By Randy Arrington
STANLEY, May 28 — It didn’t take long for the Stanley Homecoming Committee to come to a consensus on Thursday night.
There will be no homecoming this year on July 4th.
“I just don’t think we can have it and feel good about it,” Town Manager Terry Pettit told the committee. “You just don’t want to be responsible for the wrong thing happening, and we just don’t know which way [the COVID-19 pandemic] is gonna go.”
Pettit, also the longtime chief of the Stanley Fire Department, told committee members that many fire departments in the region have canceled their summer festivals.
“They are not sure if people will be allowed to come out; and if they are allowed, how many will come out,” Pettit said. “And they are afraid if they do come out and then there’s a spike afterwards, then they’ll get the blame.”
Committee members discussed the potential for pushing homecoming back anywhere from August to October. However, changing the dates does cause various issues. A new contract with a carnival vendor will have to be established, and that may be difficult.
“The later we wait…they start heading back toward Florida,” Pettit said of the carnival operators. “The later we wait, the less chance there is that we’ll have a carnival.”
The committee discussed the distinct possibility that this year’s installment of homecoming may have a smaller entertainment slate than in year’s past. However, the consensus seemed to be that any future version of homecoming in 2020 would likely include live music, food and fireworks.
Virginia currently remains in Phase I of its reopening plan, and will remain there for at least another week. Phase II plans will allow crowds of up to 50 people, while Phase III could allow gatherings of up to 250. It is unclear when (or potentially even if) larger gatherings for sporting events, concerts, festivals and amusements parks will be allowed before cold weather sets in this fall.
Mayor Mike Knight got a consensus from the committee that they will meet again around July 1 to discuss plans for a revised homecoming sometime between late summer and fall. The homecoming may be shorter, take place on different days, and not have the same entertainment — but the committee holds out hope that the Stanley tradition will continue.
Pettit told the committee that if the worst happens and homecoming is canceled altogether for 2020, it would only be the second time in the event’s 54-year history.
The first — and so far only — cancellation came in 1980, when the Town of Stanley was installing a new sewer system.
A new amphitheater being planned for Ed Good Park will have to wait until Homecoming 2021 for its unveiling.