by Jamie Rich | January 5, 2021

A New Year, A New View

A small New Year's Eve soiree gives Editor in Chief Jamie Rich a moment to reflect on lessons learned in 2020, how both she and Flamingo have adapted to a new era and the exciting changes yet to come.

St. Petersburg-based J.T. Brown plays to a small audience in Jacksonville at the home of Editor in Chief Jamie Rich on New Year’s Eve, a night that highlighted the highs and lows of 2020.

The idea started over a pre-Christmas lunch in Orlando with my brother and his wife—a response to a year spent celebrating virtually. Our parents were riding out the virus at home alone in North Carolina, and our two families had Zoomed with them for Thanksgiving and had a Zoom-Christmas planned too.

“Why don’t you guys come up to Jacksonville for New Years?” I said to my brother. “We’ll have a shrimp boil outside in the backyard with a handful of friends, socially distant, COVID safe.” 

Like so many, we all craved a little 2019-style normalcy. When we got home that night, my husband, Brian, and I started planning. Five or so couples seemed like a safe amount for a get-together set on acres of marshy wilderness. I called up singer-songwriter J.T. Brown, who we had featured in Flamingo not too long ago, to play for us on the back porch. Live music was another casualty of 2020 that we sorely missed and wanted to support. J.T. agreed and planned to drive up from St. Petersburg.

Over the next five days, the guest list crept up.

“My sister is in town,” one friend said. “Can I bring her?” 

“Um, sure,” I replied.

“Our friends just moved from Palm Beach. Can they come?” asked another. 

“Of course!”

To my surprise, the plus ones and twos rolled in. All of a sudden we had a potential COVID superspreader event on our hands with 30 confirmed guests. We have a big backyard, but still, we worried that maybe we should cancel or scale back. Admittedly, I felt an old, familiar, nearly forgotten twinge of pre-coronavirus excitement. I focused on the fact that the whole thing was to take place outside and told myself everything would be OK. New Year’s Eve day, I woke up early and started to prepare for the festivities. Food, check. Drinks, check. Music, check. Fire pit, check. Weather, check. 

Then, around noon, the first cancellation came in. “We’ve potentially been exposed to COVID. I don’t think we should come,” my friend said, disappointment heavy in her voice. 

Minus three. It was probably for the better, I thought to myself. 

A few minutes later, another call with the same concern. “We think we’ve been exposed to COVID, and we have to cancel. I’m so sorry.” 

Then another, “Our babysitter woke up not feeling well. We can’t come.”

Then another and another. As quickly as the guest list had ballooned, it deflated—along with my excitement. The situation was so 2020. 

“We might be having a private concert,” I joked with my brother on the phone, who was driving up from Orlando.

As the start time of the soiree neared, our confirmed attendees had shrunk to a comfortable 15 including me, my husband and J.T., who arrived early to set up his gear.

“What have you been up to this year not being able to perform live gigs?” I asked him, as he poured a drink.

“Besides going broke?” he laughed. 

J.T.’s off-the-cuff comment, a reference to the reality that professional musicians and artists still aren’t fully back to work, was a stark reminder of the hardships so many have faced at the hands of COVID over the past year from the loss of work, businesses and even loved ones. My own business had to overcome huge obstacles in the wake of the pandemic and emerged operating quite differently from the way we did this time last year, a huge adjustment for everyone involved. It was a year of ups and downs from the low of the economic shutdown to the high of winning 2020 Magazine of the Year. All this said with the understanding and perspective that people are facing immensely more significant challenges.  

I’m happy to say, we’re going strong because of the overwhelming support of our Flamingo Friends and readers. Our Flamingo Friends campaign last August allowed us to continue to put our team of photographers, writers, editors, designers and sales professionals to work. We’ve continued telling Florida’s greatest stories, highlighting small businesses, restaurants, chefs, musicians and artists across the Sunshine State.

It was J.T.’s words and the first strum of his guitar that brought me back to the realization that COVID has changed the way we all operate and hit us all in very different ways. On a night when we typically make resolutions for change, I found myself giving thanks for the lessons learned in the disruptive year gone by, lessons that I will carry forward into 2021. 

First, I learned to appreciate my health and the health of my loved ones more than ever. Second, we’re all in this together, and we need to think about how we can best support our community, however big or small. And third, we have to adapt, accept and react positively to change. The best decision I made in 2020 was to quickly embrace digital distribution and doing so created so many unexpected benefits, including more space in my personal life for my family. 

Since transitioning to digital storytelling we’ve actually grown, reaching more readers than ever. We’ve launched new areas of our business, like the Flamingo Shop and editorial video content. We’ve redesigned our e-newsletter and will be rolling out a website refresh later this year.

This month, we release our winter issue content, which means a new collection of feature stories will debut on and arrive in your inbox over the next few weeks. In addition, we know you’ve missed the print magazine—so have we! We’re thrilled to announce our upcoming five-year anniversary print edition, Best of Flamingo, which will arrive this spring. Stay tuned for more details. 

Back at the New Year’s Eve get-together, our group of revelers had whittled down to eight standing around the fire pit by night’s end. We realized how fortunate we were to have good weather and the freedom to gather safely during these times. As the clock struck midnight, sparks from the fire flew up into the crisp Northeast Florida sky, small bursts of fireworks exploded in the distance, and I felt a welcome twinge of excitement return as we raised a toast, not just to a new year but to renewed hope for the days ahead. 

Click here to read more from Flamingo Editor in Chief Jamie Rich.