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MERIDEN SPORTS REUNION: Amid pandemic, 39th annual event pushed off until April 2021

MERIDEN SPORTS REUNION: Amid pandemic, 39th annual event pushed off until April 2021

MERIDEN — Due to ongoing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic and the logistical problems it presents, the 39th annual Meriden Sports Reunion has been postponed until next spring.

The new date: April 6, 2021.

The venue remains the Meriden Elks Club. The Sportsmen of Distinction remain former Maloney High School stars Joe Annino Sr. and Gary Desjardins.

There is no need to buy a new ticket if you’ve already got one. Replacing a lost one won’t be a problem.

The only problem that proved insurmountable for the Sports Reunion Committee was finding a way to safely and successfully stage this year’s event.

“The group was concerned about all the issues and what we could be faced with,” committee chairman Patsy Papandrea said this week. “There were so many unknown issues we could be faced with. This was the best way to go.”

The reunion was initially postponed from its original April 7 date when the state shut down in mid-March. As the shutdown extended deep into May, the committee was hoping to reschedule the event some time in the fall.

But even as the state began to reopen — Phase 2 of Gov. Ned Lamont’s plan went into effect Wednesday, three days ahead of schedule — uncertainties remained. Namely, restaurants were limited to indoor dining at only 50 percent of capacity.

With a relatively small room like the Elks Club, that would have put the Sports Reunion in a bind.

“We count on a full house in order to make the donations we make to the Boys and Girls Club and Beat the Street,” Papandrea explained. “In order to do that, you’ve got to have a good raffle, and to have a good raffle, you’ve got to have people.

“It’s impossible. We averaged 215 to 220 the last five years. That puts you right out of it because we’re limited. We’re only allowed 50 percent of capacity, so that wouldn’t have worked.”

There was another side to the equation. Even if the event were held, would people go? The Sports Reunion draws a mostly older crowd, the very population that has been hit hardest by COVID-19.

​​“It would have put many people in the position of making a decision: Do I go or not?” Papandrea said. “We’d rather put it off and say, ‘Hey, your ticket’s good for next year; don’t worry about it.’”

Once that decision was made, Papandrea emailed people who had bought tickets. The response, he said, was overwhelmingly one of relief.

“This was the best option for us, there was no question about it,” Papandrea said. “I’m glad everyone agreed. We were all on the same page.”

Papandrea did acknowledge the committee could be facing the same situation as next April rolls around. Until the development of a vaccine, health experts have warned of recurring waves of the coronavirus.

“That went through my mind because of all the uncertainties with this situation,” Papandrea said. “The second wave they’re discussing — the possibility of a second wave. We’ll have to make decision at that time. We’ve got almost a year to work on it. Hopefully, by that time, most of this will be behind us.”

What’s for sure, the Sports Reunion Committee isn’t going to stake the reputation of its dinner on one bad play.

“A successful event, you don’t want to ruin it,” the chairman said. “It’s twice as hard, if at all, that you can bring it back.”