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A CARES Act-funded county program will continue to bring some physically distanced events to city.

After nearly eight months of social distancing, cancellations of favorite spring and summer public events, and winter ahead, people are desperate for social activities in their communities — not only for fun but for their mental health, too.

But communities in Washington County can expect to see some public events coming up geared toward supporting mental health and social connectedness during the pandemic.

"What we're all missing right now is that connection because there is a sense of isolation," said Nancy Nye, Hillsboro's senior recreation manager of cultural arts and events. "People like to go to fairs and festivals because it's a feeling of celebration, and I think we've been missing that feeling."

Washington County recently allocated $1 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to fund "mental health and community psyche grants." Grant recipients were to hold events in accordance with public health guidance that would support public mental health and the community psyche during the pandemic.

Hillsboro was designated as the convener of the funds for District 4, which covers western Washington County, including North Plains, Cornelius, Gaston, Forest Grove and Banks. The cities submitted applications to have grant-supported events.

Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District was the designated convener for Districts 1 and 2, which covers Beaverton to unincorporated areas north of Highway 26.

Each district was allocated $250,000 in funding. The county has not yet identified a convener for District 3, according to the county's website.

COURTESY PHOTO  - Community members at the Gordon Faber Recreation Complex, where Hillsboro created drive-in movie events in August and September as a pandemic modification to the city's annual Pix in the Park series.Hillsboro already used some of the money to move the El Grito holiday celebration online with a virtual event and transition its annual Pix in the Park film screenings to drive-in movie events at the Gordon Faber Recreation Complex.

The final two of the four drive-in movie events were funded by the psyche grants. Hillsboro opened its limited registration for the two events intentionally to capture people from western Washington County, as the grants required, Nye said.

Hillsboro received multiple grant applications from Forest Grove, including those for the city's pandemic-modified corn roast and the "Trick or Treat the Merchants" Halloween event. The grants also swill upport the Forest Grove Lions Club's Turkey Trot 5K on Nov. 21 and holiday lighting events in Banks and Cornelius.

Hillsboro will use the funds for two ongoing events that will begin soon.

COURTESY PHOTO  - Hillsboro Parks & Recreation staff prepare to welcome people to a drive-in movie as part of a modified Pix in the Park program. The change in the annual program was funded in part by a county grant program aimed at creating pandemic-safe community events.Since the city had to cancel its annual Winter Village ice rink, Hillsboro will be putting on a drive-thru holiday lights display called 'Lightopia' — the first of its kind in western Washington County.

"We're calling it 'an illuminated journey,'" Nye said. "It's something we're all really excited about."

The event will open Friday, Nov. 27, and last through Saturday, Jan. 30. It will feature a one-third of a mile route (30 minutes) with thousands of feet of lights, which will include "seasonal light vignettes ranging from funny and familiar (think: Santa's elves) to dazzling that will delight folks young and old," according to a city statement. Attendees will receive a free treat and a concurrent audio program using car radios timed to the light display.

COURTESY PHOTO  - Community members at the Gordon Faber Recreation Complex, where Hillsboro created drive-in movie events in August and September as a pandemic modification to the city's annual Pix in the Park series.The event will be free and open to all. The city encourages people to bring an item to donate for the Hillsboro Fire & Rescue's Random Acts of Kindness event, the Hillsboro Elks Lodge's Toy & Joy holiday toy drive from Nov. 27 to Dec. 10, or nonperishable food donations for local food banks.

Stacy Ahlberg, Hillsboro's special events supervisor, said the event also will include themed nights.

"It will add an extra layer of fun, so for example, it could be dressing up in your favorite ugly sweater," Ahlberg said.

Nye said over the course of the event, as many as 10,000 cars will be able to see it.

She said the city also is planning to devise methods to get people who don't have cars or who can't drive to give them access to the event.

The city's other event will be a community art project designed to allow people to express how they are experiencing the pandemic.

"The goal is to create a permanent visual display — a mural or art installation — that engages a wide variety of community members," Nye said.

The city plans to identify artists in each District 4 city who will create a theme for the art made by residents in their location.

The city plans to distribute the materials for people to participate in late November, and they will have until about the end of January to complete their work. The art installation showing everyone's work is expected to go up in the spring.

Nye said she and her colleagues came up with the event because they're familiar with research that shows how community art projects contribute to the overall well-being of communities.

"These events will provide those opportunities not only for us to gather in a safe way, to see one another in a safe way, but also to have that feeling of community," Nye said.


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