Finally, there’s at least one local public event that has not been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Organizers of Music at the Marv, an outdoor summer concert series at the Marvin Roth Pavilion in downtown Janesville, announced Thursday they’ve decided to give the music a go this summer, despite the ongoing pandemic.
Downtown Janesville, Inc. and the city plan to bring the free, weekly Tuesday night concert series back to Lower Courthouse Park starting Tuesday, July 7.
Forward Janesville Vice President Dan Cunningham, a lead organizer of the series, said Music at the Marv will seat concertgoers in “pods”—small, family groups assigned in 100-square-foot, pre-marked squares scattered around the pavilion and the surrounding courthouse lawn.
That new seating arrangement is just one new safety measure organizers hope will allow people to take in the concert series while still practicing physical distancing measures that health officials continue to recommend as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
“We felt it was really important to maybe go first with an event. You’ve seen every event is pretty much getting canceled this summer. And after sitting around and thinking about all the details about this, it’s easy to see why. There are a million little things to figure out,” Cunningham said. “No doubt, it’s going to be a lot to work on. But we wanted to go first, because we really wanted to give the community something this summer to look forward to.”
Under tentative plans for the music series, Tuesday evening concerts would run 13 weeks, from July through the end of September. People who want to attend a given concert at the series will be required to reserve space at the park—a designated pod.
Cunningham said the city of Janesville used GIS mapping to plot out about 90 pods, and a configuration should be fleshed out in the coming week, Cunningham said. The seating setup will include marked lanes where people can walk.
Music at the Marv has grown in popularity and last year drew crowds of 700 to 1,000 people for some concerts.
Pod seating is intended to limit mingling and encourage reservations. Under the new rules, anyone moving around the concert grounds outside their assigned seating area would be required to wear a protective mask.
Unlike previous years, food trucks that have lined South Main Street near the pavilion won’t be a fixture at Music at the Marv. Instead, Downtown Janesville, Inc. is encouraging concertgoers to order carryout from downtown businesses.
“That was something we really wrestled with. It was difficult. A big part of the event is having the food trucks, but we wanted to eliminate lines. It’s really hard to safely space people out when there’s 40 people waiting in line for a beer,” Cunningham said.
But the shows won’t be without beer. To avoid lines for beverages, organizers plan to set up a text messaging system that would allow concertgoers to text volunteers who’d serve drinks to assigned seating areas.
Cunningham said the green-light for Music at the Marv will offer at least one conduit for area musicians who’ve seen COVID-19 blot out their chances to perform music.
“Performers like the ones that we’re showcasing have been extremely hard hit by the pandemic. If your livelihood is playing bars and taverns, for many months you haven’t been able to do that. And if this is how you’re trying to make your living, that’s real trouble, right?” Cunningham said. “So, we wanted to give our arts community a chance to have a little recovery through this.”