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Spreading some sunshine: During pandemic, Cassadaga made events happen

COVID-19 may have led to the busiest summer around Cassadaga Lakes in years.

CASSADAGA –At the beginning of the pandemic, the village was facing some of the same problems that many other localities in Chautauqua County did. They watched the rising numbers in the spring, the hospitalizations and the deaths that were so vividly portrayed in newspapers and on television.

Although small population wise, they have quite a few organizations that sponsor many community activities all year round. The Village Board, Citizens for a Better Cassadaga, the Cassadaga Lakes Association, the Southern Tier Triathlon Club and the newly emerging Cassadaga Nature Park are the main impetus for many of these occasions.

From the beginning, it was apparent that Cassadaga was going to take a different approach than many other municipalities. Cassadaga’s motto became “don’t cancel, just modify.”

The first potential casualty was Cassadaga’s very successful beach program. Every summer, the village sponsors the beach program which includes a playground, swim instruction, and other activities to keep children active and involved. A program was set up that could continue and still be in keeping with county COVID protocols. Although swimming lessons were discontinued, the beach program continued all throughout the summer without incident.

The very successful Cassadaga Lake Concert series never missed a beat. Only the first two concerts were canceled while waiting to get to phase two. The rest of the concert series went on as scheduled with limitations on the number of people allowed, sign in sheets for contact tracing and hand sanitizers at each entrance point. Mask wearing was strongly recommended. Boat attendance soared as it was easier to socially distance on the water.

One of the most successful programs of the summer season was The Cassadaga Triathlon Series sponsored by Wilson Endurance Sports. A series of events included “Cassadaga Man,” which is a half iron man competition and the Freaking Hot Fifty, a 50-kilometer event. COVID precautions were instilled at each event and social distancing was evident.

The Cassadaga Lakes Association modified their events to include a virtual fishing tournament and barn dance. Their annual Paddles Across the Lakes event took place without refreshments or the usual bonfire. Instead of the traditional street parades, Cassadaga took them and put them on the water! The Lakes Association sponsored Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day boat parades. The Fourth of July night boat parade was particularly striking including flares lit all along the lake.

The Cassadaga Fire Department modified their sportsman raffle to an online Facebook event.

Citizens For a Better Cassadaga sponsored the Beach Concert series, Labor Day festivities, the National Night Out, December’s Light Up Cassadaga and summer Kayak nights. A pickleball program was also initiated by the CBC.

The newly established Cassadaga Nature Park has sponsored trail walks for families interested in exploring nature in a safe manner.

The village is looking forward to the annual Winter Festival, Feb. 6 and 7, which will include a Frozen 50K, Snow Sculpture contest, Fun at the Beach, Cross Country Skiing and Sledding.

All the events mentioned took place with appropriate COVID-19 restrictions. Cassadaga believes in the seriousness of the virus, but they also believe that their numerous community organizations, when working together, using common sense and adhering to health regulations, can keep events running and community spirit intact.

One thing is for sure – there were more people enjoying the Cassadaga Lakes in 2020 than ever before. Walkers, runners, bicyclists and kayakers took this pandemic to a whole new level.

Dennis Collins is a Cassadaga resident.

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