The annual Birmingham Hometown Parade has been canceled due to the  ongoing pandemic.

The annual Birmingham Hometown Parade has been canceled due to the ongoing pandemic.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

Birmingham scraps annual fairs, parade due to COVID

Farmers market is on

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published April 5, 2021


BIRMINGHAM — Hopefully, we’re nearing the end of this COVID-19 pandemic, but we’re not there just yet. And since we’re not in the clear yet, Birmingham is cancelling some of its signature spring events.

Birmingham Fire Chief Paul Wells made the call last week to cancel the annual Art Birmingham fair and the Birmingham Village Fair. He explained that it would simply be too hard to enforce the state’s mask mandate and social distancing guidelines.

“The (Michigan Department of Health and Human Services) emergency order doesn’t allow for outdoor gatherings of more than 300 people, and we have to enforce the mask mandate at all times. I see that order definitely being extended past April, and those events are just too big to control,” Wells said. “Since we can’t fence up the whole of Shain Park, and all those organizers will be in and out setting up ahead of time, we can’t do it.”

Art Birmingham, hosted by the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center and the Guild of Artists and Artisans, is usually held on Mother’s Day weekend and would’ve been in its 40th year. The event has boasted around 150 booths with wares from a variety of local artists in different mediums, along with a kids’ tent where little ones can create a special gift for mom.

The Birmingham Village Fair, which was scheduled for June 2-6, would’ve been in its 58th year.

The four-day event has, in the past, served as an annual fundraiser for numerous local nonprofits, including the Birmingham Lions Club, Birmingham Youth Assistance and the Birmingham Rotary Club.

“The Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber is disappointed to have to cancel this event for the second consecutive year,” Chamber President Joe Bauman said in a press release. “We know how important this iconic fair is for local residents and the crucial role it plays in pumping economic development dollars into the downtown, but we must always place the health and safety of our staff, volunteers, residents and guests first and foremost.”

Bauman said he’s hopeful the fair can return with gusto in 2022.

Also taking this year off is the city’s annual Celebrate Birmingham Hometown Parade, normally held in May. The parade has long been thought to be the unofficial kickoff of summer in Birmingham, with spectator favorites like high school marching bands, recognition of U.S. military veterans and pups from the Basset Hound Rescue of Michigan.

The city clerk announced that officials will still create an appreciation video to celebrate Birmingham board and commission members and the work they’ve done during the past year.

One event that has received the go-ahead to return this spring is the Birmingham Farmers Market, hosted by the Birmingham Shopping District. Wells said they’re even doing away with the drive-thru format used last year and sticking with MDHHS guidelines for in-person outdoor gatherings.

“Masks are going to be mandated, there will be signage, and because there’s really just one entrance, we should have an easier time controlling the event,” he explained. “We can keep it to 300 people, and if someone walks up without a mask, we can stop them from coming in and say, ‘Hey, sorry. You need a mask.’ I view it as outdoor shopping for essentials. Since it’s outdoors, it’s safer to me than a grocery store.’”

And while it’s good news the farmers market will move forward this May, Bauman said he’s concerned how merchants will fare during yet another summer with slow foot traffic.

“We worry losing another full season of outdoor events like the Village Fair, art fairs … will be another crushing blow to downtown Birmingham merchants who rely on the influx of visitors during the summer to support their businesses, but we really have no choice other than to begin planning for 2022,” he said.