A whole new (or delayed) ball game

2020 is blossoming into a summer of uncertainty for area youth leagues

They are not the most important activities in the world today.

By no means.

But for “communities,” such as Clinton, the possibility of missing a season of youth baseball or youth softball is a painful reality everyone is hoping can be avoided.

With the state starting to open up slowly (and a little arbitrarily), questions regarding the fate of summer activities have begun to crop into peoples’ minds. Will summer youth leagues still take place? The county fair? Fourth of July?

Roger Houck, the city manager of Clinton, said that, unfortunately, a lot of those questions don’t have answers yet, and it’s a balancing act between keeping people safe and not overdoing things.

“Right now, under the current state of emergency order the governor put out, it still doesn’t allow for recreational activities to take place,” said Houck. “We’re telling our leagues to prepare for late summer or even early fall, after the fair.

“Right now, I’m sure the kids are going to want to get out, but I’m sure the parents will be worried and apprehensive about being around large crowds. We’ll have to take measures for the parents and grandparents sitting in the stands.”

Houck said that, ultimately, it will all depend on the orders from the governor.

“I’ve spent an hour on the phone with other (city) managers and we just don’t know where everything is going. There’s just more questions than answers right now.”

Regarding the Fourth of July, the city is pushing back that decision. That being said, Knox County has already cancelled their celebrations this year.

“We’re in talks about all that, but we’re trying to push that decision back to mid-June. If we don’t do the Fourth of July, we’ll probably try to do something on Labor Day or Veteran’s Day if we have to push it back further. Just depends on when things get back to normal.”

While Houck said the city will possibly push youth leagues until after the county fair, it’s unsure whether there will even be a fair. The Anderson County Fair Association Board of Directors has an unofficial meeting this Thursday, but President Steve Queener says the board won’t have an official meeting until the end of the month.

“We cancelled April’s meeting. It’s unusual that we haven’t had one by now,” said Queener.

Regarding whether he’s expecting the fair to continue as planned, Queener wouldn’t say.

“I think it’s a little early for us to make a decision right now. We’ll put it off until the first of June. We have to look and see the guidelines and social distancing regulations. If all that is still in effect, we can’t have it. We’re staying optimistic that we’ll be able to have it, but staying realistic that we might not be able to.”

Anderson County’s fair is one of the first fairs in Tennessee, and a couple of the fairs that usually take place in June have already cancelled. Queener said that other fairs are now waiting to see what Anderson County does.

“I think everyone is just in a hold pattern to see what everyone else is going to do.”

Queener also said that, even if the fair does take place, that it will most likely be smaller than in years past.

“If we do have [it] this year, we’ll probably have to cut back and not do some of the stuff we’ve done in the past. We’re moving forward at a slow pace and waiting, trying not to spend money on things that we don’t have to spend money on. There’s no use spending it if we can’t have the fair, so that’s why we’re probably going to have to cut some stuff that we’ve had in years past.”

The Anderson County Fair is in a particularly difficult position, as it’s one of the largest events in Anderson County, pulling in fair-goers from multiple surrounding counties.

“Our main concern is the safety of our fairgoers and volunteers. Safety has always been our main concern, but this has put a whole new spin on it. We’re talking 40,000 people in six days,” Queener said.

Even though things are up in the air, Queener said he thinks people could really use the fair, this year especially.

“I think our community’s ready for it. They’re ready to get out of the house and socialize with their friends, and there’s no better place to do that than the fair.”

They certainly are ready for it. Clinton has done very well with the stay at home orders, but people are social by nature and there’s a limit to even the most patient people. Still, Roger Houck stressed how proud he is of the community during these times.

“We have to follow the governor’s orders during the State of Emergency. It’s not the city putting in the stay at home order. Still, we’re really proud of all the people in the city. We’ve had 100-percent compliance, and that’s great.”