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Strange days, indeed

These are some very strange times.

Normally at this time of year, the calendar of events being held across the region would be full. There would be fundraisers for local charities, annual dinners held by various organizations and other year-end meetings.

We’d be getting notice of all sorts of activities from area schools: Awards dinners, releases detailing the casts of numerous musicals, by now even details about a graduation speaker or two. And all of that would be squeezed around a busy slate of spring sports activities.

Students at area colleges and universities, meanwhile, would be counting down toward their finals, all of it coming just weeks before friends and relatives from around the country would descend on our region for the annual commencement rituals.

But this year, the period that includes the last few weeks of winter and the first several weeks of spring, usually a busy time, is unusually quiet.

It has to be, because as we have been reminded time and again, social distancing remains one of our greatest defenses in the fight against COVID-19.

The list of events that are not being held right now seems to only get longer as time passes. Only a few of those have been outright listed as cancellations — most have been reported as postponements. And that’s good, because it means the organizers have decided to press on with plans, hopeful they will be able to hold their events when the coronavirus concerns have been lifted.

Two more weeks? Three more weeks? A month? Two months? It’s anybody’s guess right now as to when our lives can begin to even approach something that is even a little bit more like normal.

And that can make it tough to reschedule an event, a situation that is compounded by having to deal with other events such as graduation parties, weddings and the accompanying receptions and reunions, family and class, that have held onto their dates in June, July and August.

Remember, it’s not just local events that are affected — big events, such as opening day for Major League Baseball, the start of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs and the NBA Playoffs, the Masters, the Kentucky Derby, the Indianapolis 500, the Olympics — even our Ohio primary election.

Among those national events that are in limbo right now is the Scripps National Spelling Bee. And that affects us because we help to present the Jefferson-Harrison County Regional Spelling Bee. The winner of that bee earns a spot in the national bee, which has traditionally been held during the week of Memorial Day in Washington, D.C., or one of its suburbs.

Our regional bee, which had been scheduled for March 14, had to be postponed. It is one of 97 regional bees that have yet to be held, which means there are a lot of open slots remaining in the 252-person field. Last week, officials with the national bee announced that their event would be postponed.

Officials with Scripps, which has sponsored the bee since 1925, are hopeful that the 93rd event — there was no competition from 1943-45 because of World War II — can still be held, even if that means having to wait until August or even September.

Locally, Ron Sismondo and other representatives with the Jefferson County Educational Service Center, which coordinates all of the spelling bee activities, indicated they are willing to work with Scripps to send a local speller to the national event once a clear path to a make-up date can be established.

If — make that when — the regional bee is held, it also will be thanks to our sponsors, a list that includes S.T.A.R.T., 360 Safe Solutions and Old Glory Embroidery; Ascent Resources; Encino Energy; the Franciscan University of Steubenville; Tri-State Financial Services; Gary Cain Realty and Auctioneers; Gus’s Goodies; McBane Insurance and Financial Services; Huntington Bank; PNC Bank; Merriam-Webster Inc.; and the Ohio Lottery Commission.

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Another casualty of the concerns about the coronavirus was this year’s Ohio Associated Press Media Editors awards luncheon and state meeting in Columbus. The one-day event, which had been scheduled this year for May 9, offers a chance to catch up with friends from across the state, hear about the latest initiatives from the AP and receive recognition when the order of placement in the annual contest is revealed.

And, while there’s no event this year, the members of the Herald-Star staff who won awards this year deserve to be recognized one more time. We won seven awards this year, including first-place staff awards for best public service for Community Stars and in best special sports section for The Gridiron.

Individually, Community Editor Janice Kiaski finished second in best columnist; Sports Editor Joe Catullo finished second in best sports writer and third in best sports photo; and Andrew Grimm finished third in best sports columnist. Their efforts are impressive day-in and day-out, and the honors are richly deserved.

The seventh award belonged to me, which was a second in the category of best editorial writer.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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