The Blue Ridge Country Festival that was to be held this weekend by Purpose Driven Events was publicly canceled by the promoter yesterday. He wrote ticket holders that “at the request of local health officials, Blue Ridge Country Festival slated for Oct. 1-3, 2021 will be postponed.” However, a health department spokesperson told the Danville Register and Bee that “the agency did not cancel the festival, or ask or advise the promoters to do so.”
Today the Chatham Star-Tribune published a story, in which they talked with Jonathan Slye, the CEO of Purpose Driven Events, who said, “The reason that we did not finish finalizing the rest of these plans is because we had been contacted starting Monday by a couple of government officials that stated there was a good chance, a likelihood that COVID would play into effect and that COVID was a factor.”
After this story was released, the Pittsylania County government, headed by Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Warren and County Administrator David Smitherman released a statement via Facebook with more details on what led up to the cancellation of the event and what I read as a confusing defense of Jonathan Slye over some of the lead up to the cancellation. Here is the full statement:
STATEMENT ON BLUE RIDGE COUNTRY FESTIVAL
As has been widely reported, the Blue Ridge Country Festival, which was scheduled for this weekend, has been postponed until 2022. During a special called meeting in June, the Board of Supervisors had approved the issuance of a permit for the Blue Ridge Country Festival. This application was approved with conditions around Purpose Driven Events, the company operating the Blue Ridge Ampitheater in Blairs, providing proper plans and final documentation for areas like traffic, parking, camping, and security, among other things. However, those final documents were never provided, Purpose Driven Events never paid the required permit fee, and an actual permit for the event was never officially issued.
Pittsylvania County Administrator David Smitherman, after consulting with officials including the Pittsylvania County Sheriff, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Health, VDOT and other regulatory agencies, sent a letter to Purpose Driven Events on Tuesday, September 21 stating that the festival permits were rescinded until updated and complete plans were submitted to the proper agencies. That letter offered Purpose Driven Events several steps to complete by Thursday, September 23 if they wished to move forward with planning their event and obtaining an official permit.
On Thursday, the event promoter informed Pittsylvania County that it was highly likely that the event would be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and said that, as a result, he would not move forward with providing the requested documentation. The next day, the event promoter informed Pittsylvania County that he was working with artists and other parties to make a formal postponement announcement, which was released to ticketholders on Monday and the general public today.
The Chatham Star Tribune reported that, according to Pittsylvania County and the Health Department, the event organizers provided verifiably false reason as to why the event was cancelled. That is incorrect. While the permits for the festival were rescinded, the event promoters stayed in consistent contact with the County and were transparent that COVID implications would likely require postponement of the event. The requested documentation was not provided due to these COVID related concerns.
What I find confusing here is the last paragraph that says that the Chatham Star-Tribune reporting was “incorrect.” I don’t see what is incorrect in it and the reporting is basically the same as what the Danville Register and Bee reported. The first sentence of the last paragraph of the county statement is actually incorrect and makes the paragraph confusing.
One wonders why this county statement attacks the Chatham paper and not the Danville paper for the same reporting.
One can only speculate, as no signature or name is put on the county Facebook post, but it should be noted that on May 5, 2021 Supervisor Bob Warren launched a wild attack on the Chatham Star-Tribune for “poor journalistic practices” in a letter to the editor of that paper and placed on the county government Facebook page, in seeming anger over their coverage of county government. Now the county government seemingly attacked the local newspaper today – a private business which has been serving the area for decades – with an inaccuracy.
Personally, I’m going to keep subscribing to the Chatham Star-Tribune, because I want to know what is going on and have no reason to doubt that their reporters will keep to the standards that they have held for decades. When it comes to politicians, though, especially ones that get into a habit of attacking others, it is best to verify and then trust.
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