BLUEFIELD — For the first time in its history, the annual Mountain Festival in Bluefield has been canceled for this year.

Jeff Disibbio, CEO and President of the Chamber of Commerce of the Two Virginias, said Thursday the ongoing issues in dealing with the COVID-19 and the recent surge of positive cases in local areas led to the decision.

“With the uncertainty of potentially new statewide regulations and with the goal of keeping our local population safe, we are faced with the unfortunate result that we are unable to reschedule this event for the 2020 year,” said Disibbio.

The Chamber and the James H. Drew Exposition have been in “constant contact and tirelessly attempting to find an acceptable path to continue hosting this event that has been a staple of our region,” he said.

The festival, which started in 1986, is usually held right after Memorial Day and was initially rescheduled this year to start July 25, but that plan changed as the number of COVID-19 cases in the area saw a surge and the possibility of tighter restrictions on crowds looms.

“Unfortunately, and with considerable consideration and trepidation, we feel that canceling this event is our only option for this year,” Disibbio said. “We look forward to hosting this event again in 2021 and hope we can meet and exceed all expectations of our events in the past years.”

A later start date this year in September or October was also explored, he said, but the Drew Exposition is already booked for those months so the timeframe to book a date ran out.

“We were up against a hard deadline for the carnival to be booked,” he said.

Disibbio said the cancellation of the West Virginia State Fair announced last month and moving of the start date for schools into September also played a role because of the issue of handling crowds safely.

“The biggest thing is we don’t want to be the cause of jeopardizing anybody’s life,” he said. “We thought with schools starting in August we could have it. Safety concerns outweigh everything else.”

Disibbio said the festival has had great sponsors, including Cole Chevy, who have been with the chamber every step of the way in making the decision.

“We would like to thank our long-term sponsors who have been with us for years,” he said.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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