Preparing for a Summer of Social Distancing

Six-feet-apart distance extends to festivals, dunes, asparagus, cherries

Dear readers,

Each year on April 1, the Glen Arbor Sun publishes a parody story to celebrate April Fool’s Day. We recognize that this is a remarkably un-funny time in our community, our nation, and our world. The coronavirus is killing people and overwhelming hospitals, and it has forced us to practice social distancing and stay at home, as much as possible, in order to slow the spread of this disease and “flatten the curve”. But serious times also deserve a little (tasteful) humor. We hope this story brings you a laugh, and offers a brief reprieve from the difficult reality that we all face. Stay safe out there, and please, practice social distancing, so we can beat this pandemic.

—the editors

The paint on the parking lot was barely dry when the first car pulled up to Empire’s public beach to check out the new grid that keeps vehicles, and people, more than 10 feet apart at all times.

“It’s pretty innovative, really,” said Empire village president Soni Aylsworth. “Not only are we protecting people from spreading the coronavirus, but you can open your door without worrying about denting the car next to you.”

Two miles south on M-22, Harry Norconk was replanting his asparagus seeds six feet apart so the green spears won’t spread pathogens once they shoot out of the ground in mid-May.

“It’s gonna be a lonely time for asparagus. No more spears hugging or pecking each other on the cheek. On the other hand, my asparagus are catching up on all those books they left on the nightstand and never read,” Norconk put things in perspective.

Empire booster Paul Skinner confirmed that the Empire Asparagus Festival will still take place the third weekend of May. But this year’s tent on Front Street will be much, much larger. In fact, it will stretch all the way down M-72 to Tom’s West Bay in Traverse City, to allow patrons to gather, eat asparagus bratwursts, asparagus ice cream, and deep-friend asparagus without getting near each other. Empire Village, the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office, and organizers of the Ironman Race are working together to close off 25 miles of M-72 for the event.

On the heels of the Asparagus Festival one month later, the M22 Challenge will still take place, confirmed co-organizer Matt Myers. But in order to enforce social distancing, participants will leave the starting gate on M-109 every 5 minutes. The staggered approach means that the race will last not one morning, but will last for three months.

“A race that lasts from mid-June until Labor Day along beautiful M-22—what could be more perfect?!” offered Myers.

The “new normal” created by the coronavirus will have profound impacts throughout Leelanau County during the upcoming summer tourism season.

Park rangers at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are busy carving designated trails into the face of the Dune Climb so that visitors can keep their distance as they climb the hill to pose for selfies at the top. Any Instagram photos that feature more than one person in them will attract a visit from the Michigan State Police. Meanwhile, hikers on popular trails such as Empire Bluffs and Pyramid Point will be staggered—similar to entrance ramps on urban freeways that are regulated using traffic lights.

Meanwhile, at Cherry Republic’s Glen Arbor campus, pit spitting lanes have been built six feet apart from one another; live music at Boonedocks is now broadcasted via Zoom onto a giant monitor on the restaurant’s deck; and the Glen Arbor Arts Center is encouraging submission of paintings and interpretive art that highlights empty spaces.

“It’s a time for solace, a time for reflection, a time for space,” explained Arts Center director Sarah Kime.

One thing that won’t change at all will be Glen Arbor’s Fourth of July parade.

“Floats, cars, and the kazoo corps are already too far apart as they travel from Glen Haven to Glen Arbor,” said parade enforcer Tim Barr. “The parade takes too long!”