CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Gov. Jim Justice held a virtual ceremony to award more than $1.5 million to a total of 330 fairs and festivals across West Virginia to help organizers and communities bridge the gap in a year where such events were forced to be canceled.
“We know with this pandemic, we had to close our fairs and festivals,” Gov. Justice said. “It was the prudent thing to do, but it was still a tough thing to do because I know how important these events are to all of us.
“So the next thing that comes up, several of the people who run these events came to me and said that, because of a lack of funds and lost revenue, we could be on the verge of losing as many of half of these events,” Gov. Justice continued. “There’s no way I was going to stand by and let that happen. So what did we do? We went back to work to find a way to keep them going.”
The $1,566,388 announced today will reimburse 330 fairs and festivals for the dollars they would have received out of the State budget to hold their respective events.
Of the total amount, the Governor announced that $300,000 would be provided to support the State Fair of West Virginia.
“Our fairs and festivals are the fabric of our state in lots of ways,” Gov. Justice said. “They bring in millions and millions of visitors. Imagine the economic impact. Think about all the joy and goodness centered around these events.
“They’re our identity,” Gov. Justice continued. “That’s why today is such a special day.”
The Governor was joined by West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History Curator Randall Reid-Smith for the ceremony, along with organizers and leaders of various fairs and festivals from across the state.
“We’re here to celebrate your spirit of giving today through your support of our fairs and festivals,” Reid-Smith said. “These events show the pride of who our communities are, not to mention the economic development they bring, so we thank you, Governor.”
“From the bottom of our hearts, we say thank you,” said Kelly Collins, President of the West Virginia Association of Fairs and Festivals and CEO of the State Fair of West Virginia. “You’ve always been a champion for the tourism industry and for our state’s events and we’re grateful for your support.
“It’s been a difficult year for all, to say the least, but for organizations who depend on large gatherings for our business, this pandemic has completely wiped out our ability to host our events safely,” Collins continued. “It’s an economic loss to the state that’s well into the millions, so your support is truly going to keep our traditions alive and our events moving forward.”
“We thank you very much for supporting our fairs and festivals and supplying us with this much-needed funding during these difficult times,” said Tyler Terango, Chairman of the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival. “Our festival has a huge impact on the culture and heritage in this community and through the state of West Virginia. We take great pride in the fact that we’ve been able to provide free entertainment to our festival-goers for 41 years.
“I do have some exciting news though, in the midst of all of the not-so-good news,” Terango continued. “We are going to be having a virtual festival this labor day weekend. It will be on our Facebook page and our festival website. We’re going to be doing a mixture of archive videos and videos of our live performances at the Robinson Grand [Performing Arts Center], of course using social distancing during those performances, and this grant money will help make that possible.”
“We’re honored to receive this support today for our fairs and festivals, arts, culture, and our tourism family, that’s all so vital to our state,” said Amber Miller-Belcher, representing festivals in Logan, West Virginia. “A lot of people don’t understand that all of our events are free to our public. And so, when sponsorships were lost – and it’s almost impossible for businesses to give because of the struggles they’re facing right now due to the pandemic – this was such a blessing, Governor.
Thank you, Governor, so much for taking the time to spotlight something that’s so dear to my heart and all of our hearts and for also just for being the Governor that just doesn’t talk the talk but walks the walk,” Miller-Belcher continued.
Gov. Justice also announced that another round of grants will be announced next week in support of fairs, festivals, and similar events in West Virginia.