BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN
For the Journal
Although the economy is reopening, Guam remains in Pandemic Condition of Readiness 2, which keeps certain restrictions in place.
Most annual community events scheduled for this year are on hold or cancelled altogether. Some organizers have migrated events into digital formats.
The good news is that scheduled military exercises should go ahead as planned.
The U. S. Air Force has already reached out to Guam vendors to advise that Andersen Air Force base will host military exercises from July 23 for two weeks.
Master Sgt. Richard P. Ebensburger of the Public Affairs office for the 36th Wing at Andersen told the Journal, “As of right now none of our missions or exercises are cancelled. We remain 100% on mission.”
Ebensburger anticipates a number of well-known exercises to go ahead in the coming months. These include Cope North, typically in February and with previous parts of the program in the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia, the annual Christmas Drop to the outer islands in December and Valiant Shield.
“Every other year we have Valiant Shield. That’s typically in the fall,” Ebensburger said. “That’s the largest one we do.”
Valiant Shield is one of the largest U.S. war games held in the Pacific, and the 2020 biennial event will be the eighth. The 2018 event featured 15,000 personnel, and Air Force and Navy assets.
However, R&R opportunities for military personnel remain uncertain at present.
The annual Pink Ball, which is held every first Saturday of August, has been cancelled.
“We are in the process of evaluating and reviewing our plan for this year’s Pink Ball event. We will definitely have a virtual event; details are still being finalized,” said Leah Beth Naholowaa, chair of the Pink Ball Committee.
The Pink Ball, which would have turned seven this year, is an annual fundraiser that benefits Guam Cancer Care, the Guam Diabetes Association, Lupus Awareness of Guam, Harvest Guam and Project Inspire.
Guam Contractors Association events
The only Guam Contractors Association event that was postponed until next year was the launch of “Power Up; It’s a Mother Daughter Thing,” which was scheduled for March 17.
“All classes were cancelled the day before the event and Guam Department of Education schools went on lockdown the day before with all school activities including sports events cancelled. The event will launch next year in March,” said James Martinez, GCA president.
Martinez said safety training programs, including the Annual Safety Conference and Annual Golf Tournament, will be rescheduled for later this year.
“Our monthly membership luncheon meetings are on hold until the hotels open for ballroom functions and restrictions are lifted for social distancing and large group functions of over 25 people,” Martinez said.
The remaining events for October and November, which include the annual GCA Family Picnic and the Excellence in Construction Awards and anniversary dinner, are still scheduled as planned “barring any restrictions by the governor at the time,” Martinez said. The dates for these events have yet to be announced.
Philippine Independence Day Vin d’Honneur
The Philippine Independence Day Vin d’Honneur and the annual flag raising ceremony at the Guam Reef Hotel, which are both celebrated June 12, were cancelled.
Although the annual gatherings did not happen this year, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs live-streamed the commemoration of the 122nd Philippine Independence Day on Facebook.
“While we are unable to hold the customary ceremonies to commemorate our Independence Day, it is also not quite accurate to say that we have cancelled these celebrations,” Philippines Vice Consul Mark Hamoy said. “We are simply using unconventional means of remembering the heroism and patriotism of our revolutionary leaders who purchased for us the freedoms that we enjoy today as a sovereign nation, so that we can emerge stronger than ever in the post-pandemic world.”
Guam Visitors Bureau
The Guam Micronesia Island Fair and BBQ Block Party are two of the Guam Visitors Bureau’s signature events that have been cancelled this year.
Originally scheduled for May 1 to 3, the Guam Micronesia Island Fair is an annual celebration of the Pacific islands cultures that draws hundreds of artists, cultural performers and vendors from around the region.
The BBQ Block Party, scheduled for July 11, brings together the island’s top grill masters for all-night long feast and cooking competition in Pleasure Island.
“We estimate a loss of about 4,500 visitor participation for the following events that were scheduled to take place March through July 2020,” said Kraig Camacho, community development officer at GVB.
The Ko’ko’ Kids Fest, which was scheduled for March 22, has been postponed “until further notice.” This family event includes a Trench Kids Obstacle Course challenge and a Striders Kids Biking race.
“When organizing events, it’s important to note that safety has and always will be our number one priority when organizing events that benefit our island community and our visitors alike,” Camacho said. “With that said, we are already looking into providing more touchless/seamless points in order to meet social distancing guidelines.”
