Out to Lunch, Downtown ToNight replaced with small pop-up vendors due to covid
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Out to Lunch, Downtown ToNight replaced with small pop-up vendors due to covid

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Final Out to Lunch 2

A crowd sits on the steps in Caras Park listening to Missoula based blues/rock band MoneyPenny perform during the final Out to Lunch of the 2018 season.

The Out to Lunch and Downtown ToNight gatherings in Caras Park this summer have been canceled.

In previous years, the Wednesday and Thursday gatherings, with food vendors, live music and kids’ activities, drew thousands of people each week to the riverside pavilion and adjacent green spaces and seating areas.

That aspect of the events “make it nearly impossible to implement all the guidelines” the Missoula City-County Health Department needs to trace contacts if an attendee tests positive for COVID-19, according a news release sent Thursday from the Missoula Downtown Association.

“The need for more structure around assigned seating and the ability to mandate and enforce physical distancing at an event like Downtown ToNight is incredibly challenging, especially for a small organization that relies so much on volunteers and sponsors,” Linda McCarthy, the executive director of the Downtown Missoula Partnership, said in a news release.

In its place, the MDA will host “Downtown Missoula Pop-Ups” at Caras. Starting next week, vendors will serve food in “safe and appropriately distanced spaces,” sans live music and kids’ activities.

The new schedule is Tuesdays from 5-8 p.m.; Wednesdays from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; and Thursdays from 5-8 p.m. If the plan works, they may expand to the Missoula Art Park, Circle Square on North Higgins, and Silver or Ogren parks.

Large gatherings like Out to Lunch have been postponed and canceled all spring as organizers found difficulty finding ways to manage crowds.

Last week, the MDA called off the annual Garden City Brewfest, citing the closeness of crowds and difficulty of refilling glasses of beer.

The Missoula Peoples’ Market, held on Saturdays on East Pine Street, decided to cancel its entire season. The River City Roots Festival, also an open-air and free admission street event, won’t return in August, although alternative versions that are safer and smaller are under consideration.

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