New Villagers getting back to business

Mike Halligan, left, and Neal Koellish grill hot dogs for Thursday’s Summer Beach Party at Tugaloo Beach Pavilion.

The New Villagers Club is slowly resuming operations and finding ways to adapt to social-distancing limitations.

The club canceled all of its functions after March 11. Until that point, new Tellico Village residents were participating in tours, sporting events and other activities organized by club leadership.

Among the events were the New Villager Socials held during the first week of every month. Those socials were a “portal” for “new, new Villagers” to truly be introduced to Tellico Village, Mike Blackwell, club president, said.

“We set up all kinds of tables so they can talk to event coordinators, sign up for events and activities, do things like that,” Blackwell said. “Then we have a business portion of the meeting where we introduce new Villagers to the rest of the people present, the newest new Villagers. We give away door prizes, and again those are things connected to local places like the Village salon or dining certificates like the Village restaurant.

“It’s been difficult especially on the newest arrivals to the Village because they have had no sort of a portal to their social life here,” he added. “Imagine moving here in mid-March, and you don’t have any way to meet other people, find out about other things in the area, do things for the better part of six months. That’s kind of difficult.”

The club resumed socials in a limited setting in June in order to give the newest Villagers some exposure, Blackwell said. The social was held at Toqua Pavilion and split into two sessions with a 30-minute break in between to sanitize everything. Both sessions were limited to New Villagers who had arrived after March 1, and there was a strict limit of 40 Villagers and 10 board members at each session.

The social was so well received the board decided to move forward with limited socials, open to all New Villagers, with a 40-person limit.

Karen Halligan, vice president of activities, said the club has also begun introducing newest members during the shutdown through its newsletter. New Villagers submit a picture and few sentences describing themselves. If someone sees a newer member is interested in RVs, the person could introduce the new member to the RV club, Halligan said.

The club has also been looking for ways to enjoy time outdoors.

“Most of the activities we have are raft-offs like flotillas, things outside. Last year we’d go to a restaurant,” Halligan said. “This year, we’re just having everybody pack their own lunch and their own beverages because we want everyone to be safe. Used to be, a pontoon in a flotilla could take 10 people. Now they’re just taking six, so people can socially distance. So we’re trying to be as safe as we can.”

Other activities taking place include dining out at restaurants and New Villagers golf. Gatherings like Civil War lectures and music trivia will soon be hosted in the Yacht Club. However, Halligan said the spots for those will fill up fast.

“Some New Villagers get mad because they go online and go, ‘Well, this is closed already,’ but out of 1,000 people, and these events are small,” Halligan said. “We have to keep everything out of 50. You’re very restricted, so that’s our challenge now.”

Melly Strand, events committee volunteer, helped organize Thursday’s Summer Beach Party. Strand suggested the beach party when Halligan was looking for summer activity ideas.

New Villagers gathered 1-4 p.m. at Tugaloo Beach Pavilion for the free event to enjoy friends, food and fun. Strand invited Maria and Dakota Toney, Toney’s Italian Ice owners and New Villagers, to offer a sweet and refreshing treat after she saw them operating at the Tellico Village farmer’s market.

“I really encourage everyone to volunteer,” Strand said. “Everyone here in the Village has something to offer, some kind of skill, some kind of background in something, and what I’m doing, I don’t know anything about what I’m doing, and it’s working out OK.”