United Airlines Guam Marathon
Jointly organized by Guam Sports Events Inc. and United Airlines, the 2020 United Airlines Guam Marathon will be converted into a week-long virtual race event held from Sept. 5 to Sept. 13 and will be rebranded as “#UGM2020 Goes Virtual.”
Sponsored by the Guam Visitors Bureau, the marathon is Guam’s largest international sports event. It was originally scheduled for April 5.
“We also promote Guam as a sports tourism destination that draws worldwide attention. With this in mind, we have continued to monitor all developments regarding the Covid-19 pandemic within the Asia Pacific region and how this issue affects both our international and local participants. Given these challenges, we believe this is the most responsible way for us to hold the event this year,” Ben Ferguson, event director, Guam Sports Events Inc., said in a press release.
The virtual event is free to all current #UGM2020 registrants and they are automatically entered to participate. In addition, all current #UGM2020 registrants will be automatically deferred to 2021 at no additional cost.
Guam Chamber of Commerce and Saipan Chamber of Commerce
The Guam Chamber of Commerce postponed its annual May gala until 2021, when anniversary celebrants of 2020 and 2021 will be recognized. Both the Guam Chamber and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce are considering re-scheduling annual golf tournaments.
Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association
“GHRA is very concerned about the economic situation and has cancelled events thus far,” said Mary P. Rhodes, president of GHRA. “We will continue to work with our members on the reopening of their businesses and tourism for Guam.” Aside from quarterly membership luncheons, GHRA holds some evening socials that are also fundraisers. Its annual gala on March 7 was held before emergency regulations kicked in.
Fourth of July
In Guam there will be no Liberation Day events, which typically include a parade and carnival. In the Northern Mariana Islands, the Saipan Mayor’s Office has cancelled the traditional Fourth of July parade.
“July fourth will still be recognized as a legal holiday, but our traditional festival at the Garapan Fishing Base and July fourth parade along Beach Road will have to be canceled,” Saipan Mayor David Apatang said. “This year’s celebration will be the 74th anniversary after the gates of the camps in Susupe and Chalan Kanoa were opened, liberating many of our elders from confinements. Remembering them should be an honor of highest respect that each one of us has a responsibility to teach our generation of today of the struggles and uncertainty they faced after the war.”
The Mayor’s Office said this year’s Fourth of July celebration will “go virtual.”
“Our program of events will be forthcoming after approval from the Governors Covid 19 Task Force and CHCC,” the mayor stated in a memo.
Naval Base Guam’s Moral, Welfare and Recreation is due to hold a fireworks display at Polaris Point.
Bow Ties for Wishes and Black Tie & Tennies gala
The Make a Wish Foundation’s Bow Ties for Wishes gala, which set for March 24, will be restructured to a digital format.
“This is an ongoing discussion with the Bow Ties committee and our board of directors,” said Eric Tydingco, president of MAWF Guam and Saipan. “It will likely happen this year, but may be relegated to an online auction only if there is still concerns about public event gathering.”
As to the Black Ties & Tennies August gala, Tydingco said that will not be held this year. “The board of directors have decided to cancel this year’s gala and will resume in 2021 at our typical time frame of mid-August,” he said.
The foundation raises funds to grant the wish of every child diagnosed with a critical illness.
American Red Cross Red Ball
The Guam Chapter of the American Red Cross is celebrating its 20th year, but will not hold the Red Ball, its signature and biggest fundraiser in 2020.
“We will not be doing the Red Ball, but we will have a fundraising event in a different format,” said Chita A. Blaise, CEO. “This will be our milestone, so we cannot not have an event. This will even be more memorable, because we will be doing it in a different format, but the board has not decided yet what it will be. We are still in discussion stage.”
The Red Ball is typically held every September.
The Association of Pacific Islands Public Auditors has decided to move the 31st Annual Conference from an in-person conference to a virtual format from Aug. 3 to 14.
“We recognize how difficult it is to travel in August due to restrictions and Covid-19 challenges each insular government is facing,” the association said in a statement. “APIPA has excellent conference sessions and instructors ready to assist with professional development for insular area officials. The APIPA 2020 virtual conference will provide participants with access to timely, relevant course content in an online format spread over the first two weeks of August. Join us for professional development that will enable you to better serve insular government organizations and communities.” – Maureen N. Maratita contributed to this story.