By Natalie Simms
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation or postponement of many summer events and it looks like some big fall festivities may also be forced to make alternate plans. One classic late summer/early fall race is delayed; another will go virtual. Organizers of Northwest Georgia’s staple of fall festivals say they’ll make their decisions on go/no go soon. Here’s what we know as of today:
Gary Tillman Memorial Clocktower 5K: Originally scheduled for Aug. 15, the Gary Tillman Memorial Clocktower 5K has been postponed to Saturday, Nov. 21. This will be the 35th annual event and for the first time in race history, it will be a qualifier for the 2021 Peachtree Road Race.
“Back in March when we were about to crank up our planning efforts for the race, we thought that by August this whole thing would have run its course,” says Gail Johnson, race co-director. “But as Spring rocked along it became more and more evident that having an event that draws close to 500 people in August would be irresponsible and unsafe for our runners, spectators, and volunteers, not to mention the possible ramifications regarding viral spread.
“After speaking with city leaders and many leaders in the running community on a national and state level, we decided that a late fall event would be much better. When the Atlanta Track Club announced the postponement of the Peachtree Road Race until Thanksgiving Day we settled on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 21. Even then, we know that we will need to take unprecedented precautions, and we are working now to determine what changes we need to make to make this event safe for everyone involved.”
Knights of Columbus Labor Day Barbecue: A staple in the community for the last 53 years, the annual Labor Day event hosted by the Knights of Columbus at the Rome Civic Center not only provides a tasty meal, but also support several local non-profit organizations. As of now, the event is on hold. “We are still uncertain at this point. We will be discussing and making a final decision soon,” says Jim Powell, BBQ director.
Northwest Georgia Regional Fair: Northwest Georgia Regional Fair in Calhoun in scheduled for Sept. 11-19 and at this time the local fair planners are hoping the governor will soon release guidelines to enable community, regional and state fairs to operate across Georgia. According to a statement from organizer Bud Owens, “We expect the landscape and processes of fairs will be different this year with the health and safety restrictions in place. We are still optimistic the fairs will be held. We will keep everyone informed as decisions are made for the September event.”
Roman Rumble 5K: For over 30 years, the Roman Rumble 5K has been supporting the Harbor House, the Northwest Georgia Child Advocacy Center. This year, it will be virtual.
“We are in the process of planning the Roman Rumble but will not be holding it in the traditional sense of a 5K race this year due to COVID-19. We are actively planning a ‘virtual race’ and will hopefully have our theme and ideas for this finalized by August 3,” says Joe Costolnick, director of Harbor House.
“We are not planning on hosting an in-person event this year. We feel that it is just not the right thing to do, but we certainly do not want to skip a year as the Roman Rumble has been ongoing for over 30 years now. It will be sometime in September, probably Sept 12 as that would have been the date for the actual race itself.”
Coosa Valley Fair: The 72nd annual Coosa Valley Fair is scheduled for Oct. 6-10 but fair organizers with the Exchange Club of Rome say a final decision will be made at their next meeting on Aug. 11.
“We are watching and waiting. We all thought this thing (pandemic) would have blown out of here this summer, but that is not the case,” says J.P. Cooper, president of Coosa Valley Fair. “We average 10,000 people per day. I don’t think the city or local health officials will let an event like that happen right now.
“It’s not looking good, this thing moves so fast and a lot could happen between now and then. We want to have the fair, but we do not want to put anyone coming through the Fair or our own Exchange Club members in danger. We may have to forgo this year and come back bigger, better and stronger next year.”
Bartow County Fair: The Bartow County Fair is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 21-25. Organizers say they have “not made any concrete plans at this time, but all will depend on what the governor will allow.”
Chiaha Harvest Fair: The annual Chiaha Harvest Fair is planned for Oct. 24-25 at a new location, the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds. Organizers are acting as if the festival will go ahead as scheduled, but “the progression of the pandemic will be our guide”.
“We have offered artists the opportunity to apply and not send in their booth fee until we are able to be more confident we can have the event,” says Monica Sheppard, board member. “We will be meeting with our board soon to discuss our options and will keep everyone updated on our plans. We will all be keeping our fingers crossed that we might be able to hold the festival this year, but the health and safety of all of you will be the top priority.”
The decision to move the festival to the Fairgrounds was made before the pandemic in order to better serve the artist and patrons in the event of wet weather.