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When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered doors and left downtown nearly deserted, John Oh, along with many other restaurant owners and merchants, looked forward to a day when they could welcome the community back.

“I think initially I said I just wanted to see people coming outside and drinking and dancing in the streets and it’s kind of funny because now it’s happening — kind of surreal, it’s a hard feat and a lot of work,” Oh said.

Businesses will get that chance for community celebration on Saturday evening as Tracy City Center Association hosts the free to attend Social at Sunset from 6 to 9 p.m. on 10th Street and Central Avenue.

“I think we’ve told that story many times during COVID about what we would like to see — we didn’t think it would take 15 months,” Oh said. “But now that we’re here, we’re able to schedule a few new events under the TCCA umbrella outside of what we’ve done in the past. This was one of the things we kind of talked about and tried to figure out how we could make something free to attend for all ages.”

Oh, owner of The Commons and president of TCCA, hopes Saturday’s event featuring music, dancing, food and beverages will bring people back together in downtown.

“What better than to have a party to reintroduce downtown Tracy, our merchants, everyone, back to the community. Kind of a welcome back sort of deal,” Oh said. “Kind of talked about and tried to figure out how we could make something free to attend for all ages.”

Central Avenue will be closed from 11th Street down to Sixth Street with 10th Street closed from A Street to Central Avenue.

DJs playing classic rock, reggae, house, country and hits from the 90s and 2000s will be at 10th and A streets, Central Avenue and 10th Street, in front of the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts and another at the Front Street Plaza on Sixth Street.

“We wished we could have done it sooner. June 15 hit and we were like the following weekend, but ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) was a week out in terms of processing licenses and they got bombarded. We had to take out permits through the city and that takes time,” Oh said.

Two food trucks will be at the social, joining restaurants and bars that will be open for the evening. Beer, wine, soft drinks and water will be for sale at the TCCA booth.

Dino Margaros, TCCA executive director, wants people to come out and enjoy the music and explore the downtown shops and restaurants.

“Kind of welcome everybody back to normal, somewhat normal. We realize that there is still stuff going on with COVID. There are restrictions that are coming down. But as of right now, I would just say if you want to wear a mask, wear a mask if that’s what you feel comfortable with. There’s not a mask requirement per se but we want people to feel comfortable,” Margaros said. “There will be plenty of spacing as far as area of people to congregate and mingle, that kind of thing. It’s outdoors so the risks are relatively low.”

The social is being presented with sponsorship from Tracy Hills, The Station, The Commons and Juniors, along with a donation by Dan and Cindy Schack to bring Mister Softee for free soft serve ice cream.

“People were just donating to get this event to happen,” Margaros said. “It’s got to pencil out for us obviously. We’ve gone without events for 16 months, which is a pretty big hit to our budget but the second John talked to anybody they were all willing to step up whether it’s restaurants, whether it’s merchants, whether it’s developers, stuff like that, they were all ready to write a check and say let’s do it. We’re excited about and get back to some sense of normalcy.”

The social kicks off several events planned for downtown by TCCA.

“We are compacting a year’s worth of events into five months,” Margaros said.

In the coming months, as long as conditions allow, TCCA plans to bring back the Downtown Wine Stroll on Sept. 18, the Halloween Candy Crawl on Oct. 30, Taps on Tenth on Nov. 6, the Holiday Ornament Stroll and Open House on Nov. 13 and the Downtown Holiday Light Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony on Dec 4.

“This is all assuming nothing changes,” Margaros said. “we’re abiding by COVID (regulations) to the extent that we have to, and we don’t know what two weeks from now will bring,” Margaros said.

“I think merchants are looking for the events to get the people, the foot traffic to get people used to and comfortable coming down. We’ve had the streatery out there for a while, we’re transitioning into parklets, it’s kind of that transition phase where we know what was normal before, but we don’t know what’s normal going forward.”

• Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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