The Geauga County Maple Festival, professional sports and even the 2020 Summer Olympics, among many other major events, have stepped aside to make way for the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe. Blossom Time, just the same, is not immune to this wave of cancellations.

Matt Michalek, president of the Chagrin Valley Jaycees, announced today (April 2) the official cancellation of one of the valley’s greatest traditions that brings in thousands of attendees every year. The festival was slated to kick off May 21 for Memorial Day weekend.

“I have never felt the emotion I have stating that Blossom Time 2020 will be canceled this year during Memorial Day weekend,” Mr. Michalek said in a letter, adding that there is potential, however, to hold a celebration later in the summer.

“The world is changing daily, and we need to be prepared to do everything possible to keep our community members safe during this pandemic,” he said. “Our board of directors will be working to keep the Chagrin Valley Traditions alive. We feel a devotion to our community and will be reaching out for assistance in the future.”

The Chagrin Valley has held celebration and remembrance events every year since 1868 surrounding Memorial Day, with the exception of 1942-44 during World War II, Mr. Michalek said in his letter. Blossom Time, as the valley knows it today, has taken place on Memorial Day weekend every year since the Jaycees adopted it in 1956, he said.

Chagrin Falls Mayor William Tomko said the cancellation is a “tragedy” for the community, but said he understands and respects the Jaycee’s decision to cancel Blossom Time.

“I think the most important thing is everyone’s safety, and obviously [Blossom Time] brings tens of thousands of people here into the town in very close proximity to one another,” Mayor Tomko said. “Until this is over, that’s a greater risk to run.”

The mayor said the American Legion’s Memorial Day parade to Evergreen Cemetery is also canceled. He said there will still be a remembrance held, but further details are not yet available.

While this cancellation will have a strong impact on a community that values tradition, he said safety comes first when dealing with the virus, adding that Blossom Time is not gone forever.

“We’ll be back,” he reassured. “I know the Jaycees are planning to come back. We’re going to work with the Jaycees to see if there could be some scaled-down type of events that they could have later in the summer. We’re going to do what we can, but the first thing is the safety of our residents and our visitors, as well as the safety of our various safety forces. Our first responders that are going to be out there, that has to come first.”

Mayor Tomko urged the community to remember their strength and resilience in a post to Facebook.

“In time, the Village will resume with a familiar normalcy and traditions continued that we have grown to love and cherish,” he shared. “Stay strong. It takes a Village, and a Village we will be!”

Sam Cottrill started reporting for the Times in February 2019 and covers Auburn, Bainbridge, Bentleyville and Chagrin, Kenston, Solon and West Geauga schools. She graduated from Kent State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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