FX Excursions

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Living with Physical Distancing

by Patricia Vanikiotis

May 16, 2020

ID 57385398 © Radiket | Dreamstime.com

Yesterday marked a significant step in the lives of many Americans living in this time of a pandemic. Many states eased up on stay-at-home orders intended to limit the spread of the coronavirus, allowing restaurants to resume eat-in dining, hair salons and barber shops to reopen, and certain retail establishments to open their doors to customers again. Here in Oregon most counties (including my own) saw restrictions on businesses and park use loosen, based on meeting certain benchmarks including a reduction in the number of new cases and availability of hospital beds and PPE, should there be a resurgence of the virus.

While the people rejoice, life as we knew it before COVID-19 entered our vocabulary has not fully returned, and many of the events and activities we enjoyed last summer have been cancelled or postponed. Here in Southern Oregon, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which provided a major economic boon (as well as great theater) to local communities, decided to cancel its entire season, as did the Britt Festival, which normally presents a summer-long series of outdoor concerts encompassing nearly every musical genre. The Pear Blossom Festival, a weeklong event celebrating one of the major local crops, was axed. Other victims include Fourth of July parades, bike and running competitions, sports leagues and our quirky but extremely popular Rooster Crow.

But Americans are nothing if not resourceful, and they’ve found ways to safely enjoy some of the traditional fun in unique and clever ways. A few examples from my local area:

Every year as the weather improves, owners and admirers of vintage and classic cars gather for competitions, car shows and cruises. It seems nearly every weekend there is some sort of gathering to cheer a car buff’s heart. Here on Mother’s Day, locals decided they could still celebrate the automobile while maintaining physical distancing. In just a few short weeks they managed to organize what became a sort of city-wide cruise. Social media platforms advertised the event and published the route, resulting in nearly 200 vehicles winding through most of the neighborhoods in town. We sat on the front lawn in our lawn chairs, waving and admiring the muscle cars;

classic car

ID 57385398 © Radiket | Dreamstime.com

hot rods; classic Chevys,

classic car

ID 177142040 © Georgi Dimitrov | Dreamstime.com

Mustangs and Corvettes; Model Ts

Ford car

ID 177183685 © Georgi Dimitrov | Dreamstime.com

and vintage trucks and even a few Volkswagen Beetles. We shouted words of admiration and thanks to the drivers, and they waved and hollered “Happy Mother’s Day!” right back. It was an event which really lifted everyone’s spirits.

In keeping with the car theme, another local event allows folks to gather to watch films the old-fashioned way: at a drive-in movie theater.

drive-in movie theater

ID 75603982 © James Kirkikis | Dreamstime.com

Like most places, Medford long ago shuttered its drive-in theaters, but the Parks & Recreation Department gained approval to create one in the parking lot of the city’s baseball field complex. An online raffle system was set up to assign tickets for the 130 slots available each night for the free showing, with over 1,900 people applying for this first weekend’s film. Should the event prove successful (rain may cancel tonight’s show), the online raffle will continue, with those who’ve already won a spot blocked from gaining admission so as to allow others to enjoy the experience.

Finally, local film fanatics are rejoicing that the Ashland Independent Film Festival is taking its 19th annual event online. Normally spanning four days, the virtual version runs for three weeks and will present 30 feature films and more than 100 short films. Subscriptions for unlimited viewing of the short films is $19.99, $9.99 for seniors, while each feature film will cost $7.99 to see and includes director commentary and question-and-answer sessions. There’s also an Opening Night Bash on May 22 where you can virtually mingle with filmmakers, and you can vote for your favorites and “attend” the awards presentation.

For years I have been wanting to attend the AIFF but never got around to buying the tickets (which always sell out quickly due to the limited venues and their size), and though Ashland is only a 30-minute drive from home, that gave me pause, too. This year’s virtual event will make it possible for many more people from anywhere in the world to be able to screen the films at a very reasonable price, so I’m all in.

At least one silver lining to life as we currently know it is that it has bumped us out of our routines and complacency and encouraged the use of ingenuity and creativity to provide us with new ways to enjoy our pastimes and pursuits.

— Patty Vanikiotis, associate editor/copy editor

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