LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. – Many locals have recently started practicing social distancing to combat the spread of COVID-19. Events are cancelled or postponed, school is out, and people are starting to feel stir crazy. During times of wide-spread crisis, ingenuity and a strong sense of community are especially important.
Earlier this week, Old Kinderhook Director of Business Development Jasen Jones shared an innovative idea to his personal Facebook page: a way for community members to safely gather together while still staying a safe distance away from one another by meeting up this Friday at 7 p.m. (while remaining quarantined in vehicles) in Lake Ozark and cruising the Bagnell Dam Strip.
"Add some glow sticks to your dash so we know who's looping while you wave and honk," Jasen said. "Let's make some noise and brighten up LOTO!" Drivers can make as many loops down Bagnell Dam as they want and can even take a detour across the toll bridge for free, as the bridge is currently not collecting tolls.
The idea picked up speed in local social media groups, and now it's a plan, and it even has a name: Loops On The Strip. It'll begin at 7 p.m. and go until... well, until it ends. Jasen added this would be a good opportunity for cruisers to order carryout or curbside pick-up from the many restaurants along the Strip whose business has declined over the past couple of weeks due to COVID-19.
Jasen, originally from New Madrid, MO, a small town in the Missouri Boot Heel, said that as a teenager, meeting up and cruising New Madrid's strip is how he and his friends spent a lot of their time on the weekends, and the same can be said for numerous small towns across the state. Jasen said that he feels participants will feel uplifted by the community coming together to create something positive and will also relish in youthful memories and other feelings of nostalgia.
Long-time Lake area resident Rusty Scott says he is thrilled about the idea. "Back in the day, from the 1980s until around 2000, the main thing that everybody wanted to do on the weekends was to meet down at the Strip and cruise."
Cruising the Strip back then was so popular that by 10 p.m., cars were often bumper-to-bumper. "It was just a time when everybody got together and cruised," Rusty recalled. "Nobody was in a hurry, and when traffic was stopped, we just talked to people who were standing and parked on the side of the road, and nobody ever really caused any trouble."
Both Rusty and Jasen are hopeful that Loops On The Strip will be well attended and think it could turn into a monthly event. Jasen added, "I see this as an opportunity for the community to band together and do something fun and positive to lift our spirits during this difficult time."
**NOTE: The purpose of this event is to get out and do something as a group while still staying separated from one another. Therefore, participants are strongly encouraged to only share cars with family and friends they have already been exposed to during quarantine or while practicing social distancing; otherwise, it defeats the entire purpose. Wearing protective breathing masks is also suggested.