BLUEFIELD — A region’s summertime kickoff, the Cole Chevy Mountain Festival, is being postponed this year while Fourth of July celebrations in Princeton and other events across the area are either being delayed or canceled during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This year’s Cole Chevy Mountain Festival was scheduled to start May 29 and continue until June 7 before the current pandemic started causing states to restrict the size of public gatherings. Potential new dates include June 17 to 26 or June 26 to July 4, said Jeff Disibbio, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Two Virginias. The first week in August is another possibility if enough restrictions have been lifted by that time.
The James H. Drew Carnival is a major part of the annual festival. Disibbio said that he spoke Monday with Jimmy Drew of the James H. Drew Exposition.
Disibbio stated that he talked to Drew about tentative dates for the Mountain Festival, and that Drew was trying to see if he could accommodate it and arrange a tour serving other venues, too. The idea is to set up a tour similar to the concert tours organized by bands.
“It’s intelligent because he’s not wasting miles,” Disibbio said.
Disibbio was careful to say that an actual date has not been set. Much of the planning will depend on the pandemic restrictions West Virginia and Virginia are under at the time.
“Until we get a lifting of restrictions from both states, there’s not much we can do,” he said.
Precautions against spreading the virus are part of any plans for the Cole Chevy Mountain Festival.
“We will also be planning the ways in which we can provide additional layers of protection for those folks in attendance whether that be hygiene stations, hand sanitizer or whatever requirements are deemed necessary,” Disibbio said. “We know that people look forward to this event all year, and in light of current quarantine I believe everyone is ready to venture out and share in our community spirit and have a little fun in the meantime.”
In Princeton, an annual Fourth of July celebration could offer fireworks, but nothing else due to social distancing.
“We discussed it with the City of Princeton, Stacey Hicks of the Princeton Rescue Squad said Tuesday. “What we’re thinking about is just trying to do the fireworks because of social distancing and the uncertainty of where we will be in July, so we’re not going to do the concerts and the things we normally have at Hunnicutt Stadium. With the amount of people we normally get, we’re just afraid.”
Princeton’s Fourth of July celebration usually draws crowds of 5,000 to 7,000 people, Hicks stated. The uncertainty that the pandemic is generating makes scheduling entertainers and other participants difficult.
“The bands and things like that, we have to book well in advance and we just haven’t been able to commit to any entertainment,” he said. “The thing is we do not want to take a chance on anybody getting sick by gathering that many people, but we hope to be back in 2021 and make it bigger and better than it’s ever been.”
This year’s Mercer County Fair, which was set for July 31 and Aug. 1, has been canceled. The fair will be held Aug. 6-7 in 2021, organizers said after the cancellation was announced.
Another Mercer County event which has been canceled is the annual Car Show and Fly-In at the Mercer County Airport. This year’s Fly-In was scheduled for May 23, according to Airport Manager Clint Ransom. Another reason was the loss of an historic aircraft.
Organizers were hoping that a vintage C-54 cargo plane called the Spirit of Freedom would make an appearance at this year’s show. The Spirit of Freedom was a flying exhibit which described how the Berlin Airlift saved West Berlin’s people from starvation after the Soviet Union started a blockade in June 1948 to drive the Western Allies out.
Plans called for the Spirit of Freedom to arrive May 22 at the airport so local students could visit the plane and see its traveling museum. Unfortunately, the C-54 was destroyed by a tornado in North Carolina, Ransom said.
“They’re going to try and rebuild it, but it will a year long process,” he said. “And with restrictions on crowds – still only 25 people – in effect, we’re not going to be able to do anything.”
Ransom stated that the airport hoped to have the Car Show and Fly-In later this year or at least start the process over next year.
“We’re looking at a possible rescheduling for the fall, but definitely we want to pick up where we left off in the spring next year,” he said.
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com