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Over the summer, kids have had the opportunity to create “Reading is my Jam” posters through materials from curbside pickup. It’s just one of the many ways the Waseca-Le Sueur Regional Library System has adjusted its programming to accommodate for a socially distant summer. (Photo courtesy of Le Sueur Public Library)


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After months away, gyms, workout centers welcome back members

Andrea Burger can hardly believe the smiles and the energy coming from her Anytime Fitness clients. After being closed for nearly three months, the center and others throughout the state opened their doors June 10.

“I don’t even know how to describe seeing them all again and they all support each other in their fitness goals and they’re just happy to be back,” Burger said.

Gyms and workout centers finally opened as of Wednesday, June 10.

This comes after being closed due to safety concerns from COVID-19. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced all gyms would close March 17. Under certain guidelines, they can now open at 25% capacity. In Waseca County, numerous gyms and workout centers are open and ready to help members who rely on their services.

Opening with safety measures

The new guidelines also require the businesses to adopt a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that is implemented to keep staff and members safe from the novel coronavirus.

Guidelines include: ensure social distancing of 6 feet, limit capacity to 25 percent, encourage masks be worn, establish a regular disinfection routine, establish 6 feet or more between equipment and group exercise classes should follow social distancing with no person-to-person contact.

Gyms and workout centers have added cleaning and sanitizing procedures to help keep the staff and members safe while in the building. (Bailey Grubish/Waseca County News)

With the 25 percent capacity limit, Anytime Fitness has a capacity of 26 people, Fit Time has a capacity of 10 and Snap Fitness has a capacity of 60 people in the gym at one time. Another option is the Workout Center in Waseca.

Each of these gyms has added more hand sanitizer stations throughout the space, cleaning numerous times a day and spreading equipment apart along with other additional safety measures.

“It’s nice (to be open), there’s a lot of people who work out,” Snap Fitness Manager Jairus Volkmann said. “It’s nice they can get back to their routine and get back to feeling somewhat normal.”

Though the state presented guidelines that each gym is following, some are doing more than what is required.

“Something that we did on our own that I think and I feel really sets the tone for a safe environment is we installed the Reme Halo system,” Fit Time in Janesville owner Elisa Johnson said. “It runs in our air ducts and so it will kill 99 percent of airborne and surface germs. I felt like that was a good idea for even just the regular cold and flu season. Just to keep our members safe and community safe….”

At Anytime Fitness, complementary masks are being handed out and staff are encouraging members to wear one when they are unable to be 6 feet apart from others in the gym. While the state doesn’t require masks be worn while patrons are working out, they are encouraged to do so.

Cost of being closed

COVID-19 kept the gym closed for almost three months meaning little to no income for most.

With being closed the gyms weren’t able to bring in new members but to help current members out some of the local facilities suspended member fees or cut the price.

Fit Time in Janesville gave a discount of 50% off membership fees for June and didn’t charge membership dues in April or May.

Shortly after being forced to close, the owner of Snap Fitness decided to waive membership dues for April and postponed the annual club enhancement fee.

Volkmann posted on the Snap Fitness Facebook page “If you still decide to cancel, please remember we are a locally owned small business. As it is for many, this situation is putting significant financial strain on our club and its employees.”

Gyms were able to help members with suspended dues or discounts, but the clubs and their owners still had bills to pay for the almost three months they were closed.

At Fit Time in Janesville, Johnson says her bank helped with low interest rates. Another big help for her was the community of Janesville.

“Our community really stepped up and the school bought gift cards,” Johnson said. “So I will be really thankful for them for a long time.”

Snap Fitness also worked closely with its sister company, Pizza Ranch during the closure.

When people got takeout, they were to keep their receipt and write their name on the back. Once Snap Fitness reopened they hosted a drawing for a free two months.

Keeping active at home

Gyms are now open with the procedure changes to keep members and employees safe, but while they were closed being on social media was key.

During the closure, members were still being served through online workouts and an app that provided free at home workouts. At Fit Time in Janesville online workouts were key.

“When we were closed we didn’t charge for memberships and more often in the beginning we posted several videos online like ab workouts and general ideas of getting into a running routine,” Johnson said. We were trying to stay connected with the community. …”

Anytime Fitness offered coaching through an app that offers at-home workouts without equipment. Live workouts were also offered periodically through the Facebook page and Instagram account.

“I think we’re just really excited to be back,” Burger said. “It’s so great to be back and to see our fit fam reuniting. That’s the best part, seeing our members get to work on their health and fitness.”

Snap Fitness also had trainers offer online workouts when the gym was closed.

“Things are pretty much back to where we were,” Volkmann said. “Probably after the Fourth of July we will be doing more classes and stuff….”

At Snap Fitness some classes have been returned to start with, more will be back soon. Dance cardio blast and circuit training are being offered currently.

“We’re super excited that we can be open at any capacity,” Johnson said. “We felt like we had a good plan to keep our community safe and we were definitely ready to be open.”


Waseca youths return volleys from Waseca tennis players back at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the courts. Youth tennis returned to the courts through community education this week. (County News file photo)


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Virus forces Hay Daze 2020 cancellation

The Janesville Chamber of Commerce wants residents to look on the bright side when it comes to the cancellation of Hay Daze, the city’s annual summer festival.

The three-day celebration, which closes a portion of North Main Street to make way for carnival games and rides, live music, and plenty of fair food and fun during the third weekend in June, will skip its 60th anniversary due to concerns over COVID-19.

The Hay Daze Committee felt it should cancel the celebration due to the uncertainty that comes with the COVID-19 pandemic. It was uncertain if the attendees would have to wear a mask, what the limit on numbers of people who can gather would be or how to keep everything sanitized properly. There were too many risks and the committee kept the attendees, staff and volunteers in mind when deciding to postpone until next year.

