When everything shut down in March 2020 due to concerns about COVID-19 and its effects, many scheduled events were cancelled. Sporting events, concerts, church services, holiday gatherings and the like were put on hold. But being the creative New Englanders we are, modifications to include masks, social distancing, and curbing large group gatherings slowly helped us work on ways to be “connected” even though we might not be able to do things in-person. It’s been a lesson in patience, resilience, ingenuity, patience, stick-to-it-tiveness, understanding, patience, creativity, kindness and resourcefulness. For many this was a particularly anxious time with worries about family, friends and ourselves contracting the virus. So many have died or are suffering long-term effects from COVID-19. So many have lost their jobs or are struggling to make ends meet. It’s been a rough year, emotionally, physically and financially for so many. But…
Included below are a few of the many ways Suffield and its residents have coped with the last year. Many of these coping strategies are a direct result of the strength and kindness that is a part of everyday life here in Suffield, as well as the creative and resourceful ideas put into action as the year unfolded.
Suffield Public Schools closed for the school year to in-person learning in March 2020. The district went to remote learning, then hybrid learning in the fall, then later, back to full-time with hybrid options. The district provided hundreds of breakfast and lunches to students. Suffield Academy went back to in-person learning in the fall of 2020 with remote options, especially for their foreign students.
Graduation was a well-received, unique experience (which included some daycare graduations, as well). Students accepted their diplomas in a socially distanced manner and speakers were viewed on a large screen from parents in their cars. Teachers and staff continue to cope with the constant changes and work to make learning as flexible, safe and connected as possible.
Most of the organizations went virtual, and Town services closed their offices to the public, but continued their work with COVID-19 restrictions in place. Town Hall closed to the public in March 2020 and went to appointment-only status. Communications went out daily to notify people of how to get information as well as appointments. The Town worked hard to make sure residents were up to date. Zoom meetings were the norm for the Town.
The national election took place successfully in November 2020 with COVID-19 protocols in place – masks, plastic screens, hand sanitizer, social distancing and individual pens for marking ballots.
Suffield Community Aid created a COVID-19/Crisis Relief Fund, to help those who have been affected by the virus. Suffield Volunteer Ambulance rose to meet the needs of the community, staffed twenty-four hours a day, including at least eighteen hours a day with a paid paramedic.
Kent Memorial Library closed to the public in March 2020, but eventually opened with reservations and grab-and-go. There were many virtual programs sponsored by the Friends of KML, as well as take-home crafts.
Public Works and the Suffield Police continued to manage the multitude of tasks required by the town on a daily basis, with COVID-19 restrictions in place.
The Senior Center building closed to the public but has kept many programs including Grab-and-Go meals, transportation to doctor appointments as well as virtual programs.
Parks and Rec managed to continue programming throughout the year with many creative virtual options as well as some that are outdoor in-person.
Many organizations, like the Rotary Club, continue to give back to the community, while managing COVID-19 protocols.
Suffield on the Green, the Friends of Kent Memorial Library book sale, May Market and the Fireman’s Carnival were some of the events that were cancelled in 2020.
The 350th celebration scheduled for October 2020 was modified to include fireworks in a location the whole town could see, a virtual commemoration ceremony, a car parade that traveled with about 50 decorated cars along 30+ miles of Suffield’s roads and a variety of smaller more socially distanced events that took place during the fall of 2020. The big parade, carnival, car show, raffle, the 350th book of histories, barn quilt trail and the 350th cookbook were rescheduled for 2021 – a 350th +1 celebration.
Halloween 2020 was mostly cancelled, but the Town and Public Works organized a Halloween Spooktacular at Bruce Park, a drive-through event with some pretty spectacular Halloween visual treats. Over 1,000 cars drove through and donations totaling almost $6,000 benefiting Suffield Community Aid, were collected.
As the holidays approached, the Town and Public Works organized a Suffield Alight weekend, which included lots of visual delights on the lower green in town, as well as decorated houses on Main Street and the beautiful lights decorating the trees outside the library.
Zoom became a very necessary part of many of our lives in town. Zoom allowed us to virtually connect with family, friends, as well as continue to hold/ attend virtual meetings and religious services, since gathering in large groups isn’t quite in the picture yet. Many of us used Zoom to have Thanksgiving or holiday gatherings, since getting together with family wasn’t in the cards this year.
We met on driveways and talked with family and friends, met on decks or patios for take-out dinners to keep connected, organized car parades for various celebrations, created virtual greetings for other special events and even went to virtual funeral services. We found new places to walk and ways to be outside, and we’re reminded how lucky we are to live someplace like Suffield where nature is so accessible.
Restaurants and other businesses, when they were allowed, opened with special restrictions. Many people worked to support those businesses by eating outside on restaurant patios, sidewalks and parking lots as well as buying take-out or purchasing gift cards.
We are all tired of COVID-19, ready to be “normal” again. With vaccine availability ramping up, it looks like the fall may be a time when things will be working in that direction. We can be grateful the light at the end of this tunnel is getting brighter.