RIPLEY, W.Va. — The 4th of July will again be marked in Ripley with what’s billed as “America’s Largest Small-Town Independence Day Celebration” even in the coronavirus pandemic.
“This year, crazy as it is, is the 150th anniversary,” said Ripley Mayor Carolyn Rader.
In many ways, 2020’s events won’t be like those of past years.
“It’s going to be so different and I just keep saying over and over, ‘Oh my gosh, please be patient with us,’ because we’ve never done this before.”
To start, Ripley’s activities have been scaled back from six days to two.
On Saturday, the traditional Independence Day Parade will step off at 12 p.m. on South Church Street near Ripley High School with fewer participants, down by about 50 units from 2019.
In this time of COVID-19, social distancing will be used with designated family viewing areas spaced out every six feet along the parade route in the 17,000 available feet of public viewing space.
The marking off of those spaces took two days, Rader said.
“If there is an ‘x’ on your spot, don’t stand there. You’re too close,” she advised. “We’ve left plenty of room for families with several chairs where they can sit and watch the parade.”
Safety stations have also been stocked with hand sanitizer, gloves and masks.
Mask usage was recommended, but not required.
Concerts were converted to drive-in shows with designated parking routes.
The new location was the plaza parking lot along Academy Drive.
“Whether it’s real hot, they can have air conditioning. If it’s raining, they can jump in their cars. So, really, it’s the best of both worlds,” Rader said.
On Friday night, two shows are planned with U.S. Kids from Cleveland, Oh. at 6 p.m. and Rick K and the Allnighters at 8 p.m.
The lineup for Saturday included Rimshot at 4 p.m., Ultra Sound at 6 p.m. and then Adam D. Tucker’s Vegas Tim McGraw Tribute at 8 p.m. followed by fireworks.
“We’ve got signs up all over town that say, ‘Please respect others and stay safe,’ as gentle reminders that we can show people how we can, hopefully, make it work and be safe about it,” Mayor Rader said.
Fairs and festivals operating under state guidelines written to try to limit coronavirus spread were allowed again in West Virginia beginning at the start of July.