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Large gatherings now allowed in Allen County; venues, party suppliers eager to boost operations

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) -- Tuesday marked the first day that Hoosiers were no longer required by the government to wear masks in public.

It also meant the Allen County health department does not have to be consulted about planning gatherings, like wedding receptions.

"When it first hit, we got call after call after call with everyone cancelling and postponing," Tori VanDiepenbos said.

She said A Party Apart saw so much of its party supply business go out the window because of the pandemic and all the restrictions that came with it that at one point it was forced to lay off all its staff.

As restrictions eased, employees returned to set up larger tents holding tables with fewer place settings to ensure social distancing.

Now that the state's mask mandate has evolved into a mask recommendation and Allen County's health commissioner declared that his department no longer needs to approve plans for large gatherings, employees at A Party Apart are excited that the phones are starting to ring again -- this time with good news.

Would you feel comfortable attending a large wedding reception right now?

"Proms are happening, graduations are happening, there has definitely been a surge in calls for tents, events, everything. So things are starting to look up for us," she said.

She says employees will still wear masks until they're all vaccinated or if the client requests it.

At the venue The Philmore on Broadway, weddings and receptions comprise the majority of events held there.

The fact that more people can now get together in one space means the future is looking brighter.

"We're very excited to have the opportunity to take that from a complete stop to a complete open," Carrie Riepenhoff said.

She says the pandemic has taken a toll on just about everyone, and that folks are craving being able to get together at social events.

"We've had a lot of people excited about having the opportunity to gather and celebrate and see each other like we were used to in the past," she said.

Of course, this all depends on whether we see another wave of the pandemic.

If the government should impose new coronavirus restrictions, A Party Apart will allow customers to reschedule once for free.

A Party Apart anticipates such a big uptick in business this summer that it will need to hire more employees soon.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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