“It really was a heartbreaking decision,” Janesville Chamber President Laura Seys said of canceling Hay Daze. “We struggled with public health vs. the inherent need for people to be sociable. Now, more than ever, I feel people would have looked forward to it.”

Instead the 61st anniversary celebration of Hay Daze will have some additional events or specialities dedicated to the 60th year for a combined effort next summer.

Another factor in the decision of canceling the event was funding.

COVID-19 has kept some businesses closed completely while others have been at a limited capacity for the past two and a half months. The committee didn’t feel comfortable asking these businesses for money when it has not been able to be fully open or serving customers.

This money is generally used for sponsorships in the parade, a golf tournament, the beer garden and other events and for rental equipment.

Hay Daze is planned months in advance with new events added and dates of the events scheduled long before the celebration takes place.

“We were really excited this year mainly because it was our 60th year so we wanted to celebrate a little bit more and we spent more money on the bands; IV Play and Pop Rocks,” committee member Chuck Quast said. “We just invested more this year into that and that’s what we were looking forward to. …”

Planning for next year’s celebration has already begun. There were a few new additions, such as face painters, parade performers and a larger band for the street dance.

“All of the money we had down on events planned have been applied to next year’s event,” Seys said. “Everyone we worked with was amazing at allowing us to do this and we can’t thank them enough.”

Because Hay Daze always falls on Father’s Day weekend, the Chamber, on its Facebook page, encouraged residents to look forward to next year’s celebration.

“Please don’t look at this as a negative, but rather turn it into something positive,” read a post on its page. With so many of our fathers having to compete with Hay Daze for 59 years, please make this year extra special for them. Take this time to spend it with and make it the most memorable for your father, brother, son, husband or any other father figure in your life.”


Janesville and Waseca are working on street improvements this summer. (Bailey Grubish/Waseca County News)


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Restaurants and bars welcome back patrons

Restaurants and bars are welcoming back customers after almost three months.

These establishments have been closed to in-house seating since March 17 due to COVID-19. Restaurants were able to continue takeout orders while the shutdown was in place with steps being taken over the course of the closure to allow it to reopen.

This change comes less than a week after the Governor’s office allowed these businesses to open for outside seating only.

“It’s been nice to be kind of back to quote un-quote normal when it comes to the inside here (at Brew’d Awakenings),” part owner Amanda Slaughter said. “It’s been nice to see people. I feel like the town was so supportive during COVID-19, a lot of people did use our window and we saw a lot of people during that time. That was nice. I think that was huge for us.”

Brew’d Awakenings in Janesville is open inside serving customers again along with numerous other restaurants and bars in Waseca County.

Guidelines to open

In order to be open inside there are guidelines that need to be followed due to COVID-19.

In order for the restaurants and bars to reopen each one had to come up with a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that was submitted to the city council. These plans are a way for the businesses to keep staff and customers safe.

Along with each business needing a preparedness plan, Minnesota Employment and Economic Development provided guidelines for each to follow.

These guidelines are: follow social distancing of six feet or more, limit indoor occupant capacity to no more than 50 percent, do not exceed 250 persons in outdoor spaces, limit table service to four persons, or six if part of one family unit, require reservations and require workers to wear masks at all times and strongly encourage customers to wear masks when not eating or drinking.

Most restaurants and bars also implemented additional hand sanitizer dispensers around the area along with additional cleaning and sanitizing between customers.

Katie O’Leary’s Beef and Brew in Waseca uses disposable menus and pre-packaged silverware for precaution.

“It’s actually been really good,” Katie O’Leary’s manager Angie Breck said of being open. “I was anticipating a slow start and wasn’t sure if people were going to be scared. Everybody was wanting to get out and the weather has helped. People are being cautious. People who are coming out are excited to come out and see people and get a drink. Hopefully it continues through the summer.”

Being closed

Katie O’Leary’s opened on June 1 for the first time in almost three months after making the decision to not offer takeout.

“At the time we didn’t think that it would be worth it as far as having staff there and inventory on hand,” Breck said of not offering take out during the closure. “We don’t do a ton of takeout. We offer it but not a lot so at the time it wouldn’t be worth it.

“In hindsight if we had known it was going to be two and a half months it would have been worth it. We’re just happy that we can be open and people really seem to enjoy being able to get out and see people and visit with people.”

Brew’d Awakenings in Janesville kept the walk-up window to the bistro open for customers to get takeout. During this time the bistro added online ordering to help better serve the customers.

To bring in more people a special of the day was offered on Thursdays and Fridays during the closure and that will continue now as well. Brew’d Awakenings is now running summer hours of Monday through Wednesday 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 7:30 to 1 p.m.

Other restaurants around Waseca and Janesville offered take out and delivery while closed to customers.

Impact

Takeout was a way for restaurants to still have some income during the closure due to the pandemic because bills didn’t stop coming in.

“You don’t realize when your doors are completely closed you still have a mortgage and bills and that stuff doesn’t stop,” Breck said.

Katie O’Leary’s didn’t offer take out so there was little to no income but the staff took advantage and did some repairs to the business.

“We’ll recover from it,” Breck said.

Brew’d Awakenings had to make some sacrifices while closed because of the pandemic.

All of the staff was laid off during the closure to help with costs along with cutting breakfast items since it was less popular during that time. Gift cards were also bought by community members to help. These measures helped keep the business afloat.

Along with the bistro Brew’d Awakenings also has a catering business that was shut down, adding to the revenue loss.

Since opening inside some staff has been brought back to help with the lunch hour but full staff has not been hired back yet.

“I think the community was a huge support and that was very helpful to make it through these times of unknown,” Slaughter said.