WHITE BEAR LAKE — City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 12, began with a presentation on Marketfest and Manitou Days.
Dale Grambrush, chair of the Marketfest Committee and Manitou Days committee member, and Lisa Beecroft, committee member, spoke to the council.
After reviewing guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and information from Gov. Tim Walz, the committee made the decision not to hold either event in June or July when they usually take place.
The plan now is for Marketfest to take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays, July 30 through Aug. 20.
“This allows us to still promote the events together but gives us additional time to see what’s happening,” Beecroft said.
Beecroft explained that Marketfest is a family-oriented festival that brings people to downtown White Bear Lake. It promotes the city’s businesses and enhances a sense of community.
“Planning Marketfest has been a little unusual this year. We got a really early start this year. We had our sponsors lined up and our vendors coming in and then in March everything went sideways, but we’ve been watching closely ever since,” Beecroft said.
She said that Marketfest committee members have been meeting via teleconference about every other week.
“We’ve come up with a game plan that I feel comfortable with. Also knowing if we can’t promote a safe gathering later this summer then we will pull the plug because, ultimately, safety is our first priority,” Beecroft said.
This is the 30th year of Marketfest, though Beecroft said it’s not quite the celebration they had planned.
Inflatables, climbing wall and petting zoo will not be returning this year. She said they are not yet sure if there the kiddie parade will take place. Organizers will continue to watch the situation as it evolves, working with the city of White Bear Lake and Ramsey County.
Beecroft said about 80% of summer events around the state have been canceled, and 20% postponed.
“July 6 is our final go/no-go date,” Beecroft said.
“Thank you for postponing, not canceling, and giving the community some hope that we can pull this off,” said Councilman Bill Walsh.
As for Manitou Days, Grambush said organizers have been meeting each week via teleconference since March. Friday, Aug. 21, was selected as the best date to hold the parade.
“The plan is to downsize the parade to about 50 units rather than 100,” Grambush said.
He said the fireworks committee was asked to consider that date for fireworks if the July 4 celebration is canceled.
He said all events will need to follow whatever guidelines are out at that time.
The council also heard from Tracy Shimek, economic and development coordinator, who presented the COVID-19 business survey results.
The survey was available from April 24 through May 4. Shimek said there were 90 responses at the time the results were tabulated.
The survey was distributed through many channels, including a posting on social media pages, an advertisement in the newspaper and via emails to businesses.
“It was a long survey, but most people made it through and they provided us with good information,” Shimek said
One question asked if business were affected by COVID-19, and 87 of 90 responded yes. Most businesses said the impact it had on them was slow or reduced sales, though some said mandatory closure had an impact.
Another question asked whether businesses had applied for financial assistance. Sixty-four applied for federal assistance, 18 applied for state assistance and 23 applied for neither.
Many businesses reported scaling back hours or shifts. Their employees are teleworking, if possible. A quarter of respondents had businesses that were closed.
As for other impacts on employment, half of the businesses that responded had made staff changes that included layoffs or furloughs.
Long term, most said they are very concerned or somewhat concerned. Twenty-six out of 86 said they are afraid they will have to permanently close their business
Seventy-four reported seeing a decrease in revenue.
“There’s been lot of conversations. It’s daunting what’s happening to our small businesses and all businesses in our community,” said Hiniker.
Hiniker said the council could consider direct financial assistance as a handful of communities in the metro are giving out small assistance loans. Hiniker said staff is reluctant to recommend this approach to the council because there are a lot of challenges that go along with it — one being the city currently does not have a Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) levy.
“If we can take down some barriers and make things easier, allow for more signing or allow restaurants to move into their parking lots to have more social distancing … Whatever we can do to help small businesses, even if it’s on a temporary basis, I’m all for it,” Councilman Doug Biehn said. “I don’t believe we’re in a situation to provide financial assistance but if we can change some rules that makes it easier for them, I’m all for that.”