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‘Honk, It’s My Birthday’: Celebrating In The Age Of The Coronavirus

Madelyn Pfannerstill celebrating her 12th birthday in the front yard of her Louisville home as drivers honk a Happy Birthday greeting to her on April 19, 2020.

Madelyn Pfannerstill said she probably would have celebrated her 12th birthday by going to a mall with friends if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.

But she couldn't hang out with friends at the mall, or even go to the mall, because social distancing guidelines stress that hanging out with people is not OK.

So instead, her family asked friends, neighbors, family and strangers to “drive by and give her a honk" on Sunday afternoon. 

“I’ve seen several other people have been doing it,” Madelyn’s mom, Adrienne Pfannerstill, said. “So we just thought it might be something fun for her to do so she can see her friends and practice safe social distancing.”

From baby showers over Zoom to ateacher car parade to show their students that they miss them, people are finding creative ways to celebrate milestones with friends and family or simply to feel connected during a time in which we can’t be physically near each other. 

For about an hour, Madelyn sat on a chair in her front yard next to a sign that read, “Honk 4 Maddie. She’s 12 today. Happy Birthday, Maddie.” The birthday girl waved at drivers as they rode past, blasting their horns and a few shouting “Happy Birthday” through open windows.

There was also a pink basket on the side of the street where people could leave birthday gifts.

“It’s really cool,” Madelyn said of the festivities.

Adrienne was pretty happy with the turnout for her daughter; several friends had come by as well as Madelyn’s dance teachers from Louisville Dance Alliance. 

“She’s supposed to be dancing in New York this summer, so that probably won’t be happening,” Adrienne said.

After the birthday honk fest, the family plans include chocolate cake and opening gifts, plus “whatever she wants for dinner” and Gov. Andy Beshear’s daily briefing at 5 p.m., Adrienne said. 

As to how it feels to be 12, Madelyn said, “feels the same.” 

Stephanie Wolf is a former LPM's Arts & Culture Reporter.