KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Following guidelines released by Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group on Thursday, larger venues and attractions now have further guidance regarding how to continue on during COVID-19.
For many, the cancellation of Spring and even a number of Summer and Fall festivals has put a damper on the year.
Residents and tourists alike look forward to these festivals across the region, and not having them this year is certainly a setback. However, it’s not just the festivals being impacted by the virus, but also age-old traditions such as fireworks displays on the 4th of July.
The new guidance does address firework shows and states that officials are encouraging “drive-in” participation or other modifications to promote social distancing and minimize larger crowds.
Immediately after the release of this news, the cities of Greeneville and Kingsport have decided to move forward in holding their shows, with modifications, of course. Residents will be urged to watch from their cars but aren’t exactly restricted to their vehicles.
“If they do get out of the car, we are asking that they stay 6 feet apart from other families and it is also recommended to wear a mask,” said Exec. Director of Visit Kingsport, Jud Teague.
The city of Kingsport will be hosting two identical firework shows to help alleviate the crowds they anticipate this year following the cancellation of firework displays in surrounding cities such as Johnson City.
Fireworks for the city of Kingsport will be drive-in style at Cement Hill in downtown and J. Fred Johnson Stadium at Dobyns Bennett High School.
Despite these guidelines, a statement from Johnson City spokesperson, Anne Marie French, says “Our firework show has already been canceled for this year and these new guidelines do not change that decision.”
Other cancellations not being reversed following these guidelines include ‘FunFest’. “On the time table we had to make that decision because of the talent and recruiting talent and the investment in talent and the situation on that day was a lot more critical than it was today,” said Teague.
In Greeneville, city officials decided on Thursday that they will in fact have their firework display but it’s also going to be a drive-in show with the option to bring your own blanket while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
“We’ve had to make a few modifications because we want to keep everybody safe but we’re going ahead because it’s important to our community,” said Public Relations Manager for the City of Greeneville, Amy Rose.
The firework display in Greeneville will be held at Greeneville high school at 10 p.m. on July 4th. While it is drive-in you can leave your vehicle and sit on a blanket as long as you stay on that blanket and keep it 6-feet from neighboring families.
It will be the 8th year for the display in Greeneville, and for Rose, it’s about more than keeping up with a tradition. She feels it’s important to keep this event going for the sake of honoring our nation’s veterans and active-duty military who fought and continue to fight for our nation’s freedom. Prior to the release of these guidelines, it was up in the air as to whether or not there would be a show, but since all of the fundraising for it was completed prior to COVID-19 shutdowns, she along with other city officials, were determined to make it happen with whatever alterations necessary.
However, for larger events like the Appalachian Fair that sees around 200,000 people in its 6-day run, things are more complicated. Fair officials are still waiting to make a decision on whether or not to host the 94th annual event. Phil Booher, Appalachian Fair Manager says it’s only been canceled once in the past during World War II.
A meeting set for Monday in regards to making a final decision on whether to move forward or not, but Booher says it will be a tough decision. “I see no way that we can keep people 6 feet apart when you’ve got 30,000 people a night in here on our fairgrounds, it’s going to be very difficult,” he said.
So far, 14 fairs across the state have canceled with one of the biggest ones hosted in Wilson County canceling Thursday night.
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