedules, keeping fingers crossed

October 15, 2021
By Susan Hanafee

Promotional material has been mailed. Fingers are crossed. Boca Grande’s not-for-profits are hoping that everything can return to the way it was before the COVID pandemic struck – even though they can’t be 100 percent certain.

“As much as we want things to be back to normal and have planned for that, things aren’t normal yet,” says Marta Howell, executive director of the Friends of Boca Grande. “So, we are moving forward but prepared to navigate any troubled waters ahead.”

The arrival of the Happenings program guide in the mail felt like a signal that Friends, the island’s busiest organization, was headed in a good direction. A quick check of other popular island groups mirrored Howell’s assessment that optimism abounds but caution lurks in the background.

At the Boca Grande Art Center, the Fall Art Show will open as it always does the week before Thanksgiving – from Thursday, Nov. 18 through Sunday, Nov. 21. Wine is back at the Thursday members’ opening night; the appetizers are still on hold, however.

“It will be nice to have that opening night social event back,” said Tonya Doherty, the Art Center’s executive director. “Along with shows featuring local artists, we have at least 46 workshops scheduled and expect to fill in with a few more because Easter is later next year. People are eager to get back to classes. And we are glad to be back as normal as we can.”

In a letter on the Royal Palm Players revamped website, President Alice Court pointed out that the upcoming season “was chosen with an abundance of optimism but a dash of realism. Most of our shows will be presented in the auditorium with all the bells and whistles you have come to expect. But each can be presented in an outside venue if necessary.”

RPP’s first show, “Inherit the Wind,” will be performed outside, under the Community Center’s pavilion. Rows of chairs will be set out on the lawn in front of the stage so everyone will have a great view of the action, and the play has been staged so the audience will feel they are part of a courtroom, with villagers entering behind and on the side of the audience.

“I think staging outside will be so much more fun and interesting for our audience,” Court said. “But we are also doing this first show of the season outside in an abundance of caution.”

The show runs from November 11 through November 15 and starts at 5 p.m. Ticket sales for all RPP shows begin on October 18.

Kim Kyle, the administrative director of the Boca Grande Historical Society, said the popular History Bytes is still scheduled to be held in the courtyard of the Johann Fust Library on 10th Street. Planning for other speakers is also proceeding, with the schedule being released in November.

The organization had a major challenge last year when its popular historic home tour had to be replaced with a virtual tour.

“We had no idea how people would react, but it was remarkably well received,” Kyle said. “It was different from the usual in-person tour in that it was more a history of the family that lived in the house. People seemed to enjoy that change, and we had great success with sales.”

Although plans aren’t finalized by some groups, it appears that mask wearing will still be encouraged at Boca Grande events.

Kyle said the Historical Society, which is housed in a small space, will continue to have a sign asking people who enter to wear masks. “It’s a recommendation, not a mandate, and so far, people have been very compliant,” she said.

Howell said the Friends organization is trying to navigate the masking and social distancing issues and looking to see what other art organizations outside Boca Grande will be doing, along with what the Boca Grande Health Clinic will be recommending. Meanwhile, all of the scheduled speakers have been vaccinated and are ready and eager to travel to Boca Grande, she points out.

“As far as people buying tickets and knowing that our auditorium will be at full capacity, we have seen a good response to sales,” she said. “We are at the same level as we were two years ago. That tells me that people want to get back to normal and are trusting the vaccine.”

Howell said Lee County is agreeable to the Community Center Auditorium being full and has not given any additional guidance on COVID. The center was closed for some period last year, and when it reopened there were no restrictions.

“The reality is that we are going to be living with this for some time,” she added. “So, all of us are having to figure out how to proceed with plans, while doing our part to help keep people safe.”