Scallops for biz section 0628

Last year’s scallop yields were lighter than normal — perhaps because of the abundance of rain — but this year should make up for it, according to John Pricher, director of the Citrus County Visitors Bureau.

The scallops will show up, but will the tourists?

The 2020 season starts July 1 and John Pricher, director of the Citrus County Visitors Bureau, said he expects a good crowd for opening week, especially since the Fourth of July falls on a Saturday this year.

Last year’s scallop yields were lighter than normal -- perhaps because of the abundance of rain -- but this year should make up for it, he said.

The drive market is usually big in the summer for Citrus County and, because it’s easily accessible from most parts of the state, Pricher believes many will make the trip here and either bring their own boat or rent a charter.

Charter trips are safe, he said, because they are smaller with only a handful of people and most times the crew members are family.

“Folks are looking to do things, especially after being asked to stay home,” Pricher said. “I think we are set up in a good position.”

Hoteliers’ bookings are picking up but still off from previous years, he added.

Meredith Bleakley, executive director for Crystal River Main Street, said the COVID-19 pandemic adds another dimension to this year’s scalloping season.

“With theme parks closed, people want to do things outside with family, not be confined,” she said. “Scalloping is the perfect choice.”

Being outside and sticking in smaller groups is ideal for social distancing and it’s safer than being in confined spaces, she said.

Crystal River business owners, she said, are banking on a prosperous scallop season after a disappointing manatee season. And now that the county and state are reopening, she believes the crowds will come.

“I was out downtown last week and there were more people than there normally are in June,” Bleakley said.

Leslie Bolin, events and marketing director with the city of Crystal River, said the city is working closely with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office to make sure “everything is ready for our visitors.”

“The city will be as ready as we can be” she said.

With the coronavirus still around, Bolin advocates visitors and locals maintain the social distancing rules.

It’s not as much of a concern because people are out in boats or in smaller groups, she said.

“We’re hoping this activity (scalloping) keeps people within their own circles,” she said. “We know the water has stayed busy through all this and we don’t expect that to change.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com.