COVID-19 concerns cancel Milford Pioneer Days

Friday, May 1, 2020
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An annual staple of the Milford community has been called off over concerns and complications caused by COVID-19. The Milford Commercial Club's board voted 5-0 Wednesday to end plans for the 52nd annual Milford Pioneer Days. The weekend event was scheduled for July 24-26 and typically includes numerious competitions, games, a parade and community hamburger picnic at Florence Park.

"It was not an easy decision, and we are saddened by it but, at the same time, we have to think about what's best for the public," Pioneer Days Co-Chair Susan Reiser said.

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The Milford Commercial Club partners with local businesses each year in organizing the annual event. Reiser said the club had to consider how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected its partners this year. As part of an emergency declaration, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in mid-March ordered many non-essential businesses to temporarily close their doors. The governor began lifting some restrictions for healthcare providers as of April 27, and restaurants were allowed to reopen for dine-in service as of May 1.

"We count on our businesses a lot," Reiser said of the Pioneer Days committee. "We just felt too, with them being closed for two months, is this going to be a financial strap on them?"

Reiser said the club also wants to be sure the public isn't putting their health at risk by attending the annual festivities. While Dickinson County's confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have stayed in the single digits so far, Pioneer Days typically draws participants and visitors from the nearby communities, surrounding counties and other cities like Le Mars and Swea City.

"When you get to thinking about it, it probably pulls from more areas than you think," Reiser said.

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Reiser said the Shriner unit which often participates in the annual parade is from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As of Friday, the Sioux Falls area had 2,185 of the state's 2,449 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to information posted by the city of Sioux Falls. The city's data showed 793 of the cases to still be active and 12 of the Sioux Falls area's population had died of the virus.

However, if the novel coronavirus becomes less of an issue by mid-July, Reiser said some of the Pioneer Days events might return to this year's schedule. She said the bingo, cribbage and bridge tournaments could easily be reorganized, and even the beef barbecue could be held in Florence Park to allow enough space for social distancing. Reiser said she's confident a Pioneer Days parade could be put together on short notice.

"I've done enough parades that I can quickly arrange a parade in a week's time," Reiser said. "Maybe we can do that. We're not ruling it out."

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The events could also be rescheduled as part of Milford Holiday Fantasy in December including the barbecue, if an appropriate indoor space can be found Reiser said. But other attractions like the inflatables for children likely won't be featured this year, as almost their entire surface would need to be sanitized between each use.

Reiser said solutions for this year's fun are still somewhat up in the air, and the club hopes life will return to normal before the 53rd Pioneer Days celebration arrives, and she is looking forward to that next year's festivities.

"We for sure will have Pioneer Days, barring any other unforeseen problems next year," Reiser said. "It's a strong tradition in our community and one we firmly believe in. This is just a bump in the road for us like everybody else."

The Milford Commercial Club remains active in other ways. The MCC scholarship committee will soon award $500 to an Okoboji High School senior. Plants will be potted in the community's estimated 20 planters by Memorial Day weekend as part of its seasonal beautification effort.

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