By Lisa Adams Walter
So much has changed for all of us. So much has changed worldwide. We have all been experiencing the impact of COVID-19 for several months. A constant is certain: the dawn of coronavirus has changed the way we live, work and play.
For me, the “play” part of life is essential. Life in the Napa Valley, a veritable playground for grown-ups, is pretty special for locals. Events, fundraisers, concerts, auctions and even everyday meet-ups with friends for lunch, a cocktail or cup of coffee, were the markers for me that served as the structure for time and filled the calendar outside of work.
Not so in 2020. Less than a few months into this year, the calendar was cleared. Activities ranging from intimate family gatherings and graduation parties, to live music jams at small venues, to massive festivals planned for this year, have either been canceled or postponed.
Even longstanding family activities such as catching the latest movie release at a theater, hitting the lanes at the bowling alley and cheering on our local teams were halted. Here we are, now fully into summertime, and all local Independence Day parades and fireworks displays have been shut down.
We Napans, though, are resourceful. Throughout all of the disasters, and there have recently been several, we have even been called Napa Strong. We have pivoted and in Napa County there are now several ways to remain entertained this summer, while either being safely distant or even staying at home:
Cooking and Drink Crafting Classes
As part of the Napa Valley College Upper Valley Campus, the Napa Valley Cooking School has scheduled an interesting and fun series of summer classes available online for nominal registration fees. Learn from pros to bake or become a mixologist, create stunning desserts, make cookies with kids, or check out a taste-focused class appropriate for adults, teens and tweens. NapaValleyCookingSchool.org
Live Music Options While BottleRock 2020 has been rescheduled, producers have been releasing command performance videos of memorable performances from festivals past. The (Re)Live BottleRock weekly series is available on YouTube every Friday evening at 5:00 p.m. Other concert series with outdoor venues, such as the Oxbow River Stage and Mondavi Summer Music Festival, have postponed until 2021.Local artists such as jazz pianist Mike Greensill have been frequently performing live, and even daily. Greensill’s “Jazz in the Afternoon” is broadcast for free on Facebook Live nearly every day at 3:00 p.m., and audience members can even leave a tip!
Wine Tastings and Cooking Demos
Dozens of wineries have now moved their experiences into the virtual space, with online wine tastings with the winemaker or hospitality pro and cooking demonstrations from worldly and talented estate chefs. Most are completely free, and many offer advance purchase of wines so that you can taste along from a very safe distance, your home.
Hike and Bike A welcome surge of outdoor activities on paths and trails around the county is a pleasing trend. I have noticed increased bicycle traffic on The Vine Trail, and the Napa County Bicycle Coalition is working to integrate a Slow Streets Program in Napa, which would bolster safe, accessible recreation and transportation via bikes by closing a series of streets to through vehicle traffic. My family has spent several mornings hiking the hills, and enjoying the views at sites such as Westwood Hills and Alston Park. Popular, healthy and fun, hiking is appealing for people of all ages, completely free, and many we have encountered on trails, typically keep their distance and wear a mask.
Picnics in Parks and Socially Distant Meet-Ups
Packing up delicious foods, a Frisbee and people in your “bubble” is a great way to be spontaneously and safely entertained. This activity combines the best of most worlds: food, entertaining, socializing, enjoying the fresh air and being outdoors. Picnics and socially distant meet-ups definitely seem to be on the rise. I have noticed groups cordially positioned at least six feet, and most often further, apart in outdoor spaces. Lovely set-ups including mini tables with fine linens and fresh flowers convey that picnickers want to make these events even more special. Neighborhood Happy Hours have been happening for months, with folks in lawn chairs spaced apart, chatting, socializing and sipping wine.
Indoor and Outdoor Movie Nights
St. Helena’s Cameo Cinema has established a vibrant array of films that can be streamed for a very fair fee on demand to your computer or television at home. In addition, they have created a socially-distanced drive-in theater for the town’s Crane Park. People just like you and me are projecting movies onto the walls of their homes in their backyards. Fresh air films have made a comeback. If you grew up in Napa, these movie nights will spark memories of the former KVON Drive-In that was located on Foster Road. Sister station 99.3 The Vine has brought back the drive in experience with summer contests to win a spot at their Pop-Up Drive In Series: Movie Nights at South Napa Century Center.
#NVSpirit Finally, a collaboration of Visit Napa Valley and the Napa Valley Vintners has resulted in an invitation to Napa County residents to rediscover our region with the “Explore Your Backyard” program with more than 60 special offers just for locals through the end of July at hospitality-related businesses including hotels, wineries, restaurants and retailers. Most of these will get you out of the house. Be safe, keep your distance, and wash those hands! For full details visit NapaValleySpirit.com.