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'It pained us to do this': Spring Lake Sparkle cancels some events due to COVID-19

"The live music industry cannot afford another shutdown," said Gary Hanks, "so we're trying to do our part to protect people as best we can."

SPRING LAKE, Mich. — As COVID-19 continues to burden West Michigan, it is now also taking a toll on holiday celebrations. In just the last week, Spring Lake Sparkle had to make some changes to help stop the spread of the virus.

The biggest change? No concerts at the Seven Steps Up music venue. 

"It pained us to do this," said owner Gary Hanks, "but we decided we wouldn't do these indoor shows."

Seven Steps Up was scheduled to host weekly concerts with performers from local schools, but in the last week came a spike in COVID-19 cases that overwhelmed hospitals.

"In looking at all of that," said Hanks, "we made the decision amongst all of us that it would be irresponsible to pack a lot of people in together with no real protocols about vaccinations."

Spring Lake Sparkle will still host the small concerts outside, but it's a blow for the small venue that is already facing a tough time.

"Things were going well and we were selling tickets," Hanks explained, "and then this latest news basically killed ticket sales."

Hanks said their venue will still be hosting an outdoor portable bar with specialty drinks for kids and adults, so they hope that this way they can still be a part of Spring Lake Sparkle.

"The live music industry cannot afford another shutdown," said Hanks, "so we're trying to do our part to protect people as best we can."

"We're trying to save our businesses that we've invested our life savings in," he added. 

Also working to protect people is Santa's workshop, located just down the street at Five Star Real Estate Leaders.

"Santa is going to be in our office every day during Sparkle," said realtor Louise St. Amour.

Santa will be welcoming kids and their families in for pictures and for a one-on-one with the big man himself. 

"Seeing Santa is at the forefront of the Christmas fun," said St. Amour, "but we're still going to have our careful moments by only allowing one family in at a time."

St. Amour said they are not requiring masks, but everyone is welcome to do whatever makes them comfortable. 

And if you wonder where Mr. Claus will get his suit ready for the big event, that's also just down the road at Plantenga's Cleaners. 

"I really think of Plantenga's as part of the fabric of the community," laughed owner Al Plantenga, "pardon the pun, I couldn't help myself there."

Plantenga's Cleaners is a family-owned business that has been in the Village of Spring Lake since 1952. Plantenga said even in its first year, they saw the huge impact that Spring Lake Sparkle had on the community. 

"It's so beautiful that it's almost breathtaking," Plantenga said. 

And with the lingering pandemic, anything that brings people to town helps small businesses like these.

"Foot traffic definitely helps," said Plantenga, "but for us, it can also bring in business when people are out and getting dressed up."

"Those clothes will eventually come to us," he chuckled. 

So despite some changes to this year's Spring Lake Sparkle, residents say they know that nothing can dim the light of the close-knit village.

"All of the COVID factor evaporates when you see all the smiles," said Plantenga.

Spring Lake Sparkle officially starts on Friday, Nov. 26. 

You can find a list of events, times and even reserve a time to see Santa on the Sparkle website, which can be found by clicking here

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