Clothing racks on the sidewalks, people dining at tables set in the street, and a bustle of visitors marked the first time Circuit and Kennebec avenues in Oak Bluffs were closed to traffic.
The board of selectmen recently voted to allow the Sunday closures from 10 am to 10 pm on Sundays through Sept. 6.
The scene was bustling in the daytime, with some pedestrians wearing masks, though many eschewed full-face coverage in favor of the chinstrap look. Signs posted for the event stated that masks were mandatory for entrance to the streets. Police officers were posted alongside banner-laden barricades at the ends of either street. The festive purple banners read, “Welcome to the 2020 MV Masquerade, masks required,” with a mask drawing along the bottom.
Sarah Omer, the owner of the Red Cat Kitchen, described how Oak Bluffs businesses have had to get creative in order to succeed commercially during this time. “It’s important that we’re able to keep commerce going,” said Omer. In addition to the space allowed to the Red Cat Kitchen during the street closure, the restaurant was also granted permission by the town to operate outside in a lot behind the restaurant.
Omer applauded the town for its careful consideration of how outdoor seating will work safely. “I think Oak Bluffs has done a really good job pushing through the outdoor seating allowance and doing that safely. People feel really comfortable having the space to walk around, seeing others in masks who are taking this seriously,” said Omer. “Everyone interacts with this virus differently, with their feelings on what is safe and what is not. I think this just gives people the breathing room, literally and figuratively, to enjoy downtown and to enjoy restaurants.”
“I love the street closure. I think this is going to be a great thing,” added Omer, who worked with the OBA (Oak Bluffs Business Association) on the outdoor dining plans.
Crowded sidewalks made navigating walkways in a distant fashion slightly more difficult. The closed streets allowed for a bit more space for safe travel down the busy streets.
Amy Upton and Katryn Gilbert from the Corona Stompers group had a popular table set up outside the Strand where they sold vibrant and patterned masks to passersby. A sign at the stand made by the All Island Business Task Force stated, “Please help keep your Island safe.” The group sold masks at a wide range of sizes, from kids’ sizes to XL.
“Today, they invited us down because they tried to open up last weekend and it wasn’t so great down here, so they thought that they needed a presence and an ability to be able to mask people who were coming in to visit,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert said any profit the group makes through the sale of masks, they either donate directly to frontline workers or reinvest in more mask-making materials. “It also helps us, because with all the money we’re collecting today, we’re able to then turn around and get more materials to make more masks to get to our frontline workers,” said Gilbert.
The Corona Stompers were founded in a grassroots effort led by Amy Upton at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, when a need for protective gear for frontline workers became apparent. The organization is entirely volunteer-based, with seamstresses working to craft masks for frontline workers and more vulnerable populations, like hospice workers, senior citizens, gas station workers, veterans on Island, and others.
The Corona Stompers have stepped up to contribute to the community in this time of crisis. “We’re all volunteers,” said Gilbert. “This is not what we usually do.”
Martin Cummings, who recently started working at South Beach, a clothing store on Circuit Ave, said the business is hoping for increased customers as the Fourth of July approaches. “Now that the boats are coming in, we’ve had more business,” said Cummings. Many stores with clothing geared more toward tourists and visitors had well-visited racks outside on the sidewalks.
Some customers were on the scene as part of Father’s Day celebrations. Kim Lang, who was visiting for the day, visited the Island Sunday with friends. “We had heard that, on Sunday, the streets would be closed, and I think it’s great,” said Lang. “We live in Falmouth. Falmouth had been considering it and it didn’t go through. I wish it did, though. This is great.”
She also spoke to a positive aspect of the street closings. “We come in the summer and, a lot of times, you don’t even want to go into the stores because it’s so crowded,” Lang said. “It’s nice to shop around and see the stuff outside without having to go in.”
So why did we shut all construction down and try to limit work vehicles to 1 person not very long ago??
What a joke this place is.
“…with some pedestrians wearing masks, though many eschewed full-face coverage in favor of the chinstrap look. ”
That’s like wearing a condom on your toe. What the heck, people.
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