By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
This week would have been the 38th Americade motorcycle rally in Lake George. Organizer Christian Dutcher still hopes to conduct it the week of July 21-25.
He said he expects to know better by mid-June “whether the state will bless us or not. Every week, we as a society learn something new about how to live in the COVID era.”
Mr. Dutcher, who took over from his father, founder Bill Dutcher, 10 years ago, says the challenge “is how to plan a big event within a global pandemic. We are working so hard to make this happen but with no guarantee it can. It is a huge existential question, a challenge.”
“The planning is going well,” he says. “We’ve made a lot of changes to accommodate the COVID era….We’ve eliminated all shoulder-to-shoulder events‚ the opening and closing ceremonies, concerts, the block party, the comedy show.
“The TourExpo (vendor display), we will regulate how many can enter at any time. That’s just some, which represents a huge swath of changes. The object is to redraft the event so people aren’t near each other….
“Whenever I communicate with people, I am also saying, if we determine that it is not prudent, we will not do it. I think that makes people more comfortable. They appreciate the honesty and candor.
“There are some people who are just saying, ‘We’ll sit it out this year.’”
Still, he says, “People are interested. Amercade represents lots of things to lots of people — normalcy, escape, the chance to leave home and do something relaxing.”
Mr. Dutcher says police estimate that Americade draws 60,000 to 100,000 people to the region. He doesn’t divulge actual registration numbers. “You should never believe a promoter anyway,” he says.
What would make this year a success?
“Internally, I’ve said, if we exit out of the event and people regard it highly, well-run and fun. Even if we only have a fraction of the people, if we exit with a strong or stronger reputation, it will be a successful year.”
“Everyone has been hammered with this,” Mr. Dutcher says of the pandemic. “One of the worst hit is events. All I do is bring large numbers of people together.”
At least, with Americade, he says, “part of it is escapism into the Adirondacks and fresh air….The challenging part is the other half of the event. The scope is still very large, but we are eliminating every point where people rub together.”
He says the county has adjusted fees to use the Festival Commons space in Lake George, and that Americade applied for Payroll Protection Program loans as well.
What if there is no Americade 2020? The question elicits a long pause. “I don’t know,” Mr. Dutcher says. Later, he says, “We, like everybody else, are struggling mightily, trying to remain optimistic and do the best that we can for our community.”
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