Villages lifestyle mainstays are back

Popular band Johnny Wild and The Delights are scheduled to perform Oct. 21 at Spanish Springs Town Square. Entertainment on the squares in The Villages returns this evening with limited capacity.

Get ready for a fun day of club meetings at recreation centers and live entertainment on all three town squares. Both activities resume today at limited capacity with guidelines to ensure a safe and smooth transition back into the active Villages lifestyle. Recreation centers are welcoming back exercise groups and other social clubs at a limited capacity. Residents are encouraged to wear face masks and maintain a distance of 6 feet whenever possible. Recreation centers reopened in May for limited capacity craft groups, like glass fusion and quilting, to attend regular meetings. Because the craft clubs can have one person at each table, social distancing was achievable. Pam Henry, recreation manager for lifestyles, events and public relations, said the Recreation and Parks Department is glad to have clubs return after so many quiet months. “We are very pleased to be able to allow the resident lifestyle groups to restart,” she said. “It’s these activities that attracted many of the residents to The Villages.”

The department modified the current schedule of meeting times and maximum room capacity to allow for social distancing between guests, allow them time to enter and exit the facilities and give staff time to properly clean and set up the rooms for the next events.

Social clubs will determine among themselves how members will attend meetings. Henry said many canceled their October meetings so they have time to organize their first meetings back.

Cindy Duncan, leader of popular Cardio Drumming classes, has created a lottery system for those who attend her class.

During peak season, Duncan’s class reaches maximum capacity. To avoid people waiting for hours before class starts or the same people missing out, everyone’s name went into a lottery, and those who were picked for the first class aren’t eligible for the next one.

This way, Duncan hopes everyone gets to attend class at least once.

“I was doing small outdoor gatherings for class, and we called it Driveway Drumming,” Duncan said. “But as it got hotter out we had to start earlier in the morning and later at night.”

Duncan said she and all the drummers are grateful the recreation centers are open to them once again.

Social clubs that involve food, like potlucks or luncheons, are also welcome to return as long as they follow the new guidelines for the kitchens.

Kitchens may be used on a limited basis, with no prepping, warming or cooking permitted, and all serving dishes and cutlery must be disposable.

Coffee pots, water, ice and other food and beverages will not be provided by the department until further notice, Henry said.

Groups that returned in May, like the quilting chapters, are excited to welcome back the rest of the clubs.

Theresa Ierardi, president of the Quilting Guild of The Villages, said many chapters had to meet outdoors or go without meeting because only the regional recreation centers supported chapter meetings.

 Out of more than 20 chapters, only a few met in person each week.

“We’re definitely looking forward to when we can all see each other again,” she said. “It may take a while longer, but the guild is ready.”

At 5 p.m., Villages residents also can enjoy live music once again, starting with Trip 19 at Spanish Springs, Studio 77 at Lake Sumter Landing and Paisley Craze at Brownwood.

As The Villages Community Development District enters a new phase of reopening, The Villages Entertainment announced social distancing guidelines for the squares.

To enter the squares, visitors must pick up a free pass from The Villages Box Office windows, online at tickets.thevillages.com or by calling 352-753-3229. They will need to select the square and the day they wish to attend.

The passes will be available starting seven days prior to the chosen date. They will be valid for the entire evening and allow re-entry to the squares.

Capacities at each square will be limited and will vary based on the size of each square, said Brian Russo, director of entertainment.

“This will allow us to ensure everyone is able to distance themselves appropriately and to their comfort level,” Russo said.

When squares open around 4:15 p.m., all participants will have their tickets scanned before entering. Staff will be available to assist at the main entrance.

Chairs will not be provided, so those who attend the live entertainment are asked to bring their own. Dancing will be allowed, Russo said.

“Although it will limit how many people can access the squares in the beginning, the goal was to minimize the impact on their enjoyment as much as possible. We feel the rules we have laid out maximizes their ability to enjoy the squares,” Russo said.

The October music lineup will include nearly all of the bands residents have enjoyed in the past.

One of those bands, Cactus Jack and the Cadillacs, will return Oct. 13 to Brownwood for the first time since March.

The five-piece band consisting of two guitarists, a bass player, a keyboard player and a drummer will play an assortment of danceable songs from the ’50s through the ’80s.

Guitarist Jim Stanley, also known as “Cactus Jack,” said the group has been together for nearly 40 years, 20 of which have been spent playing in The Villages.

After that long, he said the band has made plenty of friends in The Villages.

“It’ll be nice to see the people we know, and we always have that certain group of people that, every time we play, they’re always there,” he said. “It’s going to be nice to play and have them see each other again also. That’s the biggest thing, seeing people with smiles on their faces again.”

Stanley enjoys the layout of Brownwood, but in terms of nostalgia, Spanish Springs might be his favorite.

“As far as the ambiance and closeness to the crowd and since we’ve played so many years, it’s Spanish Springs because of the way it’s laid out and that was the first square we ever played,” he said.

Bob Friend and his wife, Grace, of the Village of Duval, typically come out to Lake Sumter Landing at least twice a week.

“My wife and I both like to dance – that’s our main reason to go there,” said Friend.

He said he plans to be there as the square reopens tonight.

“You have to start somewhere,” he said.

Along with the music, visitors can buy a drink from the bar huts, which will have clear barriers in between bartenders and guests and will be operating with a limited menu to keep lines short.

For now, there will not be happy hour, though Russo said it will return soon.

The department will closely monitor the squares and make adjustments as needed to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, said Russo.

“I’m just thrilled we’re able to open again,” Russo said. “This is a huge step towards our entire community getting back to The Villages lifestyle we all love. The squares are an iconic part of this lifestyle, and we’re so glad they’re coming back.”

For more information about social distancing guidelines, a layout of the squares and the monthly calendar of entertainment, visit thevillagesentertainment.com.