Pandemic not masking community excitement as Prestonsburg hosts Jenny Wiley Festival

Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 6:23 PM EDT
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PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - The Jenny Wiley Festival is in full swing as downtown Prestonsburg celebrates with vendors, a carnival, and more.

Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton said the decision to host the annual event was not easy as other events across the region pulled the plug for 2020 due to the pandemic. But he said he believes carrying through with plans approved by the Floyd County Health Department was in the best interest of those who are interested in attending.

“We’re doing everything we can to try to give people something to do without worrying as much about the pandemic," Stapleton said.

The event kicked off Wednesday, allowing the planning committee to monitor things and make changes based on what they witnessed. With those changes in place, like limiting entrances, requiring temperature checks, and placing stickers on people who have entered, Stapleton says the festival is safer than going to a grocery store.

“People don’t understand just how much effort we’re putting into making this safe," said Stapleton.

He said the mental health issues that have spiked during the pandemic are an indication that people need options, so he and the planning committee have worked to incorporate every safety precaution to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19.

“Human nature is not to be cooped up all the time," he said. “Things like overdoses. They’ve increased during this pandemic. Suicides, suicide attempts. And that’s a concern.”

Many of the vendors said they are happy to be out after a season of canceled events hit their industry.

“It’s been a really, really hard year to be in this business and we’re just thankful to be out here. And we hope a lot of people will support everyone out here working,” said Becky Harmon with Harmon’s Concessions.

Fourteen-year-old Louisville artist Kennedy Hall, who uses her art as an escape during the pandemic, said she is happy to have a place to give her colorful work a home and brighten someone else’s day.

“It’s a very stress-relieving thing,” Hall said. “It feels amazing to know that they get to hang something I’ve created on their wall or wherever they may get it, or a gift to somebody.”

Stapelton said brightening someone’s day is what the festival is all about, adding that as long as people follow the guidelines and stay away if they are sick or at high risk, the event will serve to do just that.

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