POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — The Mothman Festival, which attracts visitors from literally across the world each September, has been canceled for the second year in a row, due to COVID-19 concerns.
On Thursday, organizers of the festival posted the following statement via their Facebook page:
After several meetings with local public health and city officials, the Mothman Festival team is saddened to announce that we will be canceling the 2021 Mothman Festival.
We realize that some might not understand or realize that we’re already in a vulnerable position with the festival crowd outnumbering our town by thousands. We operate with a small number of staff to handle that great of a load (many are our personal family and close friends). Local hospitalizations and active Covid cases are rising daily, and according to local public health officials, are not expected to peak until right around Mothman Festival time.
We are disappointed, but it was not an easy decision to make, we can assure you of that. We cannot in good conscious jeopardize the health of our families, your families, or any family that calls Mason County WV home.
We appreciate you guys, and we hope that we’ll see you again when things are more manageable and safe.
Also note, if you have purchased tickets for the bus tours, your money will be refunded, and all of our vendors have been emailed prior to this notice.
Here’s hoping to a better 2022.
This year’s festival, which was to celebrate its 20th anniversary, is also its own economic engine, boosting not only the economy of Mason County but surrounding counties and beyond. Hotels are booked months in advance and also welcome is the spending that comes with an influx of thousands of visitors.
In 2019, the last year the festival was hosted, it was estimated by organizers, 15,000 (at most) people poured into downtown Point Pleasant – a town with a population just under 5,000.
As reported by Ohio Valley Publishing (OVP), new cases of COVID-19 began to trend upwards in July within the OVP readership area which includes Mason, Meigs and Gallia counties — the same month the Delta variant was first identified in Gallia County, with Delta variant being identified in both Meigs and Mason counties this month. Three COVID-19 related deaths (1 in Gallia, 2 in Mason counties) have also been reported since OVP resumed its daily COVID-19 updates earlier this month. Similarly, other areas across West Virginia and Ohio, as well as some areas across the United States, began reporting increasing cases of the virus.
OVP spoke to festival co-founder, Jeff Wamsley, on Thursday about the announcement. Wamsley was asked if there was a turning point, or tipping point, for him personally which prompted the cancellation.
“Probably just a few weeks ago,” Wamsley said. “We started getting emails from a few vendors and people who attend the festival who were a little apprehensive in coming this year. Some of our vendors had already pulled out prior to the cancellation.”
Wamsley said visitors to the festival have came from as far away as Australia, Japan, Germany, basically “everywhere” including “pretty much every country and all over the United States.” In recent years, the Mothman Festival has been attracting more and more families with young children, with festival organizers starting to plan activities for them – such as offering inflatables and a mobile zipline.
Wamsley went on to elaborate, “So, we have to think about this when it comes to visitors who may be positive for COVID, etc., people who live and work here are concerned. We cannot put anyone at risk, and 15,000 people on a three-block area is just that. A big risk. We are concerned about younger kids now, they have not received the vaccine so they are vulnerable.”
Wamsley guessed this year, the attendance could’ve surpassed 2019 but there was also the possibility it could’ve been down due to increasing COVID cases — there was no way to know for sure.
However, despite the uncertainty, festival organizers are still planning for the future.
“We will gather our ideas and thoughts and plan for next year as long as the playing field is safe for everyone,” Wamsley said. “We know that there are some negative comments when a festival is canceled and we realize the festival means a lot to many people. We respect that and thank them for coming each year but with an event this size it has to be safety first. I am as disappointed as everyone but we have to look at the risk involved when you have that many people crammed into such a small area.”
Wamsley co-founded the festival with the late Carolin Harris as a way to attract visitors to downtown Point Pleasant.
© 2021 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.