POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — A record-breaking crowd and presidential Tweet in 2019, set up this year’s 19th annual Mothman Festival to possibly be the largest yet, but then, COVID-19.
On Thursday, festival organizers announced the event would not be happening in 2020 and would instead be “postponed” until September 2021.
The announcement posted on the festival’s Facebook page, stated, “Due to many unknown factors and the guidelines for fairs and festivals now set forth by the state of West Virginia because of COVID-19, we are postponing Mothman Festival 2020. We want to give you the chance to change your plans and be able to do something else with your money and time. Point Pleasant WV still welcomes you at anytime. This is the last thing we wanted to do. The restrictions would affect the guest speakers, bus tours, hayride, vendor space, and traffic/pedestrian flow, etc. in a negative way. The state guidelines would be tough for the crowds of our size. Instead of the Mothman Festival being what it is and what we love, we feel the event would be subpar and lackluster to what has been built over the last 18 years. That being said, we have started to plan for Mothman Festival 2021 on Sept. 18 and 19, 2021. We will celebrate the 20th year in 2021 and it will be a big one. Hope to see you there!”
Jeff Wamlsey, who started the festival nearly 20 years ago along with the late Carolin Harris, spoke exclusively with Ohio Valley Publishing on Thursday, providing perspective on the decision.
When asked if there was a “tipping point” for him personally regarding canceling the festival, he stated, “We realized in March when the COVID situation grew worse, that the Mothman Festival would be affected in some way. The main reason being that we draw crowds of 12,000-plus. Social distancing protocols do not work with this kind of festival attendance, especially with so many people in a confined area like our downtown area. The festival is like a runaway train the closer it gets to festival time so we decided to give everyone plenty of time to change travel or lodging plans by announcing this information now. We can’t call off this festival two weeks before it’s supposed to happen.”
Given the festival’s tendency to grow exponentially each year, Wamsley was asked if he felt this postponement would cause any loss of momentum?
“We are looking at this ‘bump in the road’ as another challenge,” he said. “We have been up against issues like tropical storms, record heat and major traffic and parking issues. But, we are not going to jeopardize our residents, vendors or visitors’ wellbeing or health in any way. There are just too many ‘ifs’ and uncertain scenarios. The momentum will continue for the festival, people will still visit Point Pleasant throughout the year and we look forward to another successful event in 2021.”
The Mothman Festival is open to all, with free admission to concerts, access to guest speakers and several activities for young and old alike. It provides an economic boost for not only Mason County but surrounding counties, with an influx of thousands of people seeking lodging, food, gasoline and more. It also attracts a large contingency of visitors from literally across the country and world.
OVP asked Wamsley what he most wanted the public to understand about the decision.
“Our decision is based on our town’s safety as well as all the people who attend the festival,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”
When asked if a virtual event of some kind was an option in this day and age of Zoom and all manner of social media channels, Wamsley stated, “The virtual events are an option, like the virus itself it is new territory for us. We just need to adapt the best we can with this new normal. Since we have announced postponing the festival, many have emailed or contacted us and said they were disappointed but at the same time felt it was in the best interest of everyone to wait it out until next year.”
© 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.