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Getting together again

With loosened COVID restrictions taking effect, gyms, museums and Marshall’s senior center welcoming people back

Photo by Deb Gau Joyce Greeley and Carol Menkerk jotted down their answers during a round of a fill-in-the-blank word game at the Marshall Adult Community Center on Friday morning. After weeks of being closed for social gatherings, area seniors started meeting at the ACC again Tuesday for socially-distanced games on Tuesday. COVID-19 restrictions on museums and gyms are set to loosen on Monday.

MARSHALL — Restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 affected a wide range of gathering places — from gyms to community spaces like senior centers. Things are still a way off from normal, but as some restrictions started to loosen this month, Marshall area residents and business owners are looking forward to meeting friends and clients in person again.

At Marshall’s Adult Community Center, people were gathering for the first time in weeks. Although they needed to follow mask and social distancing rules, seniors said it was good to meet with friends again.

“We have this camaraderie,” Joyce Greeley said. Greeley was one of eight ACC members who signed up to play the word game Blank Slate on Friday morning. Some of the players said they’d visited the center to play bingo and other games every day since Tuesday, when it re-opened.

Marshall’s Adult Community Center spent much of the past year closed for in-person visits.

“It’s been a long haul. Most of the seniors have been isolated since March,” ACC coordinator Barb Lipinski said.

The center closed down last March due to COVID-19 concerns. But over the summer the center’s roughly 700 members formed a phone tree to check in with each other every other week, Lipinski said. In the fall, the ACC re-opened for only about six weeks before Minnesota saw COVID cases spike in November.

Fortunately, the second shutdown didn’t last as long. Now, the ACC has started offering some social activities like games again, although participants do have to reserve a spot, and people are screened as they check in at the center, Lipinski said.

“We’ve had really good turnout,” Lipinski said. People were looking for important social connections again. “You could see the joy in them,” she said.

Finding more space to work out

A year ago, coaches at Restored Strength in Marshall would never have figured they’d be excited to have only 9 feet of space between clients instead of 12 feet. But it would be good to be able to hold group fitness classes starting next week, Saara Raappana said.

“Our members have been really supportive and understanding of all the changes we had to make,” Raappana said.

Gyms and fitness centers were among the businesses impacted by shutdowns and capacity restrictions for COVID-19 over the past year. Raappana said the changing conditions meant a lot of changes for Restored Strength, and one of the hardest parts was keeping up.

“We had to pivot really quickly,” she said. Capacity and social distancing restrictions that were put in place for gyms this winter — including requirements that people working out be 12 feet apart — helped spur Restored Strength to move into a bigger location in Marshall.

“We were really limited before,” she said. Coaches would only have had enough space to work with one person at a time.

The loosening of spacing and group class restrictions that was announced this week come in time for a January jump-start fitness program Restored Strength had planned. Raappana said it was also good to see that Restored Strength members stuck with them through the fall shutdowns affecting fitness centers.

Continuing the holiday tradition

Indoor entertainment venues — a category including museums — were shut down for the second time this year in November. For the Lyon County Museum in Marshall, it meant trying to find alternative ways to share the annual indoor Christmas Tree Walk with the public.

The first day the Christmas Tree Walk was scheduled to open was the day the museum had to close, said director Jennifer Andries. The museum responded by sharing photos of the decorated trees online and through social media. People were able to vote for their favorite trees as well.

“There was a really good response to it,” Andries said. But now that the museum can open again Monday, the tree walk will be extended, so area residents get a chance to see it in person and vote for the best trees.

“We plan on having the trees and decorations up through the end of the month,” Andries said. Starting Monday, museum hours will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturdays. Andries said the later hours will hopefully work well for people to visit.

Starting Monday, the museum will be able to share its new second-floor exhibit gallery with the public. The grand opening for the exhibit, which focuses on Lyon County from the end of World War II to the present day, ended up getting canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

“On Monday, we’re just going to open it up,” Andries said. Hopefully, the museum can have a grand opening celebration at a later date.

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