While most festivals in the region have been canceled due to COVID-19, Isom Days will continue as planned, despite warnings from the health department.
Festival Committee Chairman Tim Breeding released the schedule of events for the festival last week on his personal Facebook page.
“We’re doing everything the state tells us is required, but Isom Days is going to go on,” Breeding said.
Scott Lockard, Director of the Kentucky River District Health Department, said the department had communicated its concerns to the Isom Days Committee, but never heard back before the schedule was released. It reiterated those concerns after the schedule was released.
Lockard said the cabinet cannot approve or disapprove of the festival, but it “strongly recommends” that it not be held.
“We have actually sent a letter to the Isom Days Festival recommending they cancel that festival,” he said. “We cannot see how they can hold that safely.”
Breeding said the festival plans to encourage social distancing, and will post signs requiring that festival attendees wear masks.
“People know there’s a virus out there, and if they feel unsafe, they don’t have to come,” Breeding said. “Everybody knows what is out there and they have to make their own decisions.”
He said that people carrying a virus to local businesses and other gathering places is always a concern with every disease.
Letcher County Judge/Executive Terry Adams said as long as the festival follows health department recommendations, he thinks it’s fine to have it. He said he was not aware that the department had recommended it be canceled.
“As long as they follow the health department guidelines and do the social distancing, and wear masks I don’t see a problem with it,” he said.
Deputy Judge Jason Back, the top assistant to Adams, posted his support for the festival on his publicly visible Facebook page with an oblique reference to recent protests.
“I’m in full support of the Isom Days Committee!
“We must move on, this living in constant fear must come to an end at some point.
“Come enjoy yourself if you’d like, if you’re scared, stay home.”
Adams said Back’s post is “a personal opinion. That’s nothing from the judge’s office.”
The Isom Days Festival will be spread out over six days, and include a motocross race August 28 and 29. The festival will have a carnival, which Breeding said will have its own safety guidelines, beginning September 2 and running through September 5. The annual rodeo will be held September 5 and 6.
The rodeo will be run by the Spur’n S Rodeo from Tennessee. Breeding said spectators will be encouraged to social distance, but the bleachers will not be blocked off to prevent people from sitting together. He said he believes turnout will be low and crowds won’t be a problem.
Breeding said the festival is nonprofit, and only needs enough people to come to pay for the events.