The coronavirus ate our awards show

Plenty of good seats available: The beautiful Crest Hollow Country Club, all dressed up and nobody to show.

If you thought banning travel to Europe and suspending the NBA season were big deals, hope you’re sitting down.

Yes, the nefarious pandemic that closed Italy, sparked a global toilet paper shortage and broke this little girl’s heart has now done the unthinkable – the 2020 Innovator of the Year Awards show, scheduled for March 24 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, has been canceled. (Or postponed. Or reformatted. More on that below).

First, in all seriousness: With more than 130,000 global total reported cases, 56,700 active cases and 4,750 deaths all rising fast COVID-19 is no joke.

So it’s no surprise how things are going right now: The National Basketball Association has called a time out, the National Hockey League followed suit and the National Collegiate Athletics Association is planning huge basketball tournaments in empty arenas, if not canceling them outright.

Marlene McDonnell: Safety first

Big events are falling fast (the signature Austin, Tex. film and music festival South by Southwest was canceled last week) and now smaller affairs are feeling the COVID-19 pinch (California has banned gatherings of more than 250 people). One ambitious Maine-based process-automation specialist has even rushed out a “coronavirus conference cancelation bot,” designed specifically to handle the logistics of nixed networkers.

So, as our Long Island universities switch over to distance-learning models and confirmed New York COVID-19 cases soar (second only to Washington State as of Thursday morning), Innovate Long Island is waving off this month’s annual awards show – a difficult decision, notes President Marlene McDonnell, but the right one.

“Our first concern is for our sponsors, our awardees, our guests and the Crest Hollow staff,” McDonnell said Thursday. “This was a hard call for a lot of reasons, but in the end, nothing is more important than peoples’ health.”

The good news is: The show will go on.

Innovation is not always about the next gadget or technology – it’s usually about new ways of thinking, smarter ways of achieving better results. And it’s often necessitated by circumstance (if you truly run out of TP, well, you’ll think of something).

That’s what innovation does: addresses problems, rolls with it, creates solutions.

We are Innovate Long Island. And a little thing like a global health crisis isn’t going to stop us.

Today, we are excited and proud to announce the first-ever Virtual Innovator of the Year Awards – a video extravaganza honoring 2020 Master of Innovation Anne-Marie Scheidt, John L. Kominicki Legacy Award winner William Mannix and more than two dozen of Long Island’s brightest and boldest inventors, investors, researchers and rainmakers.

With the blessings of our gracious event sponsors, we’re sitting down with the amazing talents at Lorraine Gregory Communications to assemble a world-class video presentation – a real-world pivot that embraces the reality of the moment and exemplifies the spirit of innovation, according to McDonnell.

“We are truly blessed to have so many generous and understanding sponsors standing behind the Innovator of the Year Awards,” the president noted. “Especially the amazing team at Crest Hollow Country Club – they’re really feeling the effects of this pandemic, but they have been great friends and professional partners for years.

“We’re also fortunate to have the professionals at Lorraine Gregory Communications in our corner,” McDonnell added. “Working with [President and CEO] Greg Demetriou and his staff, we’re genuinely excited about producing this virtual awards program.”

What will it look like? How will it work? Will we finally get Ricky Gervais to host?

Stay tuned – this ain’t live TV, folks, but it’s close. More details on the new 2020 Innovator of the Year Awards show coming soon.

For now, this much is true: The coronavirus is a real bugger, but it’s no match for innovation.

“In the end, how we detect the virus, how we treat it, how we stop it from spreading – innovation is what will end the pandemic,” McDonnell said. “Until then, all kinds of businesses and organizations will have to innovate in all kinds of ways.

“We don’t want anybody to get sick,” she added. “And Innovate Long Island is definitely up for this innovation challenge.”