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FairfaxViVa! Vienna! festival in flux due to COVID

ViVa! Vienna! festival in flux due to COVID

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Nearly one year into the pandemic and one ViVa! Vienna! already not held, the Rotary Club of Vienna is strategizing with Vienna officials to overcome obstacles and unknowns in order to make the event happen this year.

Gov. Northam currently has imposed a limit of 250 people for fairs and carnivals, making ViVa! Vienna! – which typically draws 30,000 to 40,000 people over three days – a non-starter for Memorial Day weekend, said Rotarian A.J. Oskuie, the event’s chairman.

The Rotary Club would have to see attendance limits increased to at least 1,000 people by April 5 in order to hold the festival on Memorial Day weekend, he said.

“One thousand gives us something to work with,” said Oskuie, who said the club would give the town a status update March 1. The club’s longtime carnival-ride vendor, Cole Shows Amusement Co. Inc., has done events using COVID-19 safety protocols, he said.

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Another possibility would be using the same, smaller footprints of the Oktoberfest and Chillin’ on Church events in the vicinity of Church Street, Mill Street and Dominion Road, N.E., to control the number of people entering and leaving a scaled-down ViVa! Vienna!, officials said.

“You would have to have entrances and exits,” said Vienna Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman, adding that event organizers might have to work with NOVA Parks to reroute the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Trail temporarily around the fenced-off area. Amusement rides, if offered, would take up a considerable portion of the available space, she said.

Another option: Move the event to the weekend of Oct. 16 and make it just two days instead of the usual three. While that possibility might be more viable, given the COVID-19 vaccine rollout now occurring, the event would share the month with Oktoberfest on Oct. 2 and the Vienna Halloween Parade on Oct. 27.

(Because of the pandemic, the town and Vienna Business Association last fall eschewed the traditional Oktoberfest event and held three days’ worth of “Distanz Oktoberfest” events at businesses around town. Instead of the usual Halloween Parade on Maple Avenue, E., and Center Street, S., Vienna officials held a mobile “Wave Parade” that visited all quadrants of the town.)

Holding three major events within the same month could place a heavy burden on town staff, officials said.
The Rotary Club paid the town government $43,000 for services rendered during the last ViVa! Vienna! celebration in 2019. The town closed some roads, provided security, removed trash and aided with the event’s setup and breakdown. Holding a two-day event instead likely would result in charges of about $28,000, said Finance Director Marion Serfass.

Town officials on Jan. 26 presented Oskuie with a multi-page memorandum outlining safety guidance for this year’s festival. The event would have to be approved by the Fairfax County Health Department and Fire Marshal’s Office.

“We always want ViVa! to be a positive experience,” Herman said. “I think we can figure out a plan to make it happen.”

The Rotary Club is considering bringing in food trucks instead of having the usual ViVa! Vienna! food court, Oskuie said.

Because ViVa! Vienna! inspires hope, the town and Rotary Club should plan the event and have a backup plan in case something goes awry, said Council member Howard Springsteen.

“I don’t think we have anything to lose,” he said. “Give them the green light to look at things.”

Council members expressed a desire to see ViVa! Vienna! resume, but disagreed if the time was right yet. Council member Steve Potter favored moving ahead, saying the town “needs the uplift right now,” while member Charles Anderson said he rather would wait and see the event done right.

Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert expressed hope that ViVa! Vienna! and other popular community events could resume after last year’s cancellations and disruptions.

“Things just keep getting pushed and pushed,” she said.

Council member Nisha Patel suggested the weekends of Labor Day or Juneteenth (June 19) as possible alternatives. Oskuie responded that the event’s amusements vendor was booked fully through Labor Day. (Juneteenth likely would have been a crunch, too, because that’s when the town will kick off celebrations for its first-ever Liberty Amendments Month.)

PHOTO: Alex Gates, 11, of Vienna swings on the “Gravity Storm” ride in front of a concession stand on May 25, 2019, at ViVa! Vienna! (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

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