2020: A Year In Review

By on January 1, 2021


2020 started off normally enough, with winter sports and fun feature stories on hobbies, food and being a really good neighbor. And then it went completely off the rails.

COVID-19 upended life in Verona, from in-person schooling and extracurricular activities, to enjoying a nice meal out at the restaurants that do so much to support community projects here. The news of the first COVID case in Verona was followed almost as quickly by the news of the first deaths, and more of both would follow. By the end of the year, there would be 470 positive cases of the novel coronavirus among Veronans and 15 deaths, making COVID the third-leading cause of death in town. And there would be more than 11 pages of stories on the virus among the pages of MyVeronaNJ.

So we re-grouped. Fred Goode transformed his “Where In Verona Is It?” contest, which he had re-booted just before the start of the year, into a pandemic-friendly scavenger hunt, “Doors Of Verona.” From the middle of April to the middle of May, we watched in enjoyment as Verona families walked and biked all over town to win one of the 40 gift certificates that MyVeronaNJ purchased from Verona businesses. We watched in enjoyment as artist Alex Cook took an old ping-pong table and transformed it every week into a new message of hope for Verona, “You Are Loved.” We listened in enjoyment as Max Morden turned his front lawn into a pop-up concert venue. And we took heart in a motivational message that Scott Chesney sent us on April 5 that became the most-read story of 2020.

VHS grad Carmelo Sigona livened up the back walls of the Verona Inn with his graffiti art.

In 2020, MyVeronaNJ covered Verona government and school administration closely–but from a distance over Zoom. The Town Council continued its deliberations on the redevelopment of the Cameco, Poekel and Spectrum360 properties for affordable housing, and had a brief but vocal debate on allowing a medical marijuana dispensary in town.  The Board of Education approved plans for hybrid learning that allowed Verona students to shift between in-person and remote education as the pandemic ebbed and flared, and grappled with COVID-19’s heavy cost on Verona’s ever-tight school budget. State restrictions on in-person gatherings compelled the district to devise a multimedia graduation delivered–how else–over Zoom.

The world came to Verona in other ways too. The death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police officer prompted a large, peaceful rally for black lives in the center of Verona and a re-examination of race in Verona’s school curriculum.

After Verona created special outdoor dining permits this summer, The Thai Elephant converted a parking lot behind its restaurant into a place for dining under tents.

The pandemic was hard on Verona’s business community and they had to get creative to survive. Outdoor dining provided some relief, and we hope that outdoor dining will become a permanent fixture in Verona even once we are all allowed back indoors. We managed to get one new food business–Junior’s Cheesesteaks–and some very entrepreneurial middle schoolers.

Though the pandemic was far from over as 2020 ended, there were glimmers of hope. The growing numbers of former city dwellers buying houses here should mean a fresh group of customers for Verona businesses. Veronans have begun to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and to help others to get their shots

Thank you all for being our readers, and here’s to a better, brighter 2021.

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