TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Fourth of July holiday marks the first big holiday weekend with fewer COVID-19 restrictions. This comes as a relief to tourist-based businesses in the area who have been slow due to the pandemic.
Now local businesses in Tahlequah are happy for the season to pick up late this year rather than not at all as they prepare for an uptick in customers a bit differently this year.
Packing up yet another bunch of rafts for tourist group's day on the Illinois River is a sign of a changing season for Clayton Chuculate, an Illinois River Outfitters employee.
Chuculate and his team have added sanitizing supplies to the list of items they add to their prep list for visitors in addition to rafts, kayaks, and canoes.
“This year in addition to trash bags that we normally give customers, we have been giving them sanitation rags and we’ll wear our masks on the bus," Chuculate said.
He's been working at the kayak, raft, and canoe rental service in Tahlequah for the last three years and says this tourism season started out slower than usual but now it picked up drastically.
"A lot of people are ready to go out," Chuculate said. “We’ll probably be sold out and pretty crazy these next two days in a row.”
Chuculate says this is the busiest they’ve been in months. He says understandably, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed business for Illinois River Outfitters and other services like it along the river. But now that there are fewer COVID-19 restrictions, customers are looking to celebrate the upcoming holiday safely on the river.
Raisul Islam traveled from Denver, Colorado to float on the Illinois river with his family. This is the first trip their family has taken since they started self quarantining months ago.
"I've been wanting to do some things instead of just be stuck indoors," Islam said. "I feel like being outside is a safer alternative than going in to crowded areas, and its a nice way to keep in open air."
Chuculate adds that out door activities like floating on the river creates a natural safe distance from others.
“We have about eight people on the raft at max and the rafts stay pretty far apart on the river," Chuculate said.
Staff also add that if you choose to come out to the river this weekend, make sure you also bring your own bring a trash bag so you can throw away all the trash and sanitizing equipment you might use to keep the river clean while more people are out.
“It’s definitely going to be a pretty good weekend this weekend," Chuculat. "We are supposed to be sold out and everybody else is too. So, this weekend is going to be pretty crazy."
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.
Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox. Select from these options: Breaking News, Severe Weather, School Closings, Daily Headlines and Daily Forecasts.