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The Villages
Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Mostly maskless crowds venture out for reopening of town squares

It’s been 202 days since The Villages town squares were open for nightly entertainment because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that all changed Monday night when live music roared to life and small groups of Villagers – many of which weren’t wearing masks – came from across the community to enjoy a night out.

Some Villagers braved fears of the COVID-19 pandemic and took to the dance floor at Brownwood Paddock Square on Monday night.

A sparse crowd was in attendance at Lake Sumter Landing shortly after 5 p.m. as Studio 77 took the stage.

There was plenty of room on the dance floor at Spanish Springs Town Square on Monday night as many Villagers and other area residents stayed away amid ongoing fears of catching COVID-19.

The town squares looked a lot different than they did on the night of March 16 before the shutdown came the following day. The number of people allowed into the squares was limited – reportedly 250 at Brownwood and 300 at Lake Sumter Landing and Spanish Springs Town Square. Those attending also were required to have free tickets that were given out last week.

Attendees were told via a public address system of the need to practice social distancing. Bar huts were open but there was no happy hour and lines were discouraged. Some people wore masks but it appeared that the majority did not – face coverings were “requested” but not required.

A group of friends who didn’t get tickets said they were quite happy with their seats at Brownwood Paddock Square on Monday night. From left: Julie and Bill Burgoyne (Village of Monarch Grove), Deb and Bob Stachon (Village of Hillsborough), Sophia and Ray Vallee (Village of Hillsborough), Jan and Chuck Rohl and dog Brady (Village of Hillsborough) and Diane and Doug Desrosier (Village of Hillsborough).

These area residents set up their own mini viewing area and dance floor at Lake Sumter Landing in front of their parked golf carts Monday night.

Those in the town squares also were told they wouldn’t be allowed to stand on the sidewalks. Many solved that problem by sitting in their golf carts or setting up chairs in parking spots and creating their own mini dance floors.

A small group of area residents was already set up in Market Square when Studio 77 kicked off the entertainment shortly after 5 p.m. Others started trickling in a short time later and by 5:30 p.m. the area around the square was starting to fill up. Area residents also camped out in front of Starbucks and despite the warning about keeping the sidewalks clear, many congregated just outside the barricades.

Mary Vinelli, of the Village of Hadley, found the perfect solution to social distancing Monday night by securing a spot outside the Van Heusen store on Old Mill Run, across the street from Market Square.

Susie and Dan McCafferty, of Continental Country Club, were the first on the dance floor Monday night at Brownwood Paddock Square. They said they had been anxiously awaiting the return of entertainment at the squares and they enjoy spending time together in Brownwood.

Villager Mary Vinelli, of the Village of Hadley, found the perfect solution to social distancing. She secured a spot on a bench outside the Van Heusen store on Old Mill Run across the street from Market Square. The native of the Bronx was dancing her heart out all alone and getting plenty of exercise – which was her goal – as Studio 77 played “Ladies Night” by Kool & The Gang.

“I’ve got it down,” she said of her social distancing plan. “We’re from New York and we know how to dodge,” she added with a laugh.

Village of Mallory Square resident Marissa Maulsby danced by herself to the sounds of Studio 77 just outside the barricades at Lake Sumter Landing on Monday night.

Tables and chairs in front of Starbucks proved to be popular with area residents who came out to Lake Sumter Landing on Monday night.

Across the street and just outside the barricades, Village of Mallory Square resident Marissa Maulsby also was dancing by herself.

“I want to go inside,” she said, while asking a member of the media if he had a ticket for her to get into Market Square.

It was much the same story at Brownwood, where the games opened around 4 p.m. and only about 20 people were standing in line. The crowd inside the barricades remained sparse throughout the early part of the evening, with many Villagers electing to park their carts and stay put while enjoying the sounds of Paisley Craze.

One area resident showed up with extra protection to show what he thought of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, at Spanish Springs Town Square, the crowd was small, with many Villagers clearly electing to stay home amid ongoing fears of catching the Coronavirus.

Some Villagers and area residents did secure tickets to the inner-portion of the square, while others parked in their golf carts to enjoy the sounds of Trip 19. Others sat on the patio area of Amerikanos Grille on Del Mar Drive, just across the street from the square. But compared to what clearly was expected, the number who elected to venture out amid the ongoing pandemic – 677 cases have been reported in The Villages, 20,139 in the tri-county area and 717,874 across the state – appeared to smaller than many would have expected from residents who clearly have suffered from cabin fever for the past seven months.

One of the largest crowds at Lake Sumter Landing on Monday night was on the patio area of Gator’s Dockside.

Area residents milled around one of the bar huts at Lake Sumter Landing on Monday night.

The same precautionary rules will be in affect Tuesday night and for the foreseeable future at all three town squares. Those wishing to attend will have to secure tickets and will be asked to practice social distancing and take other safety measures.

Tuesday night’s entertainment lineup is scheduled to be:

  • Spanish Springs Town Square: Paradise Band;
  • Lake Sumter Landing Market Square: No Regrets; and
  • Brownwood Paddock Square: Cece Teneal & Soul Kamotion.

Band members in Paisley Craze said they were happy to be performing again before taking the stage at Brownwood Paddock Square on Monday night.

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