GALLIPOLIS — Facing the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers all over the United States are making difficult decisions regarding their events and the Gallipolis River Recreation Festival Committee is no exception.
According to a press release regarding the event, while the committee is waiting to see how things progress in the coming months to make a final decision on the fate of the 2020 festival, worry over the financial impact on the Chamber has been at the forefront of the committee member’s minds.
“While the River Recreation Festival is a fundraiser for the Chamber, whether or not it’s profitable at all is dependent on a lot of outside factors, like the weather, sponsorship levels and costs,” said Gallia County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Elisha Orsbon. “We rely heavily on sponsorships, as well as fundraisers, in the hopes we at least break even each year, which is not always the case. We were already forced to cancel two fundraisers this year and we do not want to be a burden to our businesses for sponsorships or donations, when we know they are struggling, as well.”
The biggest expense for the festival is the fireworks show, which is often contracted multiple years at a time. This year was no different and, regardless of whether the festival moved forward, the Chamber would be responsible for the cost of the fireworks. They could delay it, but not cancel it.
According to the press release, “That’s when Thomas Do It Center stepped in to help, agreeing to fully sponsor the 2020 fireworks display.”
“As a long-time Chamber member and supporter, we wanted to help lift that burden and also ensure there would be a 2020 fireworks show and River Recreation Festival in Gallipolis,” said General Manager Autumn Thomas.
The press release continued, “Their sponsorship, the first full sponsorship received in many years for the fireworks display, will ensure the Chamber doesn’t lose money, regardless of what ultimately happens with the festival, just because of the cost of the fireworks display.”
“I don’t know that we will make any money if we are able to hold some version of the festival, whether it’s in July or later in the year, but we won’t be struggling thanks to Thomas Do It Center’s sponsorship and for that, we are extremely grateful,” Orsbon said.
On their reasons for deciding to sponsor the fireworks, Thomas said, “As a locally owned business, Thomas Do It Center has always been deep-rooted in community events, especially those revolving around youth. We believe in investing in the community that also supports us by choosing to shop local for new home builds and remodeling supply. We have a huge appreciation for the Gallia residents who choose to patronize family owned business, as opposed to traveling out of town to make their purchases.”
Due to its essential status, Thomas Do It Center was able to remain open during the Ohio Stay-At-Home Order that shut down many businesses, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t felt the impact, according to the press release.
“COVID-19 has put a difficult spin on business this year. Business from day-to-day can be very unpredictable. Staffing has been a huge challenge, as we accommodated several employees who chose to home quarantine. Hiring during the pandemic has been nearly impossible, yet we still need to meet public demand for customer service,” said Thomas. “Staying open during the pandemic has come with a huge amount of responsibility. Responsibility to our employees and community to keep our store at low risk, disinfected and comply with frequently changing government regulations. Our greatest responsibility though has been to our small contractors, who depend on us daily to supply materials to their jobsites so that they can remain working and supporting their families, so closing was never an option to us. We’ve regrettably seen many small businesses that may never open back up after this pandemic. ‘That won’t be us’ is what my dad (Jim Thomas-store owner) said from the beginning, as I’ve watched him continually put in twelve hour days, with no days off for weeks, going on months at a time now.”
As for the Gallipolis River Recreation Festival, the committee is currently in a holding pattern. The 55th annual festival will not be held this year on July 3rd and 4th. Registrations for events like the parade and pageant have been closed for now, until a reschedule date has been confirmed.
Information for this article provided by the Gallia County Chamber of Commerce.