PRESS EDITORIAL: This is no year for Fish Day

Another item has been added to the pandemic disappointment list.

The list of pleasures foregone to limit the spread of Covid-19 is long, starting with precious family gatherings and including restaurant dinners, movies at theaters, vacation travel, sports events, shopping in stores, parties and celebrations, among many other enjoyments of daily living.

And now Fish Day has been cancelled for the second year in a row.

Fish Day is a genuine icon of summer in Port Washington, a day of family fun and reunions that unites the city’s service organizations and volunteers in a prodigious effort to raise funds with the sale of the event’s signature food—fish and chips—to support causes important to the community.

So, yes, the cancellation of this summer’s Fish Day is a disappointment. It is a necessary disappointment.

The Fish Day Committee made the right decision. It would have been a dangerous mistake to hold an event only four months from now that can attract a crowd more than double the size of Port Washington’s population.

This disappointment, like others brought on by the pandemic, is a small sacrifice in the context of an extremely contagious disease that has killed in excess of half a million Americans and continues killing at the rate of about 2,000 people a day.

Hope is rising as the pace of vaccinations quickens, but the desperately sought all-clear sign signalling a return to normal is not in sight.

Infections, hospitalizations and deaths have leveled off after a tragic surge brought on by heedless holiday travel and gathering and premature lifting of restrictions in some states, but that level is higher than it was six months ago. Epidemiologists are warning of a new surge if mask wearing and physical distancing are relaxed as fast-spreading mutations of the virus take hold.

Distancing and Fish Day are an impossible combination. The typical crowd in the Fish Day compound at the lakefront is shoulder to shoulder and face to face. Regardless of the progress of vaccination, thousands of the possible 25,000 or more people expected to attend would not be vaccinated. Spread of the virus would be unavoidable.

Masks, of course, would be out of the question. Fish Day is mostly about eating and drinking.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the food and drinks are prepared and served by hundreds of volunteers from the community who would be exposed to contact with infected customers among those in the long lines being served.

Members of the organizations that participate in the event have voiced support for the cancellation, but there has been some criticism of the Fish Day Committee’s actions as well. This flies in the face of reality.

The risks of attracting large, concentrated crowds before the pandemic is controlled are so obvious that decisions like the Fish Day cancellation are the norm. All of Milwaukee’s summer festivals, including Summer Fest, have been postponed or cancelled. Last week, Cedarburg announced that, for the safety of the public, its July Maxwell Street event will not be held.    

Pandemic concerns were the Fish Day Committee’s priority in making its decision, but another factor supported it. The event depends on business sponsorship to cover much if its organization cost, and that has been understandably depressed as local businesses that were reliable supporters have been unable to contribute in the Covid recession.

The Port Washington residents who serve on the Fish Day Committee volunteer for the express purpose of making the event happen, so, of course, the cancellation is a particular disappointment to them. They and everyone who enjoys Fish Day can look forward to the 2022 event with the realistic hope that by then that disappointment will be just an obsolete entry on a discarded list.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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