In June, the International Moose Convention brought 5,000 people to the Greater Cincinnati region. On Sunday, Pure Romance held its annual national training weekend in person after more than one year, bringing around 2,500 to the Duke Energy Convention Center.
As the events -- and the revenue for local convention centers, hotels and restaurants -- return to Cincinnati, they still don't all look exactly as they did in 2019 as concerns over increased COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant mount.
"We were told to wear our masks when we were in crowded situations, when we're going out and about, going to restaurants, things like that," said Ashley Farmer, who attended the Pure Romance convention "They did split us up and had several different rooms we were able to go to, so it didn't feel like we were sitting on top of each other. Extra chairs were everywhere. They really did make sure they took care of us and protected us."
Some at the event could be seen wearing masks; others chose not to don one. Farmer said, despite the delta variant, she felt comfortable throughout the weekend.
Chris Cicchinelli, CEO and president of Pure Romance, said getting back to an in-person event was important and precautions were key to pulling it off while helping everyone feel comfortable.
"You can do a lot of Zooms, you can do a lot of Teams, but you can't deny the factor of being together and having that one-on-one connection and that energy that you feel," he said. "I know we've all missed it and I know a lot of people are wanting to get it back in their lives, especially with their businesses, so this was a really big thing for us to do. But we did it with a lot of steps, a lot of precautions, a lot of making sure that everybody was taking steps to be safe while they're here."
The delta variant's effect and rise in COVID-19 cases have occurred since the International Moose Convention in June. Since then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new recommendations and masking guidances that many businesses and events have chosen to adopt.
"You know, with the delta variant, we've been very cautious about making sure that, again, everybody is wearing their mask, there's sanitation stations everywhere, you know, just really making sure people are using common sense to work together," said Cicchinelli.