By Mike Kinney
Richmond’s annual weekend of Cinco de Mayo festivities, which were scheduled to occur this Saturday and Sunday, are among a number of popular local celebrations falling victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Organizer Joey Schlemmer told the Standard earlier this week that Cinco de Mayo parades and festivals, and also Juneteenth, will not happen on their scheduled dates due to concerns over the pandemic and the need for social distancing. While not a surprise given the ongoing shelter-in-place order, the news is yet another blow to local merchants who benefited from the well-attended annual events.
Schlemmer said organizers are exploring holding Cinco de Mayo or Juneteenth at a later date. For example, festivities planned for Cinco de Mayo could be held, instead, in September in conjunction with Fiestas Patrias, the celebration of Mexican independence from Spain. Organizers are holding out hope that the pandemic situation might be safe by then, or that events can be made safe through adjustments.
Other popular summer events have been impacted by COVID-19. The Point Richmond Music free summer concert series has been canceled. As have National Night Out and the 6th Annual Indigenous People’s Walk for Sobriety.
How about the annual Independence Day festivities on July 3 along the Richmond waterfront, which typically features fireworks and a performance by the Oakland Symphony at Craneway Pavilion? Ranjana Maharaj, Community Services Administrative Manager for the City of Richmond, said the city doesn’t have a definitive answer on the fireworks event.
“We are waiting to see if the ban on social distancing will be lifted by July and what the impact of COVID-19 will be on our budget,” Maharaj said. “Both these factors will determine if we are in a position to have the fireworks display.”
Events in downtown Richmond this summer might also be impacted. Alicia Gallo, programs and communications manager for the Richmond Main Street Initiative, said her organization is exploring its options but has yet to make an official announcement on its annual downtown summer events, which include the Healthy Village Festival in June, Music on the Main in July and the Spirit & Soul Festival in September.
We’re also inquiring about the status of the North & East Neighborhood Picnic in September. Check back for updates.
In a perfect world, the pandemic situation will improve and the many events that celebrate Richmond’s rich history and diversity will be able to happen again, organizers say. It would certainly provide a much-needed boost for local businesses, Schlemmer said.
“I think if we’re able to do anything, it’ll be a win-win for everybody,” he said. “A win for the merchants that have had to suffer through a loss of revenue, and a win for the community to be able to come out and have some type of celebration.”
Mike Aldax contributed to this report