Missy Loy worried her Little Mexico Campground in Snyder County would close when the novel coronavirus pandemic set-in stateside in March.
As initial public safety restrictions eased and interest in outdoor recreation surged, Loy grew confident her business could survive.
“We are doing OK right now. We are getting a little more bookings than we usually do,” Loy said.
Businesses across the Valley worked to adapt as mitigation measures meant to thwart the spread of COVID-19 also took a continued toll on the economy and social living.
Kyle Ard estimated 1,200 people turned out for a wine tasting at the Ard’s Farm corn maze last year. Another 1,500 showed up for Sunflowers at Sunset, an evening of food, live entertainment and professional photos shot with a sunflower field backdrop.
The state’s restrictions on public gatherings wouldn’t allow for such crowds in 2020 at the popular restaurant and market on Route 45 between Lewisburg and Mifflinburg. So, Ard’s moved to designated bookings, capping attendance at 200 guests for each time-block scheduled for such events. They capitalized on the venue’s large patio dining area, which has a roof but is open-air.
And, they’re hosting drive-thru BBQs.
Wine(d) Down at Sundown debuts Sept. 18. Find a full schedule of events at Ard’s Facebook page: @ardsfarmpa.
“I can’t have lines of people in the corn maze,” Ard said. “You may have a successful business but things change and you have to work hard to stay on top of things.”
The Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area outside Shamokin in Northumberland County sees more off-road vehicle riders year over year and, Operations Director Dave Porzi said, 2020 is no different.
“When we opened the gates back up again, it has been super-strong,” Porzi said of the venue’s reopening in mid-May. “We actually had a record second-quarter even though we were closed for a little over a month.”
Restrictions forced the AOAA to change somewhat. Guests aren’t allowed inside the welcome center at the trailhead. They have to purchase passes now at a newly installed window. Facility staff added markers to make people mindful of social distancing. Groups over 10 persons are prohibited.
“People have really adapted to the guidelines and have followed them well,” Porzi said.
Social distancing is easy at a place like Mountain Dale Farm in McClure, Snyder County. It’s a working farm with limited guest bookings and plenty of room to stay 6 feet away from strangers.
Sally Hassinger and her husband, Kenneth, are co-owners.
Hassinger figured when the pandemic took hold that her business may have been spared from the costly investments other businesses had to make, especially those in retail.
She said aside from enhanced sanitization, not much has changed at Mountain Dale Farm.
“The bulk of what we do is outside. We tend to go in small groups which tend to be families,” she said.
Hassinger said reservations are full at the moment. She tries to leave 24 hours between bookings. Guests who request a specific cottage are advised if the last checkout falls short of that time-lapse, allowing them a choice.
Social media posts by guests helped increase in the venue. Hassinger found that once guests posted pictures of their stay, their friends looked into the accommodations, too.
“We’re not jammed full but we definitely saw an uptick even from previous years,” she said.
The Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau helped through focused marketing campaigns enticing visitors and residents of the region to eat, shop and stay local. Staff created a logo around the social media hashtag, #srvstrong, meant to show that Valley businesses would survive the pandemic and come out stronger.
“We definitely feel that tourism will help the region recover and the (Visitors Bureau) has a strategic marketing plan to be a driving force in its recovery,” Executive Director Andrew Miller said.
RiverStage Community Theatre canceled shows this spring and summer but cast and crew are working towards an outdoor premiere Sept. 18 for their performance of the musical “The Fantasticks” at Hufnagle Park in Lewisburg. Admission is free.
Jove Graham, president of the theater’s board, explained the show has just eight roles.
During rehearsal in their usual space inside the GreenSpace Center in Lewisburg, masks are a must at all times and social distance is maintained, he said.
The park itself is already marked off for distancing and the borough required COVID-19 action plans for public events.
“It’s a wonderful musical but small scale,” Graham said.
“It’s very simplistic and minimalist in terms of set and production. … Most shows, we wouldn’t be able to do under those conditions.”
Loy, owner of Little Mexico Campground, said she maintains close watch on the moves made by the Wolf Administration and the CDC.
She keeps an eye on RV sales and other camping trends, too. She said her bank, Susquehanna Community Bank, was a huge help during the pandemic.
A coupon for 25-percent discounts for guests, a bit of thanks, helped spur immediate bookings on the spot, Loy said.
“We got this. We can do this. We’re going to make this work,” Loy said.