The Pilgrim House Pivots & Pivots
Here is our third in the series on how various businesses got creative during the time of Covid. And made it work.
“Last year took us by surprise,” confesses David Nelson Burbank, director of administration, events, and entertainment at Provincetown’s Pilgrim House. “The word we used most was pivot. I felt like a ballerina!”
Like a star ballerina, however, Burbank and his team carried on. “We immediately spent time planning how we were going to do this,” he continues. “With the help of Town Hall, starting in June, we set up a show room outside with 56 seats. We were determined and so we just made it work, and ended up having a completely sold-out summer season!”
Burbank is anticipating the same configuration this year, “until the town allows us to move indoors safely.” And some fan favorites are returning for the summer. “I’m very excited to bring Miss Richfield 1981 back for a full season,” he says. “Paige Turner is our new brand ambassador for the Pilgrim House; I just booked Steve Grand for a few weeks, and we have Suddenly Seymour and Matteo Lane. We’re bringing Edie in—she was in Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. I’m very excited about the lineup this season, and—hopefully!—at some point we can move people indoors.”
“It’s difficult this year,” acknowledges Pilgrim House owner Ken Horgan. “We’ve essentially been plunged into the fortune-telling business! The performers all want information, naturally, but it’s impossible for David to respond to them with any kind of certainty.” Fortune-telling aside, Horgan affirms that the Pilgrim House has risen to the occasion. “We’re committed to a mission of service,” he explains. “We had the option of just closing, but we didn’t want to go that route. We just had to make it work. Did it make sense? No. But we managed, and kept 12 people employed fulltime year-round.”
Burbank is nodding. “It’s all about the community,” he says. “We can figure this all out if we do it together. Twenty or thirty years ago, the restaurant people would talk to each other,” he says. “They’d plan closures in the off-season so there would always be a place for people to go out and eat in town. We want to bring that culture back. We want to keep our dishwashers working.”
It may take another pivot or two, but the Pilgrim House has already shown that it’s light enough on its feet to make it work.