Side of Ranch: Jay Heater
By all accounts, the Mindful Triathlon, a somewhat strange blend of yoga, meditation and running, was a success in its inaugural Nov. 16, 2019 event.
More than 250 people showed up to run through the LakeHouse Cove and Shoreview communities of Waterside at Lakewood Ranch before stretching out on a mat to work their brains as much as their muscles. Considering this was a cooperative event between Lakewood Ranch Communities, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, Lakewood Ranch Community Activities and the Brain Health Initiative, it checked a lot of boxes.
Lakewood Ranch Communities was providing the residents with an alternative type of entertainment while also getting to showcase its Waterside community. For the Brain Health Initiative, Executive Director Stephanie Peabody was on hand to mingle with those participating and to spread education about the initiative's mission.
No doubt, Season 2 would be bigger.
But then COVID-19 came along, and like so many other events, the Mindful Triathlon at 9:30 a.m., Nov. 14, has taken a different look. The 5K portion of the triathlon will be virtual while the live portion of yoga and meditation will be held at Bob Gardner Community Park, with mats spread out to designated areas to assure social distancing. More than 60 people have signed up and anyone can join them right up to the day of the event by going to MyLWR.com for more information or to sign up.
I asked Monaca Onstad, the director of community relations for Lakewood Ranch Communities, about the threat of rain this weekend.
"Don't even go there," Onstad said with a painful groan, noting she has live music lined up for the event.
It's been six months of dodging landmines for Onstad, who won the 2017 Lifestyle Director of the Year Award from the National Association of home Builders' National Sales and Marketing Council and the Bull by the Horns Award from the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance in 2018 for her ability take on challenges.
"This will be our normal for a while," she said.
The Mindful Triathlon, however, is a good example of the type of event you will be finding in Lakewood Ranch for the next six months, if not more.
"In the beginning, this was frustrating," Onstad said. "Now it's all about how do we work through this. How do our neighbors connect with each other?"
The big events are in the tank for the foreseeable future, so Onstad said she will focus on events that draw 50 to 60 people.
"Those 50 to 60 people might really need this type of event, more than others," she said.
Onstad said she and her staff have learned the smaller events can be just as important as large events.
"We are smart enough ... passionate enough ... to figure this out," she said.
Along with her role with Lakewood Ranch Communities, Onstad now is chair of the board of Lakewood Ranch Community Activities. She wears both hats with similar goals as we turn toward 2021.
She is putting events into her budget, while not actively engaging any contracts. Her planning doesn't extend past three months.
"We're waiting for the other shoe to drop," she said.
With the pandemic not ready to release its grip, Lakewood Ranch Community Activities is concentrating on new parks programs such as yoga, barre, Mommy and Me music and Learn to Fish.
Although Christmas is coming in a hurry, Onstad said both Lakewood Ranch Communities and Lakewood Ranch Community Activities still are talking about what kinds of events can be held to give families something festive with bigger events such as Holidays Around the Ranch being cancelled. She has had discussions with the Players Center for Performing Arts about some kind of holiday entertainment, although nothing specific has been planned.
Some traditional Lakewood Ranch events have survived.
Onstad said the first day of the Market at Lakewood Ranch on Nov. 1 drew 1,500 patrons, a solid turnout. She noted that the Market has done so well it could become a year-round farmer's market that would eventually shift, perhaps by even this summer or fall, to Waterside Place, the entertainment and restaurant hub that is expected to open this spring.
She also noted Lakewood Ranch residents can keep up on all those smaller events, and the large ones, too, by accessing Lakewood Ranch Communities' new app, which went live last week and was downloaded by more than 1,800 residents. You can get access to the app at MyLWR.com.