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At FloydFest, COVID fears don't spoil a good time

At FloydFest, COVID fears don't spoil a good time


Action from Wednesday night and Thursday morning at FloydFest ’21. 

On a field of mask-free, music-loving FloydFest revelers, a small table with a Virginia Department of Health banner was a relatively lonely sight.

On the table lay an array of COVID-19 home tests. The VDH brought 5,000 of them to give away. Behind the table, the department's Megan Montgomery told people to take as many as they wanted, and to use them five days after they left FloydFest, or as soon as possible if they felt symptoms.

The test is 91% accurate, she said.

"We know that not everyone here is vaccinated," Montgomery, a case investigator and contact tracer, said. "It's a little concerning, because no one is wearing masks."

Nor was Montgomery, as she sat outdoors, where transmission risk is low, most health experts agree. It's also a place with a lot of hugs and a lot of singing (or shouting) along with the music.

As people came through the box offices or boarded buses ferrying them to the site off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Patrick County, FloydFest workers did temperature checks. Festival spokesman Sam Calhoun said early Thursday that no one had presented a fever the day before, when patrons were moving in to set up camp.

Inside the festival grounds on Wednesday night and Thursday, such Southwest Virginia bands as GOTE, The Dead Reckoning, Empty Bottles, the Jordan Harman Band and Blue Mule played, as did some performers in the festival's fan-voted On the Rise contest. Past contest winners including Abby Bryant & The Echoes, Mason Via & Hot Trail Mix and L Shape Lot hit stages Wednesday night and were scheduled for other slots, as well. Old Crow Medicine Show was scheduled to headline the main stage on Thursday.

FloydFest, a five-day music and arts tradition, runs through Sunday. About 10,000 people were expected to be at the long sold-out event, about 5,000 fewer than the 2019 event. Organizers said they wanted to cap attendance in the pandemic era.

As bands played, fans roamed and vendors sold food, beverages, art and other memorabilia, seven people roamed the grounds to spray disinfectant on frequently touched surfaces. The tables in the Pink Floyd Beer Garden, the VIP area behind the main stage, backstage band areas and portable toilets were frequent targets.

Jacob Moody of Lynchburg carried a backpack containing a carbon dioxide tank that sprayed a mixture of alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and distilled water.

"It's a lot of looks, for sure," Moody said of FloydFest guest reactions. "It's a very curious thing."

Moody was to spend two hours a day spraying surfaces, as did other volunteers under Kyle Falwell's direction. Falwell, who owns Lynchburg aviation company Bon Air Brokerage, developed what he dubbed the BonAirosol pack to keep his planes clean during the pandemic. Through his friendship with FloydFest organizers, he introduced both the disinfectant spray pack and a thermal camera in use at the event to screen people for fevers that could be a sign of COVID-19.

The spray solution "is like hand sanitizer, minus the aloe gel," Falwell said. "We're just trying to keep everything as clean as we can."

Burton & Co., which insures FloydFest, is sponsoring its Bon Airosol use.

People in attendance moved around without a lot of stress. Rachel Meadows of Daniels, West Virginia, recently attended that state's Mountain Music Festival, her first since the Blue Ridge Rock Festival near Lynchburg in 2019.

"I'm not too overly concerned about it," Meadows said. "I'm not on top of a bunch of people."

She had not been vaccinated.

"It kind of freaks me out a little bit," she said of a shot to prevent the bug.

Jim and Missy Rose of Copper Hill have been vaccinated but also have had COVID-19, which they joked was "a Thanksgiving present" from relatives.

"After having experienced it, it's not something I would highly recommend," Missy Rose said.

Jim Rose added: "I don't dislike anyone enough to wish it on them."

This was the Roses' fourth FloydFest.

"We really missed it," Missy Rose said. "It felt like coming home again."

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