As I write this, I’m coming off a high from presenting an incredible final show of the Broadlands Live! 2021 season. Broadlands Live! is a free outdoor concert series that the community has been hosting since 2004 and is the longest running outdoor concert series in Ashburn. It’s a chance for neighbors to come together in a relaxed setting for a family friendly gathering that’s close to home. We headline talented regional bands, often showcase local teen groups as openers, and offer kid friendly entertainment and activities like balloon art and face painting. The event is heavily organized by volunteers and is financially supported by the HOA, local businesses, and food vendors. The event is BYOB, and picnics are welcome, so it truly is one of the few opportunities to enjoy a night out without taking a hit in the wallet. Best of all, it’s completely outdoors, so we minimize the risk of virus transfer for our attendees.
We’ve all spent the last year and a half rearranging our lives to make for a safer living environment, and it has been truly refreshing to be able to host events that are well attended and thoroughly enjoyed by the membership.
It felt like a glimpse of relative normalcy to see kids running around the playground and adults enjoying the beautiful weather and fantastic sounds that kicked off the final long weekend of the summer. Although a typical season runs four concerts from May to August, the concerts require planning months in advance, so we made the decision in January to both delay the start and to shorten the season, hosting just two concerts in August and September.
The key in continuing to hold community events has been that we host them as long as we can do so safely. Here’s how we dealt with 2021, and what we’re tentatively planning for 2022. We have adopted and embraced ways to transform some of our most popular events so that we can hold them safely. Our first COVID event was the Egg Basket Drive-Thru, a shift from our traditional Eggstravaganza egg hunt. Instead of children milling around egg hunting in a field followed by a parade led by the Easter bunny, we packed baskets with treasure-filled eggs and masked and gloved volunteers handed them out through the windows of vehicles as they drove through our parking lot, their passengers catching a glimpse of the Easter bunny waving from a distance as they drove their way around the lot.
The Senior Movie Night provided graduating seniors an opportunity to socialize on the Nature Center lawn while enjoying a flick. Snacks were individually wrapped for safety. Masks were required and round towel giveaways provided to each participant ensured proper distance between the teens seated on the ground. The Pour Paint Party was a masked outdoor event with limited attendance and socially distanced tables. The Middle School Pool Party was held at our largest pool and followed the guidelines we implemented for the duration of the pool season, with physical distancing encouraged. The Pooch Pool Party, a hit for the pups every year, was reduced to 50% previous capacity, but still held plenty of fun for canines and handlers alike. We are excited to remain outdoors with Halloween festivities for the kids. The Kids Halloween Parade has always been held outside, and this year will be no different. The 3rd-5th graders Halloween Party will be moved outdoor.
The Holiday Market, an outdoor craft vendor fair is on schedule as usual. Local crafters can sell their wares to shoppers looking for holiday gifts. The Visit with Santa has historically been one of our most highly attended events. Traditionally held indoors, complete with hot chocolate, carolers, crafts, decorations, and of course a photo op with Jolly Ole Saint Nick, our events committee has transitioned the event to a scavenger hunt, with clues that will guide families from outdoor space to outdoor space within the community, with the final hint bringing them to the outdoor space at our beloved Nature Center where Santa will be waiting to wave from behind velvet ropes.
Our plans for 2022 include an outdoor St. Paddy’s Day Block Party. As this was the first event that was canceled when the pandemic hit, we still have all of the supplies and decorations for this fun outdoor festival. The Valentine’s Day Fest will be canceled, as the weather it too unreliable, even with our covered patios and outdoor heaters and fire pits.
Above all, we’ve focused on planning fun events where our community feels safe and cared for. We continue to roll with the punches and remain flexible. We’ve reimagined just about every event we’ve had in our hat for the past 25 years, and we are excited to provide activities for all to enjoy while still being socially distant and complying with CDC guidelines.
By Sarah Gerstein, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM
Sarah is the general manager of Broadlands Association Inc., a large-scale homeowners association in northern Virginia, with nearly than 4,000 units. She has been engaged in the management of community associations as a portfolio manager for some of the area’s top management companies since 2000 before transitioning to large scale on-site management in 2012. Sarah has served on various committees during her time in the chapter and served on the Washington Metropolitan Chapter board of directors for eight years, including six years on the executive committee, serving in every officer role. She was honored by Leesburg Today and Ashburn Today magazines as one of Loudoun County’s Class of 2015 “Top 40 Under 40” business and community leaders and was in the top three in the Manager of the Year national contest in 2018 top ten in 2019.