Weddings, other events on hold amid outbreak

St. Andrew’s Activity Center in downtown McComb has temporarily closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Health officials are recommending that no more than 10 people gather anywhere in the country, and local meeting venues are starting to experience cancellations and enforce that guideline themselves.

“We don’t have anything going on at Brentwood,” said owner Barbara Willis. “All our events for the next two weeks are canceled. Most of our clientele is older groups, so for the next 14 days we’re not doing much. I hope things can be rescheduled later.”

She said Brentwood still had a few lodging guests, and staff have been wiping down surfaces and taking other precautions to keep coronavirus at bay.

Meadville native Michelle Roberts, who conducted the Enterprise-Journal-sponsored “Taste of Home” cooking schools for many years, has her wedding scheduled April 25 at her home church, New Hope Baptist.

With a little more than a month until the appointed day, she said the wedding and the reception at Trinity Place in McCall Creek are still on for now.

“We’re trying to wait as long as we can,” Roberts said. “It’s my church, so it’s not like it’s a venue that we can’t rebook.”

She said a lot of family and friends will be flying in from out of state to attend the wedding, and they are waiting to finalize their plans or to cancel arrangements already made.

Vendors like florists and caterers are still lined up and cooperating.

They “have been very willing to work with me if anything needs to be rescheduled or refunded,” Roberts said.

While the wedding itself and the reception are still on for now, Roberts has had two casualties in her planning.

Her wedding shower on the weekend of the 21st was canceled, and her honeymoon cruise will have to wait as well.

“My company put travel restrictions on all its employees, “ said Roberts, who works for Sprouts Farmers Market in Birmingham, Ala. “Anybody traveling out of the country would be under a mandatory two-week quarantine, and if you didn’t have any vacation time, that would be unpaid.”

Laura Alexander, office manager at St. Andrew’s Mission, said its operations have rolled back in the face of recommended restrictions on the number of people who can gather in one place — a limit of 10 now, after earlier recommendations of 250, then 50.

The organization’s SAM’s Diner and its medical clinic have closed for the time being. Its thrift stores are open but are getting extra cleaning before workers leave for the day, and shoppers are offered Lysol or hand sanitizer. Emergency food distribution is still available, and the office is open.

The senior center, which can be rented for events, is closed until at least March 30. None of the center’s regular events, including Wednesday lunches, are being offered until then.

The Mill, a larger rental space where major annual events like Shuffle to the Chefs and the hospital foundation’s Operation fundraiser are held, has had one event canceled as of Wednesday.

“It was a retirement celebration,” Alexander said. “The honoree is aging, and they were just apprehensive about going ahead with it.”

She said a wedding party may end up canceling, as well. “They’re hanging on until the last minute.”

Tylertown and Walthall are strictly enforcing the 10-person limit for gatherings at county-owned facilities, which would have certainly put the kibosh on the inaugural Boucherie BBQ Festival if it hadn’t already.

The event was scheduled at the Southwest Event Center for March 27-28, but it has been pushed back to Aug. 28-29, which are approved dates with the Memphis Barbecue Network. The festival was approved as a precursor event to MBN’s Memphis in May barbecue championship event.

“We’ve called all the teams, and only two requested refunds, because they didn’t know if they’d have to work” on the new date, said Stephen Pigott, one of the festival’s organizers. “A new team called because they said they couldn’t be here on the March date, but they can in August.”

Pigott said he views the delay as more time to drum up support and interest in the event and its sponsors.

“We’re still excited,” he said. “It’ll be hot, but we’re used to that. We’ll go back to our March dates in 2021. It’s going to be all right.”

Alice Richmond, one of the organizers of the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day event coming up noon Saturday, said the event will not be canceled, but the organizers are not promoting it any longer.

“There’s no way to contact all the veterans now. We sent out 200 or 300 letters,” Richmond said. “We’ve told the people on the program they don’t have to show up. Our speaker said he didn’t think he could make it.”

Richmond said members of the local committee will be present at the Harvest Time Guest House, where the event is held outside. “We’ll be there if anybody shows up,” she said. “There may be 10 people there. If there are, we’ll feed them and go home.”

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