Welcome to this year’s edition of our newsletter, the Postcard from Swannanoa.
After a year’s delay, last year saw a welcome return to our in-person workshops, when we were finally able to celebrate our 30th Anniversary. However, the summer was not without its challenges.
To provide protection against the Covid virus, all participants were required to provide documentation that they had been fully vaccinated and boosted. Little did we know when we began our planning that by the time summer rolled around, the BA.5 Covid variant we’d be facing would be unaffected by antibodies from the vaccine or previous infection, and that it would be as contagious as measles, the most contagious viral disease known. The only silver lining was that it wasn’t as lethal.
Other safety measures included frequent mask-wearing, putting more classes outside in tents and doing without some usual high-contact features of our programs like dances and public concerts. We stressed at Orientation the importance of following our Covid precautions, and… it worked. Out of a total attendance of 1245 this summer, only 26 people (2%) tested positive at the event, and all of them left immediately after their positive test, out of concern for their fellow attendees who might have been exposed. For that consideration for everyone’s safety, they have the thanks of the entire Swannanoa Gathering community.
After a lapse of two years and changes in our Admin Team positions, some of the institutional memory of the practical matters involved in staging our events was lost, and our office struggled to run the Gathering with our usual efficiency. Our ability to provide timely responses to attendee communications was especially hard-hit. For that we apologize, and a return to our usual high standards of customer service is a priority going forward. To that end, we have added a new Operations Assistant to our Admin Team to help with customer service, vaccination verifications and other tasks.
The incredible music provided by our outstanding staff (and students!) was not the only excitement this summer. In our second week, weather destroyed one of our newly-purchased tents, and another storm caused lightning to hit Dodge House, one of the oldest buildings on campus, and set it ablaze(!) The Swannanoa Fire Department. and other emergency services responded quickly, and contained the fire before it could do catastrophic damage, but these were just additional challenges in what turned out to be a very challenging summer.
Next summer’s workshops will again be held in-person, and we will again require that all attendees – students, staff and instructors – provide documentation, validated with a photo ID, that they are fully-vaccinated against COVID-19. Depending on the progress of the Covid virus, we hope we may be able to restore some features of our usual programming. Look for more information in our spring catalog.
Check out the “Coming Next Summer” section for a sneak preview of what we have planned for 2023.