Jackson Township trustees cancel more events due to COVID-19 safety concerns

Patricia Faulhaber
Suburbanite correspondent
Jackson Township's annual Haunted Hayride usually gets thousands of people lined up to take a ride through a once a year haunted South Park. This year's event has been canceled because of health guidelines for COVID. In this photo, people line up for the hayride during the 2018 event.

JACKSON TWP. It has been a rough six months for everybody across the globe. Here in Jackson Township, some of the tough decisions made by trustees about whether to hold local events have added frustration to their jobs.

Making decisions that help the township may be relatively easy, while making the decisions to cancel some of the annual events that residents look forward to each year may be the hardest part of the job this year.

The Community Celebration had to be canceled in June and now the Safety Center Open House and the Haunted Hayride have had to be canceled because of the difficulty of being able to comply with safety guidelines set forth by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

“We decided to cancel both events because of the inability to comply with safety standards,” said Trustee President Todd Hawke wrote in an email. “For the Safety Center Open House, with the number of people that typically attend, it would be very difficult to maintain social distancing in hallways and/or create ’one-way’ access throughout the building. The open house also creates concerns around the employee only areas being accessed by the public, which creates concerns for both township employees as well as the public. Additionally, getting individuals in and out of equipment (fire trucks, ambulances, police cars) would be very difficult to manage and disinfect enough to get a large number of people through the event and follow the health and safety orders.

“For the Hayride – the hay wagons would not allow for proper social distancing unless they were limited to a very low number of riders per ride.  This would not only take an unrealistic number of additional hours to get everyone through the ride, but it would back up the line even more creating social distancing issues there, as well that would be very difficult to manage throughout the event.”

The Safety Center Open house would have been in its 17th year and the Haunted Hayride would have marked its 27th year. Hawke said the residents he has talked with said they were disappointed but understand the issues with COVID-19 concerns and restrictions. There are still a few events left for the year trustees are waiting to see if they can be held.

“We have not specifically looked at the Christmas tree lighting event in detail yet, as we still have some time to make the decision on whether to hold it or cancel it,” Hawke said. “Plus, as we have seen since March, a lot can change very quickly.  We have consistently taken the approach to wait on any postponements or cancellations until we get to a timing issue that we have to make decisions based on plans, staffing, contracts, etc.”

In addition to the events having been canceled, trustees have not been able to open the new Jackson Amphitheater and no events have yet been scheduled there. Hawke said trustees have been looking at all the options that might be viable to start using the amphitheater and monitoring all of the usage guidelines and rules from DeWine’s office and the Ohio Department of Health and the Stark County Health Department.

“One of the largest issues with the amphitheater is the openness of the area, without any perimeter barrier/fencing, it creates an issue relating to the orders because of being able to maintain access and attendance limitations,” Hawke said. “At this time, we do not have any plans for an official opening ceremony or ribbon cutting in this calendar year. We are currently working on the calendar of programming for 2021. This is really just starting up so there are no specific bookings or definitive plans at this time.”

Having to cancel the events this year has had a financial and emotional effect on the Township.

“Looking at the cancellation of events this year has had varying effects from a financial standpoint,” Hawke said. “Not holding large events within the Township and even the surrounding areas has had a very negative effect on the revenue the township receives from the hotel and bed tax. Through August, those receipts to the township were down $206,009.54 from 2019 which is a 45.04 percent reduction.”

One positive effect Hawke noted was that township specific events are typically sponsored and run to break even, so there is not much if any direct financial impact in canceling the events. As such, there has been a reduction in related expenses by not running the events.

“From the emotional standpoint, for me personally as a resident it has been rough and definitely frustrating,” Hawke said. “Being able to get together as a community at events is an essential part of what makes Jackson a great community to live in. Knowing the importance of this to our community, we as a board have waited until the last possible time to make a decision to postpone or cancel any event. In talking with various residents, they have shared the same frustrations, but at the same time are understanding given our current circumstances. I think we all look forward to getting back to being able to hold community events as soon as it is possible.”

Hawke said Trustees are planning to have all our regular events in 2021 as normally scheduled.

Visit the Township’s website at www.jacksontwp.com for complete details. And, for more current information, visit the township on Facebook.

Both the fire and police departments open up the Jackson Township Safety Center once a year for the annual Open House for people to see the cars and trucks and climb in to see all the equipment. This annual fall event has been cancelled this year due to COVID health guidelines. This photo is from the 2018 event.