While pandemic safety guidelines have placed restrictions on traditional Valentine’s Day social events like dances, small businesses are getting creative and refusing to let COVID put a damper on locals’ celebrations of love.

For Alicia Barron and her husband James, owners of Triple Barron Picnic, a socially-distanced Valentine’s Day was the perfect opportunity to launch a luxury picnic experience service. Couples and families from the area can book a picnic at outdoor locations of their choosing, complete with champagne, flowers, candles and assorted charcuterie offerings.

So far, Veterans Memorial Park and Coronado National Memorial have been the most highly requested picnic sites, though the company also offers backyard picnics for those who are looking for a more intimate experience.

Barron says the travel restrictions placed on Fort Huachuca service members in 2020 inspired the couple to start brainstorming fresh and fun activities to do near home, while staying safe from the pandemic by enjoying the great outdoors.

“With the Army, there’s been several times since the pandemic started where we can only travel x amount of miles out of town,” she said. “So we figured, ‘Oh, if we can’t go anywhere, we can just stay local and do a picnic.’ ”

While outdoor celebrations may be on the rise this year, Bisbee Hot N’ Spicy at the Bisbee Tourism Center is demonstrating that there are still fun indoor activities for couples to try out safely. The “Sweet Heat Dessert Challenge,” happening Saturday and Sunday, challenges participants to sample three spicy treats and compete against each other to see who can “withstand the heat.”

Those who successfully complete the challenge will be eligible to win free products from the store and discounts on future purchases, said owner David Russell.

The challenge event format is nothing new for Bisbee Hot N’ Spicy, which boasts a “Hellfire Challenge Room,” but Russell says adaptations have been made to keep the activity COVID-safe.

Challenges which used to involve large gatherings of people “shoulder-to-shoulder” have been transformed into intimate competitions between participants from the same party.

“Due to the nature of Valentine’s Day as a couple’s holiday, we can keep gatherings at a minimum and stay under the restrictions while avoiding an influx of people,” Russell noted.

By hosting the challenge on both days this Valentine’s weekend, Russell says he hopes he can spread out the crowds and ensure all customers have a pleasant experience that adheres to safety guidelines.

As in previous years, the Cochise College Center for Lifelong Learning offered a Valentine-themed cooking class to the public on Saturday, led by Cochise College culinary arts graduate Chef Lindsay Alexander. Due to safety precautions, “Sweet Valentine” was one of the first in-person cooking experiences the College had offered in almost a year, said marketing director Ana Smith.

Safety was a priority, Smith emphasized, with maximum program capacity slashed by a third to 8 students, and microfiber towels provided for sanitation.

Students were not allowed to participate in hands-on cooking, but had the opportunity to sample the desserts they were learning to make, including dragon fruit panna cotta, red velvet cake pops and Persian love cookies.