Rubber ducks

News Virginian file

Rubber ducks take off to begin the duck race at Riverfest at Constitution Park in Waynesboro in 2018. City officials have cancelled all events through May 10, including Riverfest.

All events, programs and gatherings in the city of Waynesboro are cancelled through May 10 — including Riverfest, the Park to Park half marathon and Rosenwald Block Party — in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cancelled events also included the Shenandoah Valley Plant Symposium, Egg Hunt, Petpawlooza and the South River Fly-Fishing Expo.

Riverfest, one of Waynesboro’s biggest annual events, was preparing for its 24th annual event on April 25.

“It’s certainly something we didn’t want to do, but felt, obviously, that it was best and needed at this time,” said Amanda Nicholson, President of the volunteer board of directors for Riverfest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting environmental conservation and stewardship of the South River basin.

Riverfest annually draws a crowd of 2,500 to 3,000 individuals, said Greg Hitchin, economic development director for the city of Waynesboro.

Although Riverfest is a free event and Hitchin said the financial and economic impacts of its cancellation would not necessarily be severe, there are still implications for local business, particularly in conjunction with the Fly Fishing Expo, which was scheduled for the week before Riverfest. The Fly Fishing Expo does charge a fee and draws revenue, Hitchin said.

“There are typically several thousand people who will come to [the Fly Fishing expo] as well,” Hitchin said. “In both cases, visitors would go to the event, and visit a restaurant or whatever. I don’t want to downplay that there’s not an impact. It’s difficult to measure what that impact is, but certainly they’re both longstanding events for the community that we’ll miss, economics or not.”

Nicholson lamented having to cancel the many fun events Riverfest has planned for 2020.

“It was sad, and it was a hard decision for us,” she said. “We had so many good things planned. Riverfest has grown, certainly, over the years. We’re currently at the stage where we have two program areas going on at the same time.”

Those programs included the Wildlife Center of Virginia’s reptile world presentation; science experiments for attendees to participate in; a presentation from the Beekeeper Association about backyard beekeeping; a Master Naturalist program on backyard habitats and native plants; the “Hidden Life of Ants” presentation; and yet another presentation on Riverfest’s animal of the year, the Tiger Salamander.

“We pick a different native animal each year to highlight,” Nicholson explained.

In light of losing their biggest educational push of the year, Riverfest hopes to get creative and figure out other programs and activities to offer when social circumstances permit again.

“Once we get things all settled down and kind of wrap our heads around what everything looks like, we’ll try and get creative and see what else we can be doing,” Nicholson said.

Other closures

City parks, as well as the South River Greenway, are open. Although residents can still fish, paddle and hike, city officials are urging everyone to practice social distancing.

All park restrooms, with the exception of Ridgeview Park, are closed. Shelter reservations through May 10 are cancelled.

Other ways coronavirus is impacting Waynesboro:

» City building hours will be “greatly curtailed,” officials said, and residents are encouraged to conduct business, including paying utilities, online or by phone.

» The Department of Public Works is asking customers to handle their garbage cans with gloved hands during the coronavirus outbreak.

» The city’s general registrar’s office is encouraging absentee voting using the code “2A.”

» Both the Office on Youth and the Tourist Information Center are closed until further notice.

» The Waynesboro Public Library is closed until April 15. However, curbside service is available Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by calling (540) 942-6746.

» At the Rosenwald Community Center, open gym, public meetings, the teen room and all classes are canceled through May 10.

» Waynesboro courts remain closed through April 6, with exceptions for emergency hearings.

» Waynesboro police officers will continue to provide services — however, officers may take certain precautions while responding to calls, including working over the phone, avoiding close contact and wearing personal protective equipment.

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