WARSAW — Birthdays are being celebrated in a unique new way these days.
Social distancing recommendations and the stay-at-home order implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic have put a hold on traditional birthday parties — but that hasn’t stopped people from coming up with creative new ways to enjoy their special day.
Friends and families are celebrating birthdays together virtually via apps such as Zoom, Skype and FaceTime.
Drive-by “parades” are also becoming popular for kids. This is where people wave and honk from vehicles going past the home of the birthday boy or girl.
Local law enforcement and fire departments have become involved with the birthday parades and surprise visits.
“Deputy Shaun Mudd first suggested the idea for us about a month ago,” said Sgt. Chris Francis, public information officer for the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office. “Since then, we have participated in around 20 events.”
Francis said they have been careful and taken precautions, given the circumstances.
Deputies have gathered items such as lip balm, basketballs, frisbees, sunglasses, footballs and badges for gift bags to present to the birthday recipient.
“If Deputy Mudd is involved, he blasts out his very own rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’,” Francis said.
Warsaw resident Griffin Roark is part of a group who has been involved in several of the drive-by parades.
“This actually started by an InkFreeNews article that my friends and I saw about the 9- year-old girl with brain cancer who wanted to have a parade,” Roark said. “The local car enthusiast community loves to do stuff like that. We’d like to get more people involved during these uncertain times when it’s impossible to have any kind of birthday party or get-together.”
Roark said the Facebook group ‘Warsaw Car Meets’ gets the word out when a birthday parade is taking place. They were recently involved in a birthday celebration for a 4-year-old.
“We had people showing up from Fort Wayne and Elkhart just to be in a 10 minute drive-by of somebody’s house,” Roark said.
Silver Lake Town Marshal Jason McGlennen said he saw something about a birthday drive-by on the news a couple of weekends ago and when he got into the office that following Monday, there was a message on the answering machine with a birthday drive-by request.
“I asked Silver Lake Fire Chief John Conley if this was something he would be interested in doing and he told me yes,” McGlennen said. “We have done several and have several more waiting. Claypool Police Department started doing them as well. We have assisted with theirs and they have helped with ours. The kids seem to love it. It’s a good thing at this time, with people being shut in at home.”
According to a post on the Silver Lake, Indiana Facebook page, to request a birthday drive-by, contact the police department at (260) 352-3333 or the fire department at (260) 352-3245. Requests must be made no later than 72 hours in advance. The birthday drive-by can be scheduled Monday-Friday after 5 p.m. for the Town of Silver Lake, Lake Township and portions of Seward Township.
Claypool residents may contact the Claypool Police Department to request a drive-by via email to [email protected] or by calling the CPD office at (574) 566-2912.
Those who live outside town or city limits who would like to arrange a birthday drive-by may send a message to the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page or call (574) 265-2232 and leave a message.
“I wholeheartedly believe that this is a way to give back to our community, especially the children who are dealing with the isolation,” Francis said. “It’s a good feeling to see a little one’s face light up when they see us approaching. Some of us big kids still like flipping the lights and siren on too!”