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Downtown Baraboo gears up for summer events, with caution
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Downtown Baraboo gears up for summer events, with caution

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Though they have encountered the need for a few changes, Downtown Baraboo Inc. looks to have a full year of events and changes, even if there have been some postponements.

Lacey Steffes of Downtown Baraboo Inc. and owner of Spa Serenity, said while the spring wine walk has been delayed for a hopeful end of summer date, the organization is still looking forward to offering things for community members to do.

“We’ve got some exciting things planned for this summer,” Steffes said. “Hopefully we’re going to get back on track with some of our activities.”

“Mr. Bill” Machtel performs his clown acts at Baraboo's Circus World in clips from 1997 and 1995. Contributed by Circus World Museum.

The organization worked in conjunction with the Sauk County Health Department. Long-time outgoing president Todd Wickus, owner of Just Imagine Toys, said there have been a few breaks from general planning, but the organization has done well to address concerns from health officials.

“That’s the model we work on, optimism,” Wickus said. “We were optimistic that we would be able to do a good amount of them, if not all of them. We are making some adjustments with some events this year.”

Those adjustments include spacing out vendors during the Spring Fair on the Square, scheduled for May 15. There will be a full booth space between each one, Wickus said. Vendors have to wear masks and are required to set up tents in a way that doesn’t allow people perusing items to go inside an enclosed booth.

“To mitigate the possibility of people walking around without masks, the health department has requested, as we did in the fall, to not have outdoor food vendors,” Wickus said. “That would create a situation where people would be taking off their masks to eat or drink in the fair area. Those are the big adjustments we made.”

The organization also plans to run the farmers market from May to October as it did in 2020. ART June, which isn’t an event held by the organization, is slated for June 19. There will also be the circus celebration July 10, the sidewalk sale and Made in Baraboo Market Aug. 13 and 14 and the Brew Ha Ha Sept. 24.

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Steffes said not only did they work in conjunction with health officials, but also gained the usual approval from the city of Baraboo, which has expressed concern with public events during the pandemic when requested by other groups.

Though Steffes acknowledged that during COVID-19, there is no such thing as a guaranteed schedule, the organization is hopeful no “significant flare up” will cause changes to their plans.

“At least the events we have planned for right now are outdoors,” Steffes said. “We have some wine walk dates and beer walk dates planned for later this summer, because we’re really hoping to be able to get those events in still, but we don’t have those published yet because we want to get through this first and see how that goes.”

While safety is a primary concern, she said, residents want something to do and businesses and sellers are glad to see people active downtown.

“Our very first and foremost priority is making sure that our community and our downtown is safe,” Steffes said. “But we also know how important these events are to our customers. And to our business, not only for the viability of our businesses, but just to get our community together and interacting, even if it has to be outside.”

While juggling the changes of social distancing, mask requirements and hand sanitizer stations brought on by the pandemic, the group is also looking to hire a full-time manager as a way to ensure the organization sustains past its current members.

Wickus referred to the job as “quite an encompassing position,” which will likely vary each day, Steffes said. Some of the duties include marketing, planning events, engaging with members and working with vendors. The group is still interviewing potential candidates but hopes to have the person in the job by the end of spring, Steffes said.

The organization agreed roughly six years ago that in order to avoid doing the same thing every year, there would need to be new people in positions. But with that turnover, the information gained through years of work can be lost. Which is why Steffes said they wanted to hire a permanent manager position.

“With that, goes the knowledge of everything that has been happening for a long time,” Steffes said. “Our positions will be up for renewal soon and we won’t be able to rerun for them. We had decided as a board, to create sustainability for our organization so we can continue to have these events and everyone knows what’s going on, it made sense to bring a full-time person on to help support all of the activities we have going on.”

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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