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Decision on holding Lakefest to be made soon / June 18, 2020
The Clarksville Lake Country Chamber of Commerce board of directors are feeling pressure to decide whether to move forward with Lakefest 2020 in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Normally at this time of year, executive director Sheila Cuykendall and her team of volunteers would be finalizing plans for Clarksville’s signature summer event. Now Cuykendall and the board must decide whether to hold Lakefest this year in the face of COVID-19 and public health mandates prohibiting large gatherings, with no certainty on when they might be lifted.

After meeting Thursday, the board agreed to forego a final decision on the festival until June 26.

Lakefest 2020 is currently set to take place July 17-19.

Lakefest is a staple of summer for residents and visitors to Buggs Island Lake in July, often drawing crowds estimated at 50,000 or more. “We believe Lakefest brings economic value to our small businesses,” Cuykendall said.

It’s clear that COVID-19 is going to change that celebration, probably quite profoundly, even if Gov. Ralph Northam further eases restrictions under Phase 3. Already, Cuykendall said, “there are parts of Lakefest that won’t be happening in July.” The Thursday night tethered balloon rides and the antique car show are cancelled, and for now, there is no sand sculpture planned.

Phase 2, which started June 5 in most parts of Virginia, including Mecklenburg County, has no end date, though Northam said on Thursday that Phase 2 could last as little as two weeks, meaning Virginia would move into Phase 3 shortly after June 19.

So far there are few details of what Phase 3 will look like. In May, when Northam outlined his three-phase Forward Virginia plan, he said Phase 3 would remove the ban on social gatherings and limits in establishments, but would still call for enhanced cleaning and disinfections and could include other measures such as social distancing and the wearing of masks.

The governor hinted on Thursday that if Virginia sees a spike in new cases, as has happened in other states that eased restrictions on the public, he could push back the start of Phase 3.

As the board awaits further direction from the governor. Cuykendall said, “As of right now we still are moving forward with the scheduled event. We collectively want to see what Phase 3 is going to look like before we rushed to a decision.”

If the festival cannot take place in July, Cuykendall said the board hopes to reschedule it for Sept. 17-19.

“We have ordered Lakefest T-shirts and hope to have them available in a few weeks. We plan to do the right thing at the end of the day. We just ask you give us more time to see what the governor restrictions are in Phase 3. We appreciate your patience in our decision.”

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