The function of the Community of Lebanon Association (CLA) is to organize events in Downtown Lebanon and attract people to its businesses. Needless to say, COVID-19 has hit the organization hard.

Due to the pandemic, the CLA has had to cancel parades and carriage rides for this year’s holiday season. The annual and beloved Christmas Tree lighting is going virtual.

The majority of CLA events draw over 250 people, which is the state’s maximum occupancy limit for public gatherings and events. That’s the reason for the cancellation of this year’s Car Show — another blow to CLA’s events calendar.

For the Car Show to have occurred, streets would have had to be gated and the gates attended by staff who would have counted toward the 250 attendee limit. According to John Bower, the CLA president, that was impossible to do.

And while revenue has been stymied by the pandemic, expenses have continued to rack up. The CLA was left out of any CARES funding opportunities due to its 501(c)(6) status, leaving the organization without relief.

In spite of the pandemic and the problems it has caused the CLA, all of the organization’s committees are still working on projects such as direct mail membership blasts and a full directory of members.

Read more: CLA introduces banner program to recognize essential workers

The Image and Beautification Committee, which is charged with hanging baskets of flowers on Cumberland Street and monthly cleanups, is still active. And the CLA has secured funding for wreaths which will be hung on the Victorian light posts downtown during the holiday season.

CLA hanging baskets of flowers at Ninth & Cumberland Streets. (Will Trostel)
Expect to see wreaths on these Downtown Lebanon light posts this winter. (Will Trostel)

The CLA is also in talks to do something virtually for its annual Gala this year. Bower said awards will still be presented for Businessperson of the Year and the Lester Leffler Memorial Volunteer Service award.

Looking to the future, the CLA is already working on next year’s events. The first event of 2021 would be cherry pie at the Lebanon Farmer’s Market for President’s Day.

“The CLA has been around for sixty years,” Bower said. “This is the first time a pandemic has restricted our activities. No one was prepared for the pandemic. The CLA was prepared to continue the way we always do.”

Bower concluded by reminding Lebanon residents of the often uncredited or miscredited work CLA does in the city.

“People think the City puts on the parade, but the CLA actually does it,” he said. “The parade is the CLA’s biggest event.”

More views of Downtown Lebanon

All photos by Will Trostel.

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