No Santa-Cali-Gon gathering? Organizers find an alternative

The Examiner

Tom Lesnak says he wishes Santa-Cali-Gon Days organizers could fast forward to Labor Day weekend 2021.

In the meantime, the Independence Chamber of Commerce president is glad the organization is able to sponsor a virtual event for this upcoming Labor Day weekend.

The virtual set-up linked from opened earlier this week, will be open through Labor Day weekend, and already has been active, Lesnak said. About 50 vendors signed on after rolling over their 2020 booth deposits to next year, and the chamber is still adding, he said.

“People are busy shopping already; some vendors set up right away,” Lesnak said. “We’ve had to help some vendors who’ve never been online. They’ve just done these shows, and some have lost every show for this year.”

The chamber announced in late June that, due to public health precautions, it had canceled the annual festival that draws about 300,000 attendees around the Independence Square. The company that sets up the chamber’s database for vendor registration developed the virtual shopping set-up without extra charge.

“It’s probably more than we’d hoped for,” Lesnak said.

The virtual format for artist and craft vendors is similar to a Facebook Live or Zoom meeting, in which customers can log in and talk to the vendor about their products. Some Square merchants also joined in the virtual shopping format for this year.

Since it opened last week, the virtual shopping page had received 1,400 hits as of Thursday morning, Lesnak said.

In addition, the chamber will livestream a performance from one of the music acts that had been booked for the festival, the metro area Bon Jovi tribute band Bob Jovi, at 7 p.m. Sept. 4, on the chamber and festival Facebook pages. 

Lesnak said Bob Jovi and the rest of what would have been Sunday’s entertainment has already been booked for next year, and the chamber is “making headway” on securing musical artists for the 2021 festival and could even finalize schedules this fall.