Update, March 16: The 24th annual Fresh Start Gala has been canceled.
"We feel it is our social responsibility to limit exposure to our community as we engage in the suggested protective measures. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our guests, volunteers, staff and all those who would touch our event," the statement read.
Scottsdale Fashion Week was postponed to Sept. 24 to 27. The four-day fashion event will feature the same venues as originally planned. All purchased tickets will be honored on those dates.
"This was not an easy decision and certainly not one we took lightly," said Steve LeVine, CEO of SLE. "We have taken extraordinary efforts to ensure the safety of the public, however in wake of the President's Declaration of National Emergency, and Governor Doug Ducey’s recommendation to cancel all events over 50 people, it is in the best interests of our attendees, staff and all people involved that the event is postponed. We urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials and the CDC."
From the remainder of the Cactus League season to the 50th Scottsdale Festival of the Arts, some local events began feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as cancellations and postponements were called last week.
But organizers of other events stayed the course and museums planned to remain open even as they made plans for additional precautions to protect patrons’ health. Even so, throughout the weekend, more event organizers issued statements to announcement postponements. Among them was Goodguys 11th Spring Nationals scheduled to take place March 20-22 at WestWorld of Scottsdale.
Major League Baseball’s suspension of the Spring Training games that had yet to be played by March 24 hit Scottsdale especially hard, washing out home games for the San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks.
“This action is being taken in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, Clubs and our millions of loyal fans,” the MLB statement read. “Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our players, employees and fans.”
Several days before the league decision, city spokesman Kelly Corsette said attendance at Giants games was “solid so far” and that custodians at city facilities were paying special attention to door handles and other frequently contacted surfaces.
Late last week, Scottsdale Arts President/CEO Gerd Wuestermann annnounced closing of weekend performances as well as the revered arts festival, admitting the pain from the virus will be widespread.
"Artists will suffer from the loss of income. Arts organizations will be seriously impacted and our spirits will be poorer for it," he said, urging ticket holders to not request refunds on tickets they've purchased for any events that have been or will be cancelled.
Mounting concerns over the virus also prompted Valley Leadership to postpone its 71st annual Man & Woman of the Year Featuring Inaugural Person of the Decade & Impact Expo.
It had no new date for the event, which had been scheduled for April 2.
“The safety and health of our former honorees, alumni and community is of utmost importance to our staff and board. We appreciate your support of this event,” Valley Leadership said in a statement.
Zacory Boatright, Scottsdale Arts spokesman reported that “ a very limited number of volunteers (chose) to withdraw from events due to health and safety concerns.”
“We’ve encouraged our entire community to be cautious and make sure they’re acting in the interest of their safety first. So far, the majority of our volunteers have chosen to continue to show their support by giving us their time, energy, and enthusiasm,” Boatright said.
Organizers of Scottsdale Fashion Week also have no plans to postpone or cancel the four-day event taking place at various venues throughout Scottsdale from March 26 to 29.
“We expect business as usual for this year’s event,” said Jamie LeVine, CCO of Steve LeVine Entertainment and part-owner of SFW.
Last year, the event had approximately 3,000 attendees. LeVine said they are not fearful of diminished attendance this year.
“We are implementing precautions as recommended by the CDC,” LeVine said. “We encourage them to review the CDC’s website, which extensively covers COVID-19 and includes detailed information, situation updates.
“We are requiring that anyone who feels ill or is a member of an at-risk group as noted by the CDC does not attend,” he said.
Organizers of the 24th annual Fresh Start Gala have no plans to interrupt, change or cancel the event.
Taking place March 21 at The Phoenician, the Fresh Start Gala is Fresh Start Women’s Foundation’s largest annual fundraiser.
Last year, the gala had 700 guests.
“The Fresh Start Gala is our largest annual fundraiser, and we rely on the funds to continue providing programs and services to local women in our community,” said Vice President of Development Cathy Kleeman.
Kleeman added: “Our supporters are a passionate group of individuals who truly believe in our mission, and we believe there will be a strong showing of support from our community.
“We trust that attendees will make decisions on attending based on their own health histories, knowledge, and recommendations of the professionals at the CDC and Arizona Department of Health Services.”
Kleeman said they are working closely with the Phoenician team to incorporate recommended preventative measures.
“The Fresh Start Board of Directors and Gala Committee are closely following the public heath recommendations of the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Center for Disease Control, and Prevention and the World Health Organization,” Kleeman added.
So far, neither Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West (SMoW) nor Scottsdale Arts’ have experienced a decline in museum attendance.
“Attendance remains relatively steady and is well inside, or above, norms for this time of year,” Boatright said. “It’s hard to predict how prevalent COVID-19 will be in Arizona, but we are taking measures to ensure that patrons feel safe when they choose to visit the museum.”
Both institutions implemented new cautionary procedures for staff and volunteers. “New signs recommended by the CDC are being hung in bathrooms throughout Scottsdale Arts facilities, reminding patrons and staff to wash their hands,” Boatright said, adding:
“We are working to acquire and provide hand sanitizer stations for public use. Our facilities team is also doing its part by increasing the frequency of rotations to clean and disinfect public spaces within our facilities.”
“All of these measures have either already been implemented or are in the process of coming online this week to address growing concerns,” he said
According to CEO and Director Mike Fox, SMoW held a staff training session regarding appropriate procedures.
“While it is the time our country is bracing itself against the coronavirus, it is also the time when our employee and volunteer groups must be vigilant in our collective efforts to focus on prevention and workplace safety,” Fox said. “We have been proactive while trying to anticipate any concerns.”
While SMoW has not had volunteers cancel or express any concerns “about being amongst our public in different capacities,” Fox said, SMoW is keeping close attention to what other public venues are doing with regard to the postponement of special events.
“We have followed what our state and federal governments have been communicating on the subject from early on in their management of the epidemic, and we will responsibly make decisions in the very best interest of our staff and constituents as we all learn more about the coronavirus and what are the most prudent preventive protective measures to implement at any given time,” Fox said.
Boatright earlier in the week had remained optimistic, stating that Scottsdale Arts will “continue to serve its mission and monitor recommended measures from federal, state and city health authorities. If a change is necessary, we will not hesitate to take action when it’s called for by public health authorities.”
“If we all practice common sense and good hygiene, we can continue to enjoy the city during the best time of the year," he said.
But that was before Wuestermann made the cancellation announcement, showing again how quickly circumstances are changing as the virus and concerns about it continue to mount.
Yet, even Wuestermann tried to include a positive message, stating, "I firmly believe that we will stand together as a people and defeat COVID-19. We will be here in the future to celebrate that moment with great arts experiences."