DAMASCUS, Va. (AP) — Despite a COVID-19-related warning to stay off the Appalachian Trail, some leaders in this "Town of Many Trails" are still hoping to hold an annual three-day festival this spring.
"As it stands now, we are planning Trail Days as if it were going to happen in May," Trail Days Chairwoman Susan Coleman told the Bristol Herald Courier.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy's advisory for thru-hikers to stay off the 2190-mile-long (3524.46 kilometers) Appalachian Trail, which spans from Georgia to Maine, was issued in response to COVID-19 concerns. Trail Days, a popular festival that features a parade, auction, music and more, was canceled last May in Damascus, a small town of about 1,000 near Virginia's border with Tennessee.
In years past, as many as 20,000 people have attended the event in Damascus, where the trail cuts through the town park and follows the sidewalks along U.S. Highway 58.
"I think hikers are still going to continue to hike," Coleman said. "I just don't think the amount of hikers will be as much as it has been in the past."
Consistently since 2004, Trail Days has been a proven money-maker for Damascus, netting more than $37,000 in 2018, according to town Treasurer Eva Meyer.
Due to the pandemic, this year's event could be a smaller festival, said Coleman. She said none of the festival's lectures are slated for indoors.
Coleman said a final decision on whether Trail Days will be held is expected by the end of March, when T-shirts and other items must be ordered.
Katie Lamb, the town's new mayor, said she is optimistic that this year's festival could happen.
"Trail Days is pretty vital to our businesses here in town, especially the meals and lodging business," Lamb said. "I have been told by several different businesses that it would be devastating to not have Trail Days again."