CLEVELAND — This weekend, the Huntington Convention Center welcomes back a public gathering for the first time since the pandemic started.
In that time, Today’s Bride Show Manager Jennifer Fyffe says about 70% of weddings were delayed, some were downsized, and others were completely canceled. The result is an industry and small army of small businesses happy to do whatever it takes to get in front of customers again.
“All of us are in this business because we love it so there are no negatives anymore,” said Fyffe. “We’re going to all grow up, rebuild, together.”
The Convention Center has a long list of policies and new features meant to keep visitors safe:
- Tickets will be sold online
- Masks are required
- Social distancing
- Temperature checks when anyone enters the building
- 25 percent capacity limit
- Aisles will be one-way
In addition to those policies, the Convention Center used $2.3 million in CARES Act funding from the federal government to improve the building:
- HVAC filter upgrade from MERV13 to MERV15
- Metal detectors that also scan a person’s temperature
- Antimicrobial surfaces in high-tough areas like bathrooms, handrails, and elevator buttons
- Touchless door entry for more doors
You can read a full list of the precautions for the show here.
Huntington Convention Center General Manager Ron King says just like 9/11 made Americans rethink security protocol, COVID is making Americans rethink public spaces.
“Whether that sticks around for a long time, I don’t know,” said King. “We’ll see what the CDC says, but that being said, we’re prepared for anything at this point.”
The Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court have been using the Global Center for Health Innovation and one conference room in the Huntington Convention Center for bench trials on and off since September 2020. The court tells News 5 they plan on using those spaces again when bench trials are scheduled to resume on April 26 until at least the end of June.
“The Sheriff’s Office and the county has done a great job,” said King. “It is very very safe here.”
King says the event schedule for the Convention Center is lagging behind a non-COVID schedule a little bit. But he says since there is such a pent-up demand for gatherings as more people become vaccinated and restrictions are lifted, he expects 2022 to be extremely busy.
Happy to be back
It’s welcome work for vendors like David Hovrath to set up his space for the Today’s Bride show with his team at Clear Choice Photo Booth. They provide photo services for corporate events and weddings and usually have between 15-20 events every week during a normal summer. COVID restrictions and cancellations turned that busy schedule into one or two bookings a week, if that.
“[Business] was like a 95% drop off,” said Hovrath.
Clear Choice Photo Booth is one of more than 100 vendors who are back at the Huntington Convention Center showing engaged couples what’s possible for their special day this weekend. It’s high pressure for the couples and for David.
“You’ve got to get it right,” said Hovrath. “Who knows how many we’re going to have the year because it’s already a late start.”
The show will have vendors helping couples figure out everything they need for their wedding, including transportation, clothing, food, photography, venues, and booking hotel rooms for guests. Past shows had been much larger because they were in the IX Center and didn’t have to abide by pandemic protocol.
Still, Fyffe says it’s important for couples to get in front of vendors they can trust to plan their wedding, however it has been impacted by COVID.
Fyffe says the increased demand for new dates after weddings were postponed is making weekday weddings much more common than in the past. Hovrath says, for whatever reason, October 9 is the date every couple seems to want to be married on.
Weddings might look a little different, too, with new practices emerging because of COVID protocol.
“You won’t see the buffets like we used to,” said Fyffe. “But you might see a waiter taking the orders at the tables and it might be a more posh experience at the table because of that."
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.