DAMASCUS, Va. — The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is urging thru-hikers to stay off the Appalachian Trail, but newly elected leaders in this “Town of Many Trails” still want to bring back the annual Trail Days this year.
“As it stands now, we are planning Trail Days as if it were going to happen in May,” said Trail Days Chairwoman Susan Coleman.
The conservancy’s advisory to stay off the 2,190-mile-long Appalachian Trail, which spans from Georgia to Maine, was in response to COVID-19 concerns. That’s the same reason Trail Days was canceled last May.
“I think hikers are still going to continue to hike,” Coleman said. “I just don’t think the amount of hikers will be as much as it has been in the past.”
Trail Days is a popular festival that features a parade, auction, workshops and lectures, music and more over three days.
In years past, as many as 20,000 people have attended the event in Damascus, which has about 1,000 residents.
The Appalachian Trail runs through Damascus, cutting through the town park and following the side-walks along U.S. Highway 58.
Consistently since 2004, Trail Days has been a proven money-maker for this town in eastern Washington County, netting more than $37,000 in 2018, according to town Treasurer Eva Meyer.
Tuesday Pope, the town clerk, said this year’s Town-Wide Yard Sale is slated for May 8, followed by Trail Days on May 14-16.
Due to the coronavirus, this year’s event could be a smaller festival, said Coleman, 62, who was recently elected to Town Council.
Taking COVID-19 into account, Coleman said none of the festival’s lectures are slated for indoors.
“It would be a smaller Trail Days,” Coleman said. “I think people are still going to come out. They come down to have a reunion. It’s not just people who are coming down the trail now who are going to meet up in Damascus. In May, there are a lot more other people who want to come other than hikers.”
Whether or not Trail Days happens will be decided, according to Coleman, by the end of March, when T-shirts and other items noting the dates of the event must be ordered.
Katie Lamb, 50, the town’s new mayor, is optimistic that this year’s festival could happen, she said.
It’s more than just a revenue-driver for the town; it’s also good for businesses, Lamb said.
“Trail Days is pretty vital to our businesses here in town, especially the meals and lodging business,” Lamb said. “I have been told by several different businesses that it would be devastating to not have Trail Days again.”
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