Summerfest in Virgilina has been canceled for the first time since it started nearly four decades ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival is held annually on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.

“We canceled it for the safety of everybody,” said Gerald Ellixson, member of the Virgilina Volunteer Fire Department. “It’s the first year it has ever been canceled. This would’ve been the 38th year of Summerfest.”

While Summerfest itself is canceled, the fire department is still selling to-go barbecue plates, chicken plates and stew starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the department at 8052 Florence Ave. The food is available on a first come, first served basis.

The fire department has scaled back the amount of food it is preparing this year — 100 barbecue plates, 100 chicken plates and 75 gallons of stew, compared to the usual 250 barbecue plates, 250 chicken plates and 375 gallons of stew, Ellixson said.

“We won’t have the same festivities this year, but we are glad the local people still have something to look forward to (this weekend),” said Chad Loftis, former chief of the Virgilina Volunteer Fire Department. “The fire department cooks great food.”

Summerfest is a major fundraiser for the fire department, typically bringing in between $15,000 and $16,000 annually, Ellixson said. The department will take a hit financially because of having to cancel the festival.

“It’s going to be a big financial loss,” Ellixson said. “We won’t be able to buy the equipment we need to replace. We’ll have to make do with what we have.”

The cancellation of Summerfest will be a loss for the small community of Virgilina, as well. Residents look forward to kicking off the summer at the annual festival that includes a parade, music, arts and crafts, children’s amusement rides, and a street dance.

“It’s a big thing for the whole community,” Loftis commented. “Usually we have a lot of people that come in for the whole weekend, because Summerfest is coupled with the Memorial Day service at the cemetery. For a lot of people, it’s a big family reunion.”

The Memorial Day service has been canceled this year due to COVID-19, as well.

Loftis said his hope is that everything will return to normal next year and the Virgilina community will be able to have a Summerfest on the same scale or an even larger scale than usual.

“Everybody’s going to be ready to come home to Virgilina,” Loftis said.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.