Fairs and festivals leader welcomes news of May 1 opening

LEWISBURG, W.Va. — Governor Jim Justice says all fairs, festivals, and similar events in West Virginia will be allowed to resume, beginning May 1.

Justice announced during his coronavirus briefing on Monday. The events will be able to open under guidelines expected to be announced later this week but Kelly Collins, the President of West Virginia Association of Fairs and Festivals said anything is welcoming news.

“There was few that were able to get in, in the summer of last year but not many. so for the most part, a lot of us have been closed going on two years now if you consider where our events are in the summer,” Collins told MetroNews of events being shuttered in 2020.

Kelly Collins

“The fact that the governor knows how important our industry is to the state, it means a lot to us. We are excited to get back to business.”

Collins, who is also the CEO of the West Virginia State Fair, said many organizers in the state have been moving forward and planning their events with the trends in COVID-19 cases and vaccination rates. On Monday, Justice announced that all state residents 16 years of age and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We knew that the outlook was good. We weren’t 100 percent sure where we were going to end up, so, to go ahead and have that announcement now is good. We are in the middle of planning our events so we know we can push forward full steam ahead,” Collins said.

She added that much of the planning is dependent on local sponsorship for the events. Collins said on a federal level, not much funding came the way of fairs and festivals, only on a state level. In August, Justice announced over $1 million in grant funding to help various organizations that host fairs, festivals, or similar events. Justice awarded more than $1.5 million to 330 fairs and festivals across the state two weeks before that announcement.

“These events are part of the fiber and we want them to go on,” Justice said on Monday.

Justice added that updated safety guidelines will be issued later this week on the West Virginia Strong – The Comeback page of the Governor’s website.

Collins is looking forward to seeing festivals go on in the small communities that need a boost.

“You see towns of 5,000 turn into 25,000. The economic impact felt through that is amazing. From the gas stations, hotels/motels, campgrounds, to the small vendors around the town and the vendors setting up for that event,” she said.

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