Events and festivals that are happening despite the coronavirus
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has upended nearly every element of human life this year, from jobs to travel, sporting events to concerts and just about any activity that involves people standing near each other.
As governments continue to revise their social distancing guidelines in response to real time case numbers, many of the most famous events around the world have been canceled this year. The won't be a Wimbledon champion this year for the first time since World War II, Oktoberfest has been canceled and Burning Man will be held virtually, to name a few.
Still, there are parts of the world where the pandemic is being better managed, or where event organizers think they can keep event attendees safe with appropriate productions. People around the world are desperate to return to some sense of normalcy. Here are some of the most popular events around the world that will be proceeding this year, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
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The Kentucky Derby
The 146th running of the Kentucky Derby has already been postponed from May to September 4-5, but officials at historic Churchill Downs recently got some good news. While the races won't have their usual crowds of 150,000+, spectators will be allowed to watch with social distancing measures in place.
Related: Bucket list trip to the Kentucky Derby
Admission will be capped for general admission, outdoor reserved seating, premium dining and suites, and guests will be encouraged to wear masks, wash their hands frequently, and practice social distancing whenever possible. The infield at Churchill Downs has 26 acres of space, and another 1.6 million square feet of covered space on the front side of the track, providing plenty of room for guests to spread out and maintain their distance.
Related: Experiencing the Kentucky Derby with American Express
Paris Fashion Week
With many members of the European Union slowly relaxing lockdown restrictions, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode announced this week that the Paris Fashion Week will still be happening this year, with shows starting September 28th.
Related: Things to do on your first trip to Paris
It remains to be seen what types of crowd control measures will be put in place and whether or not all the shows will feature live audiences, but a number of the most well-known fashion houses have already begun rethinking their advertising approach as the pandemic stretches on. Gucci announced earlier this year that it would be abandoning the traditional seasonal calendar of fashion shows and staging only two shows a year (down from five), and Burberry and Dior have both announced plans to host virtual shows with no live audience.
Related: Mandarin Oriental Paris hotel review
The Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia is one of the largest gatherings of people in the world, attracting some 2.5 million pilgrims each year. The mass migration is so large that many airlines in predominantly Muslim countries operate designated Hajj charter flights during July and August to meet the massive demand. Unfortunately, the pilgrimage for the most part will be canceled.
Saudi Arabia's Hajj Minister Muhammad Benten said that this year, the number will be strictly capped in the low thousands to ensure proper hygiene and social distancing can be adhered to: “The number, God willing, may be in the thousands. We are in the process of reviewing so it could be 1,000 or less, or a little more.” While the decision is hardly a surprise given the unusual circumstances, it will effectively prevent Muslims living outside of Saudi Arabia from making the sacred pilgrimage this year.
harbin Ice Festival
For many westerners, one of the most shocking things about visiting China for the first time is the sheer scale of the country. Few events embody this more than the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, held every winter in the northeastern city of Harbin, just over 100 miles from the Russian border. Over 220,000 cubic meters of snow and ice are used to construct the festival, which draws some 18 million visitors and generates about $4.5 billion in revenue.
Related: Visiting the Harbin Festival
While China's early handling of the coronavirus raises serious questions about the capability and autonomy of the country's health infrastructure, China's decisive actions have all but stamped out the virus, with most major cities returning to normal life with schools and offices reopened. A recent resurgence of the virus in Beijing, that infected at least 260 people so far, raises the possibility of further travel restrictions within China but as of now, the Harbin Ice Festival is still scheduled to begin on January 5th, 2021.
Further Reading: Here’s what life is like in Shanghai during the coronavirus outbreak
It's entirely possible that many of these events will backtrack or change their policies as the situation on the ground continues to evolve. You might want to wait to make travel plans until the last possible moment, to avoid having to go through the long process of canceling and refunding. Hopefully social distancing and other public health interventions will continue to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and more events will be able to proceed as scheduled later this year and early into next.
Related: How Disney theme parks will be different when they reopen
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