We are disappointed, like tens of thousands of others, that the annual Bridge Day celebration just up the road in Fayette County has been canceled this year. That makes two years in a row, now, but calling off the event, no matter the pressure Gov. Jim Justice and the state’s tourism department brought to bear, was the right decision. Given the elevated rate of COVID-19 transmission, questions about staffing levels, the safety of participants with hospital capacities under stress and the likelihood that the bridge spanning the New River would have been packed, shoulder to shoulder, with celebrants spreading and catching the disease with a mask mandate impossible to enforce, we can wait until 2022 to celebrate.
During a regular meeting, the Bridge Day Commission voted unanimously to cancel the celebration, following a motion to that effect by Rod Perdue of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department and a second from Terry Ritterbush of the Town of Fayetteville.
Said Becky Sullivan, commission chair, “In regard to canceling Bridge Day 2021, it is bittersweet. We would like nothing more than to host a safe, in-person Bridge Day. However, it takes a lot of moving parts to make Bridge Day happen and involves many resources from throughout our community.”
Those resources, Sullivan said, were thin and thinning.
“As with many businesses who are seeing shortages in staffing, we are seeing the same thing from volunteers and other resources relied upon by the Bridge Day Committee,” she said.
Fayetteville, among other things, is known for its enthusiastic promotion of one of the coolest little towns in all of America, but – as with most of what it does – Bridge Day is a volunteer-based celebration, helped along by civic groups to staff the event.
The movers and shakers who make Fayetteville work were not about to put anyone at risk for the sake of tourism dollars. They know, too, that national attention to their celebration, in the middle of a pandemic that is breaking hospitalization records in the state, could have broadcast the wrong message, tarnished the town’s brand and image and turned future visitors away.
Because of multiple factors, Sullivan said, many of the volunteers had decided not to participate this year out of concern for their personal safety. Several civic organizations – including churches, scout troops and other civic groups from around the county – were unable to commit as well.
The result was too many question marks and too much exposure to the ravages of a pandemic that has shown little regard for life and no sign of leaving the state and county anytime soon.
Two weeks ago, with Gov. Justice and the Tourism Department selfishly pressing for the celebration to go on as planned, the commission voted 4-2 against canceling. Notably, Sullivan and the sheriff’s department voted to cancel.
It is too convenient to say that the die was cast when the BASE jumping community, citing concerns with safety protocols, pulled out. Already, members of the commission and civic leaders were casting doubt about the feasibility and safety of holding the event.
Regardless, at the end of the day, the right conclusion was reached – by people who genuinely care about their top-notch community and their fabulous event.
We’ll see you in the fall of 2022.
The Register-Herald, BeckleyDistributed by CNHI News W.Va.