Iowa Great Lakes Chamber puts events on hiatus

Monday, March 16, 2020
The 2019 Iowa Great Lakes Walleye Weekend drew 2,100 anglers and visitors from both coasts. The 38th Annual Walleye Weekend remains on schedule — for now — May 2-3 in the Okoboji area. (Photo by Seth Boyes)

To help ensure a healthy summer, the Iowa Great Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce has a cautious spring in mind.

At 5 p.m. Monday, Chamber CEO Blain Andera informed members that upcoming organization events have been called off.

"The purpose of the Iowa Great Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce is to promote the business, civic, tourism and agricultural interests of our members and area residents," Andera told Chamber members. "This includes serving as a resource for businesses during times of emergency. In response to the recent updates regarding community spread of the COVID-19 virus in our great state of Iowa, it is with great caution and concern for our community that we have decided to cancel Chamber events for the next few weeks."

An upcoming ribbon-cutting Friday at Oak Hill Outdoor and The Hook Up has been canceled, with hopes of finding a new date. "Business After 5" social events planned Monday, March 23, Tuesday, April 14 and Tuesday, April 28 also have been taken off the calendar.

The 2020 Iowa Great Lakes Walleye Weekend is scheduled to take place May 2-3 and remains on the schedule as of Monday. Chamber officials said they would continue to evaluate the progress of COVID-19 containment and will make necessary decisions as the event approaches. Walleye Weekend is the official opener for walleye fishing in the Iowa Great Lakes.

The 2019 Walleye Weekend fishing tournament drew more than 2,100 anglers from 17 different states — from Delaware to Florida and California. Ten specially-tagged walleye are released in the Iowa Great Lakes. The top prize for catching a tagged walleye during the upcoming 38th annual event is $38,000.

Andera encouraged members to find safe, creative, responsible ways to support the local business community, saying "the precautions we take now can help limit the effects of the virus to our community."

He said many area businesses remain open, and continue to provide a positive, safe and welcoming experience. The COVID-19 public health crisis can pose incredibly difficult financial challenges to locally-owned and operated stores, services and restaurants, the Chamber CEO added.

"We are aware that many of you have also made the difficult decision to cancel, postpone or limit your events as well," Andera told members. "During this challenging time, one of the most important things we can do is remember to stay positive and support each other. Our local businesses are the livelihood of our community and our community thrives because of the continued support and encouragement we give to each other."

The Travel Iowa tourism organization encourages visitors to follow Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines for limiting exposure to COVID-19. The organization also encourages travelers to call their destination ahead of any visits.


The Iowa Great Lakes Chamber of Commerce encouraged everyone to follow the guidelines of public health officials at the local, state and national level, and high-risk populations especially should exercise caution. Residents who choose to limit their exposure temporarily can still find meaningful ways still shop locally:

• Buy a gift card

As a promise to return to support them, purchase gift cards from a favorite local shop or restaurant. This puts money in the pocket of a favorite store owner now to help them cover operating expenses and help assure a strong tomorrow.

•Pay it forward

Consider buying gift cards now to gift to health care providers, service staff, or teachers.

• Shop online or by phone

Many retailers have online shops. Use this time to check out their online offerings. For those shops who don't offer online options, many are happy to take an order over the phone.

• Order take-out

If you've decided to spend more time at home, call in your order and schedule a time for pick-up and carry-out.

• Tip a little extra

Have a steady paycheck? Leave a little extra cash for service workers — they especially are going to need help. Consider a full tip on takeout orders, and designate a little extra for the kitchen staff, too.

• Social currency

Spending more time online? Engage with a favorite business — it doesn't cost a thing.

Like, comment and share their social media posts. It's free, but it helps to remind businesses they aren't forgotten.

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