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‘America’s Largest Small Town Independence Celebration’ gears up for a socially-distanced weekend

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February 07 2021 06:00 pm

RIPLEY, WV (WOWK) — Lately, it seems like everything is either being canceled or postponed.

However, “America’s Largest Small Town” July fourth celebration is scheduled to take place in Ripley, West Virginia, beginning this Friday.

Also—it’s going to run a little differently this year.

For 150 years, the city of Ripley, West Virginia, has been celebrating America’s independence day. This tradition was almost derailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city finally got permission from the state, but only after guaranteeing some changes.

“We had to brainstorm and think of ways that we can make it safer,” Carolyn Rader, mayor of Ripley, said.

“Our big theme is respect others, and stay safe, and that’s what our signs are all over town.  Not to mention, on every spot on the sidewalk, we have ample room for a family to stand, then we have a big X and there’s gonna be a sign in the middle of that X that says ‘please observe social distancing.’ 

Carolyn Rader, mayor of Ripley

On top of this, Rader says there will be entrance-and exit-only signs and the concerts will be converted into a drive-in model to enhance social distancing.

Rader also says despite having social distancing signs along the parade route, it’s ultimately going to be up to the parade-goers to monitor themselves.

“The adults are at a point at this time, after everything that’s happened, ‘I’m smart enough to make a decision on where to stand and to be respectful of those around me,’ and that’s what we’re counting on.” 

Carolyn Rader, mayor of Ripley

Locals do seem to be on board with the new protocol as well.

“I think that everybody here has done a really good job social distancing and it’s gonna be different but I think everybody will still come out and be able to celebrate and I’m sure it’ll be a great time,” Makenzie Hesson, resident of Ripley, said.

While some may think it’s still too risky, City Clerk Nancy Randolph says those who stay home will still be able to view the celebrations.

“We have done our best to put the measures in, and I think if people are uncomfortable to come, then it’s gonna be televised so we can meet everybody’s feelings for that,” Randolph said.

Mayor Rader says this event could become a guidepost for other cities.

“We want to be the city that shows people, ‘Yes, this can happen.’ If everybody works together and if everybody respects one another,” Rader said.

The celebration will run Friday and Saturday with drive-in concerts beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Mayor Rader says they will have a station with masks, gloves, and sanitizer for anyone interested to ensure a fun and safe environment for all.

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