Cruel, Cruel COVID Summer


In 1983, the all-female musical group Bananarama proved to be prophetic when “Cruel Summer” was released. The group did not envision a global pandemic decades later, but 2020 has indeed proven to be a Cruel, Cruel (COVID-19) Summer. The same can be said for last Spring. And likely the upcoming Autumn. And beyond.

The impacts of COVID have been felt in all corners of the Earth. But the impacts start locally and add up, just like a snowball rolling down a hill. Think about a popular bar and grill, main street shop, salon, or micro-brewery. All were shuttered for numerous weeks starting in March. It boiled down to an essential versus nonessential designation for business and industry. Safety first. Cruel, Cruel Summer.

Each community in the St. Croix Valley has one or more celebrations during the year. All or most are cancelled. There goes the parade, royalty coronation, 5K and 10K runs, and street dance, etc. Many of the festivals are governed by a board which puts money back into their communities through donations supporting local nonprofits or special projects. The loss of donations may sting the most. Cruel, Cruel Summer.

In case you think a concession stand’s loss of revenue is no big deal, just consider the really, really big community celebration called the Minnesota State Fair. Sweet Martha’s Cookies is widely regarded as the top vender at the fair with revenue of $4.7 million in 2018. If Martha’s 2019 revenues were up five percent, the sales would be around $5 million. Cruel, Cruel Summer.

In Wisconsin, UW-Madison’s athletic department recently forecast a $60 million revenue loss for 2020-21 and it could grow to $100 million if football is cancelled. Jump Around! That’s a lot of money. Think about the concessionaires, the ticket-takers, the innkeepers, the pre- and post-game gatherings, and the brats ’n beer. All of those lost revenues are outside UW’s forecasts. Cruel, Cruel Summer.

Is there hope? First, play it safe and stay healthy. Then, shop local. Chambers of Commerce are famous for their Chamber Bucks programs. Those bucks can be purchased using cash or checks at the local chamber office. They can be used just like cash at almost any store, assuming it’s a chamber member. They never expire and there are no fees. Local businesses treat the bucks like regular currency. Main Street’s vibrancy may depend on a system like this going forward.

Back to Bananarama. Their Cruel Summer song ended up on the song track to the 1984 movie, Karate Kid, allowing it to reach the Top 10 in Billboard’s Hot 100. Karate Kid is along the lines of “Rocky” for kids. Remember what happened to Ralph Macchio’s character, Daniel? Thanks to the guidance of his mentor Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), Daniel used the crane stance to win the tournament over his bullies. Of course there was a love interest involved, too.

Cruel, Cruel COVID Summer? Not with a crane stance and your support of local businesses, who could really use it. Here’s to a Cool, Cool Summer the rest of the way and beyond.