Woodlake optimistically plans for traditional events beginning in May

Decades-old traditions like Western Week optimistically planned this year

WOODLAKE – Hope is on the horizon in Woodlake where the city staff are cautiously optimistic, and tentatively planning to close State Route 245 and State Route 216 for some celebratory staples beginning in May 2021.

The city is preparing for Western Week—a tradition that stood strong in Woodlake for over 65 years until the coronavirus pandemic forced the first ever cancellation last year—to begin in May, with the first road-closure event being the soap box car derby, scheduled for May 6 and the Woodlake Lions Club parade May 8. City of Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza said it’s important to make sure they are prepared in case the restrictions ease up.

“They are a part of the Woodlake Lions Rodeo, which is kind of the grand finale at the end of Mother’s Day weekend,” Mendoza said. “Whether it’s the Kiwanis pancake breakfast or the soap box derby, bicycle races at the park, the horseshoe tournament—the Mother’s Day weekend parade, we get tens of thousands of people lined up and down Valencia Boulevard.”

Mendoza said while they are planning in hopes of a reopening by May, they are not reinventing the wheel, and will be adhering to state and county public health guidelines.

“Are we hopeful? Of course we’re hopeful. But we’re also planning on one stretch to be ready for those events, and on the other, if we have to continue this lockdown through the year that we’ll just continue to do what we’re doing now, and that’s to follow the state mandates and those mandates that are coming down from our county health department.”

It would come as no surprise if gathering by the tens of thousands sounded like a foreign concept at this point in the pandemic, as social gatherings have been restricted by the state for almost 11 months. But there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

As of Monday Gov. Newsom announced that he was lifting the stay-at-home order that started in December. With ICU bed availability projections expected to rise over the next four weeks, Newsom said that counties will revert to the previous Blueprint to a Safer Economy color coded schema. However that doesn’t mean Tulare County is out of the woods as they remain in the most restrictive Purple Tier that discourages large gatherings of any kind.

A nationwide push for mass vaccinations—100 million Americans in 100 days—is on the immediate agenda for the incoming Biden administration, echoed by California Governor Gavin Newsom, who has recently opened up mass testing centers currently for anyone over 65. The International Agri-Center in Tulare was the first site in the county to open up for mass vaccinations Jan 15.

The push for getting Californians vaccinated comes amidst the news of a new COVID-19 strain surfacing in California, as the world grapples with the reality of new strains appearing across the globe.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President-elect Joe Biden’s soon-to-be chief medical advisor on COVID-19 told NBC News Jan. 17 that he believes the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines will be FDA approved for emergency use “within a period of a week or so, or at the most, a couple of weeks,” and encouraged people not to panic at the thought of strain mutations.

“The thing we really want to look at carefully is that does the mutation lessen the impact of the vaccine,” Fauci said, “If it does, then we’re going to have to make some modifications. But we’re all over that. We’re looking at that really carefully.”

Fauci said when dealing with a variant that is more contagious, it’s important to “double down on public health measures that we’ve been talking about all the time.”

“Everybody wear a mask. Keep the distance. Avoid the congregate settings,” Fauci said,” but also, another important thing, the easiest way to evade the negative effect of these new isolates is to just when the vaccine becomes available, people should get vaccinated.”

State Route shutdowns have also been planned for Woodlake’s July 3rd Blast—a pre-independence day party full of fireworks, food vendors and raffles—and the Homegrown Christmas Parade on Dec. 11.

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