BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon City Council on Thursday gave a tentative nod to two upcoming events in September – a modified drive-thru-style Children’s Fest and the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Homecoming Parade.
At their meeting Thursday, Sept. 2, council members asked to have the Children’s Festival Family Road Trip 2.1 Pit Stop Event, slated for Saturday, Sept. 18, added to the agenda for consideration and approval at the Sept. 16 council meeting and gave a tentative thumbs up to closing down Main Street for the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Homecoming Parade Sept. 29. Pending recommendations from the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department, council also approved allowing students to utilize Jawbone Park for a Homecoming pep rally.
Buckhannon City Finance Director Amberle Jenkins told council members the Children’s Festival group met this week, and they would like to change their event from a social gathering to a drive-thru event at Jawbone Park.
“We did not have time to put this on the agenda and it is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, and the next council meeting is Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021,” Jenkins told council Thursday. “I can put the item on the agenda for the next meeting, but we would like to have an idea of whether council would be in support of that idea before we do any more planning.”
The modified drive-thru event would enable groups to hand out children’s craft packets, coupons and more to families as they pass through in vehicles, and the Volunteers in Police Service had agreed to assist with traffic control. Jenkins noted last year’s event – designed to provide a day of fee-free fun for kids – was canceled.
Council members agreed it would be a great event and instructed Jenkins to put it on the next council meeting agenda for official approval.
On Friday, My Buckhannon reached out to Debora Brockleman, executive director of Stockert Youth & Community Center, to learn more about the Children’s Festival Family Road Trip 2.1 Pit Stop Event.
“We are not going to be able to do our traditional Children’s Festival, which is a fun, free day for the kids,” Brockleman said. “Before, it had activities and giveaways, games and was just a fun day for the kids. It also had information tables for parents so they could participate along with the kids while receiving helpful and useful information.”
Brockleman said this year, due to uptick in COVID-19 cases, a drive-thru event seems more appropriate.
“We will still being having giveaways and they can put their ticket into a drawing for the bigger prizes we have gotten donated,” she said. “We will be able to give out information to the parents. Kids will receive take-and-make projects, prizes and other items. It will be happening on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, at Jawbone Park from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. or until we run out of giveaways.”
Brockleman said families will drive through in their vehicles and participating agencies will distribute their bags to children in the vehicles.
“We usually have performances and demonstrations throughout the day at the festival,” she said. “Since the event is a drive-thru, we are going to have the groups that would have been performing to film their performance and we will upload those to our Facebook page. So, people can get onto the Stockert Youth & Community Center Facebook page and watch those performances which would normally be live. They can watch the performances anytime and they will be available for a couple of weeks.”
She said everyone passing out items in the drive-thru will be masked. While there is no statewide mask mandate in place, families attending the event are encouraged to wear a face covering.
“We want this event to be as safe as possible,” Brockleman said. “The VIPs will be assisting us with the event and will help with traffic control. We are just hoping to do this event as safely as possible and make sure it does not have to be canceled.”
Also at Thursday’s meeting, the B-UHS Junior Class President Hank Phillips, representing B-UHS Student Council, spoke before council, saying over the last few weeks, they had been putting together their plans for Homecoming. He said there is “a lot of insecurity” because of the rise in COVID-19 cases in Upshur County. So, while the Student Council wants to schedule the event, they are also making backup plans in case the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department would advise them to revise their plans.
“At this point, we are asking to close Main Street for the traditional Homecoming Parade we have had for many years,” Hank said. “Our back-up plan is what we did last year which is essentially a ‘reverse parade’ which has the folks who are in the parade up at the high school and people can drive by up there to see them.”
“We are looking for your approval tonight in faith that we will make the best decision, along with the health department, as to whether to continue forward with this,” Hank continued.
Buckhannon City Recorder Randy Sanders, who led Thursday’s meeting due to the absence of mayor Robbie Skinner, asked Hank if they intended to use Jawbone Park for part of the festivities. Hank said they did intend to use Jawbone Park as the site of the traditional homecoming pep rally.
“The pep rally would follow the parade and consist of school team sports and those on the Homecoming Court,” Hank said. “The Homecoming Court would also be recognized there.”
Councilman CJ Rylands made a motion to approve the request and was seconded by councilman David Thomas.
During the discussion, Sanders asked Hank how many people he anticipated would attend the pep rally at Jawbone Park and Hank said no more than 1,000 people.
“I would just bring to the council’s attention, before we have a vote, as part of the discussion, we have considered in a Consolidated Public Works Board meeting and other areas the crowd situation in Jawbone Park and we have declined other requests,” Sanders said.
“I am sure the Upshur-Buckhannon County Health Department will be carefully analyzing that,” Hank said. “I know the Board of Education has been working closely with them on that and I cannot speak for them, but I assume that is how it will go. If there is a situation, we can do the parade in reverse and sacrifice the pep rally at Jawbone Park.”
Rylands, Thomas, councilwoman Pam Bucklew, councilwoman Shelia Lewis-Sines and councilman Jack Reger voted to allow B-UHS to have their Homecoming Parade, pep rally and close Main Street. Sanders voted in opposition of allowing the events.
“I am going to vote to oppose this request to remain consistent with the others who were denied,” Sanders said. “I am a graduate of Buckhannon-Upshur High School with the Class of 1976, but [I want to] remain consistent with the other votes we have cast. I do wish you well and you have the approval of the Buckhannon City Council. I wish you well and wish you success with the event.”