TAYLOR COUNTY—After news of the cancellation of the annual Spirit of Grafton Festival hit, residents immediately began wondering about the Memorial Day parade. After hearing both concerns for and support of the parade, the West Virginia Memorial Day Committee made their official decision.
On Monday, 25 individuals gathered in the Grafton City Council Chambers for the Memorial Day Committee meeting, in anticipation of the body’s decision regarding the esteemed event, and to make things as fair and diplomatic as possible, Committee Chairman Doug Robinson allowed those in attendance to offer their thoughts on this year’s parade.
“This is the day we have all been waiting for,” voiced Robinson. “I would like to hear everyone’s thoughts and feelings on this matter, that way everyone has a chance to voice their opinions.”
During the discussion, some concerns were brought to light such as the risk of the possible spread of infection of COVID-19, whether the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance could be upheld and the liability the committee could potentially be faced with.
In turn, committee members also voiced their support for the annual tradition, expressing that the risk of infection had decreased with the increased number of residents who had undergone vaccination, the survivability rate associated with COVID-19 is 99 percent and that it was time for the community to make a swing back toward normalcy.
Parade Chairman Scott Willis, who devotes his time to the annual event, shared with the committee that he had been somewhat torn on the subject, noting that if the parade didn’t occur, he would be heartbroken, but he was concerned with the logistics of holding such an event.
“This decision keeps me up at night,” he explained. “We are passionate about putting this parade down the street. This isn’t something we do for personal glory, but it is something we do out of respect for those who gave everything to allow us the rights to make these kinds of decisions.”
He took time to inform the members of key points from the CDC’s guidelines for large gatherings.
“They are telling everyone to avoid large gatherings, although they do not specify what is considered as a large gathering. They are also telling us to consider the risk associated with hosting a large event,” he explained.
He disclosed that the committee would be responsible for reminding attendees to maintain social distancing, to wear facemasks and be able enforce compliance in those areas. It was also recommended that they have disinfecting solutions such as hand sanitizers were present for parade goers, however, bathroom facilities would need cleaned every hour and hand washing stations would need to be present.
Those were just some of the areas of concern that he touched on, but he encouraged committee members to read through the guidelines themselves.
“I am not telling you all of this so that we don’t do the parade, I just think we all have a right to hear this,” Willis voiced. “I feel as Parade Chair that if I keep this under wraps, I will have not done anyone in this room justice concerning this decision.”
“In my opinion, and I will probably break down and bawl if we don’t have this parade, but I’m just concerned as to how we will do this,” he added. “If we are going to do this, we are going to need support from the community, both with following the guidelines that we are asking of them and in the way of manpower and volunteers.”
After hearing from all in attendance, Robinson addressed the committee members with a short and matter of fact sentiment saying, “We owe respect to those who lie underneath the markers at both of our national cemeteries, and that can be done with a smaller event if need be. At the end of the day, this committee owes anyone who comes and attends the ability to be safe.”
After additional discussion and a short break to allow for the committee to gather their thoughts, Robinson put the decision to a vote. Of the 25 in attendance, 17 voted in favor of hosting the 154th Annual Memorial Day Parade.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please let me be the first to inform you that will be having a 2021 Memorial Day Parade,” Robinson voiced.
And while the committee will continue with plans, they are offering a reminder to residents.
“People really need to know not to expect the scale of parade they saw in 2019,” Willis imparted. “And they should keep in mind that while we have decided to move forward with the 154th Annual Memorial Day Parade, there is always still a chance of cancellation should COVID cases rise, or restrictions be put back in place.”