Crowds at Apple Squeeze

The Lenox Apple Squeeze, which typically draws thousands of visitors every year for shopping, food and entertainment, has been canceled for the second consecutive year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

LENOX — The Apple Squeeze has joined a growing list of Berkshire events canceled or modified because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The cancellation was announced by Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer Nacht at a special meeting of the Select Board on Friday morning. Board members also strongly backed this week’s Tri-Town Health Department directive applying to Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge and urged compliance with it.

The order requires masking in public places and urges organizers not to hold crowded outdoor events where 6 feet of social distancing can’t be maintained. A scaled-down, one-day Apple Squeeze on Sept. 25 had been approved by the Select Board last month.

“I want to protect our community and I don’t want it on my head for any kids getting sick on my watch,” Nacht said.

She pointed out that the festival is aimed primarily at children younger than 12 who are not yet eligible for a vaccine.

“That’s the scariest part. If we call it Apple Squeeze, 2,500 people would still show up,” she said. Typical pre-pandemic attendance for a full, two-day festival was about 7,000, she added.

“No one wants to have anyone’s ill health on their conscience,” Select Board Chairwoman Marybeth Mitts declared. “Nobody wants to be the bearer of that burden, and the town of Lenox certainly wants to support Tri-Town Health in all they’re trying to do to help towns protect the citizenry. We really need to be the stewards of health and safety.”

Strict, diligent compliance with health and safety measures, including large outdoor gatherings, as well as indoor masking at businesses and other public places “is the only solution to stemming an outbreak, and there’s no question Berkshire County is suffering from an outbreak right now,” said Select Board member Neal Maxymillian.

Citing a significant, dangerous uptick in cases, Lenox Board of Health Chairwoman Dianne Romeo said she didn’t want anyone to become a pandemic statistic. Pointing to the potential risk of holding the Apple Squeeze, on behalf of the health board, she strongly advised skipping it this year.

Tri-Town Boards of Health Chairman Dr. Charles Kenny stressed that “the disease is coming back, there is a danger and we hope that everyone voluntarily starts to look out for their fellow citizens.”

The regional health agency’s directive, in effect since Tuesday, includes a call for masking at large outdoor public gatherings such as events held at fairgrounds, parks, and outdoor performance and event venues, but does not apply to weddings or school recess periods.

“Event planners and/or organizations shall consider postponing any outdoor or indoor event gatherings where social distancing of a minimum of 6 feet per person cannot be maintained,” the directive states.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto.