Local events proceed with caution

HRCA focuses on getting community gatherings back on track safely

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Before 2020, the Highlands Ranch Community Association was known for its community outreach in hosting a variety of concerts, special events and youth programs. Last year, due to restrictions posed by the pandemic, the entire department had to adapt to create some online programs, while canceling other community favorites such as the summer concert series.

As national, state and county officials continue to debate which restriction should remain in place, and amid talk of Douglas County removing all restrictions altogether, Jamie Noebel, director of community relations and events for the Highlands Ranch Community Association, said the best option is to proceed with “extreme caution.”

Events will look to get back on track at a slower pace. Noebel said they will test the waters with the upcoming outdoor car show in June. The annual show, at Cherry Hills Community Church, was held as a drive-through event in 2020. In 2021, Noebel said they hope to celebrate the 21st annual show with some normalcy.

As they move forward, Noebel said all events will still follow social distancing recommendations and mask mandates.

In connection with the HRCA canceling most of its events in 2020, Noebel said she does not have exact numbers, but estimated the association lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Still, Noebel said they had to think outside the box and work to provide the community with some form of entertainment and engagement.

“Making money was not even a thought in 2020,” she said. “We just wanted to provide residents with a release. We wanted to provide the musical performances and seminars.”

Looking at the positives of 2020, Noebel said besides not having to pay to produce their more than 90 events a year, the association found that some residents liked the online programs, especially educational seminars focusing on health.

“Even as we start hosting (in-person) events again, we will work to continue some of these online programs,” she said. “We found people really enjoyed the fact that they did not have to go get in the car, did not have to drive anywhere and could watch them in their pajamas if they wanted to.”

To continue youth programs, Noebel said they held drive-through events with Santa at Christmas, and recently, the Easter bunny.

In the upcoming six to 12 months, Noebel said it is all about taking small steps to get back on track safely and reasonably.

The association's popular summer concert series is being planned but will still have restrictions and limitations in 2021.

“We are going to try our hardest to do whatever we can in a kinder, gentler way,” she said. “Concerts have to be scaled down to control the crowd. We still have mask mandates. We still have residents who are concerned about going to something with a big crowd.”

The concert series, traditionally held outdoors, will be held in places such as the Highlands Ranch Mansion this year. This will allow a small $5 entry fee and a controlled number of attendees, Noebel said.

“We want people to be able to come out and enjoy these events while still feeling safe,” she said. “As we get further into the year, we will see where we are and act accordingly. Every day is a new adventure.”

Noebel said they are planning a special comedy show in a room that can hold up to 100 people in the near future. However, erring on the side of caution, she said they will not fill to capacity.

“We just aren't there yet,” she said. “We are still focused on providing these events with comfort and safety.”

Part of the hesitation to go full capacity, Noebel explained, is that guidelines, rules and opinions are always changing. From one day to the next, Noebel said, residents are not always sure what restrictions are in place.

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