Cole Chevy Mountain Festival 2021

Andrew Whittaker of Bluefield enjoys an afternoon of fun with his daughter Ava while they ride the amusement rides of the James H.Drew Carnival at the Cole Chevy Mountain Festival, Monday. 

BLUEFIELD — Despite a few torrential downpours, the Cole Chevy Mountain Festival is still setting attendance records. People are lining up at the carnival for the COVID-19 vaccine too.

Wednesday was the first day the Mercer County Health Department was at the midway, and at least 20 people were waiting in line for the vaccine shortly after the festival opened for the evening.

“We have a line of 20 people right now,” Jeff Disibbio, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the two Virginias, said of the health department’s COVID-19 vaccine booth. “And they’ve already went through 15. Mercer County’s first day of set-up has been significant.”

Disibbio estimated that as many as 100 festival goers were expected to be vaccinated by the end of the day Wednesday.

Prior to Wednesday, COVID-19 vaccines were administered at the midway by the Bland County Medical Clinic. The Mercer County Health Department will be administering vaccines at the midway again today and Friday.

Disibbio said other people have stopped by the COVID-19 booth to ask medical questions not related to the pandemic.

“But we’ve had more people just to ask medical questions in general of the nurses there,” Disibbio said, adding that the nurses have been answering questions about everything from COVID to poison ivy.

“So it’s turned out to be beneficial in ways we didn’t anticipate,” Disibbio said of having health care professionals stationed at the carnival.

This year’s festival is a larger, 10-day event, and it continues through Sunday, June 13. Given the positive response the chamber has received so far from vendors and festival goers, officials will give consideration to the possibility of making the Cole Chevy Mountain Festival a 10-day event again next year, Dissibio said.

“Our intent is to maintain a 10-day event,” he said. “Many of our vendors consider this to be our biggest event to come to. We will do a debriefing when it is over and determine whether it will be beneficial to consider this.”

The rain has caused a few problems, but hasn’t hurt attendance.

“Well, of course rain does effect us, because it is an outdoor event,” Disibbio said. “But we’ve had very good numbers, and (people) have even soldiered through the rain and stayed to ride. We’ve remained open every night until closing as scheduled. And from what I’ve seen so far, while we’ve had bouts of rain, it hasn’t been a long sustained rain that lasted the entire evening.”

In fact, people have still been on the carnival rides around closure, or at 11 p.m. each night.

“All of our core vendors have been very pleased with the turnout,” Disibbio said. “They say that we are setting record crowds.”

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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