ANOTHER VIEWPOINT: Joyful return of activity gives community a boost

This editorial was originally published in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star.

The return of cornerstone traditions, and good-hearted projects, will help the Terre Haute community feel more hopeful, after enduring 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such signs are unfolding this month, and this week, around the city. They are good to see.

One of the most popular and sweetest events on Terre Haute’s calendar is always the First Congregational Church’s Strawberry Fest on Ohio Street downtown. A women’s group at the church, the Mayflower Guild, launched the festival in 1989 as a fundraiser, and it has grown ever since. In recent years, an average of 100 church volunteers have doled out an estimated 10,000 servings of ice cream, biscuits, whipped cream and strawberries at each one-day festival, often accompanied by local music groups.

Pandemic precautions forced the cancelation of last year’s Strawberry Fest, but it made a return Thursday with a “grab-and-go” format that prevented large concentrations of visitors, for public-health reasons.

The tasty treats, and resulting smiles and community camaraderie, are simple doses of inspiration.

Also coming this month is another outdoor event, the HuggieLuvFest on June 19 on the lawn of The Meadows Shopping Center. That event by the Musicians Giving Back organization will raise funds for the Covered With Love Inc. diaper bank. Last year, the musicians staged a “Foodstock” fundraiser for Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank and a “Toystock” for the Toys for Tots effort. Admission will be $10 for the HuggieLuvFest from noon to 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Those two festivals are just a sample of reemerging traditions as COVID-19 vaccinations increase — the key to a return to normalcy for western Indiana, eastern Illinois, the Hoosier state, America and the world.

A peak inspirational moment is also back this weekend — Special Olympics Indiana on the Indiana State University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology campuses. Since its debut at ISU in 1969, the event has allowed individuals with intellectual disabilities of all types to participate in a variety of athletic competitions.

Last year, though, Special Olympics Indiana had to be conducted virtually. This weekend, the in-person action resumes, with some alterations. Health and safety protocols will be in place, and some events will be adapted to allow distancing. Also, opening and closing ceremonies will be virtual, and routines such as the torch lighting, Parade of Athletes and Victory Dance will not happen this time. Also, scheduling issues prompted the swimming competition to be moved to Indianapolis.

Nonetheless, the return of the athletes, their families and supporters and the activities is welcome in Terre Haute.

“It’s going to be very different, but at least we have the opportunity to come back,” Jodi Moan — the competition director for the Area 7 counties, which includes Vigo — told the Tribune-Star’s Michele Lawson. “I don’t think we realized how much we truly missed it, and we’re just so excited to get back to the games and see the friends we’ve made over the years.”

The same can be said of all the other community traditions that will return this summer and in coming months, as long as more people get vaccinated and those who are not practice the public health protocols. Such celebrations help restore the joy in lives — a great reason to continue the progress of ending the pandemic.

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