FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — BASE jumpers are not coming to Bridge Day dealing what could end up being a death knell to this year’s festival.
The Bridge Day Commission heard from the two BASE jumper coordinators in recent days including one who spoke at Wednesday’s commission meeting.
Fayette County Chamber of Commerce Executive Assistant Tim Naylor said one of the coordinators sent an email earlier this week.
“He has decided not to come out of fear of damaging the community, putting more stress on the area’s health care system,” Naylor said.
The other coordinator announced at the meeting there would be no BASE jumpers this year.
Naylor said Bridge Day would look a lot different with the more than 300 BASE jumpers and the people that come with them.
“It will definitely limit the crowd. I can imagine a lot people would decide not to come. It may affect how many vendors show up. It’s going to change a lot of things I feel,” Naylor said.
Some Fayette County officials, including health department administrator Teri Harlan began expressing concern in recent weeks on what a usual Bridge Day impact joined with COVID could do to local emergency rooms.
“On average we have 35 people from Bridge Day who need to go to a hospital. It’s not only accidents related to Bridge Day, sometimes people will have a heart attack or some other medical need while they are on the bridge and will have to be transferred to a hospital,” Harlan told MetroNews earlier this week. “We are super concerned about where we are going to take these people when this happens. It’s just a big risk to be taking when we just don’t feel like it makes any sense to do that this year.”
The Bridge Day Commission rejected a motion last week made by Fayette County Sheriff Mike Fridley to cancel the one-day festival this year. The vote in favor of continuing it came less than two hours after Gov. Jim Justice publicly lobbied for the event to happen.
“We’re having football games and everything where we have the big gatherings and everything, so why in the world should we not have Bridge Day?” Justice asked.
There will be another vote on the motion at next Wednesday’s meeting. Naylor said the City of Fayetteville’s representative on the commission has asked for the motion to be reconsidered.
“Depending on how that vote goes, we’ll either continue or cancel,” Naylor said. “At this point, we’re still moving forward. It is going to be quite a different event than usual if we continue to move forward.”
Bridge Day didn’t have BASE jumpers in 2015 because of a rift between the jumpers and festival organizers.
Bridge Day is the state’s largest one day festival.