The Highland County Historical Society board members voted unanimously Friday to cancel the historical society’s Pioneer Day event this year, Pioneer Day Committee Chairman John Kellis told The Times-Gazette Monday.
According to Kellis, 11 out of the 12 board members met via Zoom to discuss their concerns with holding the event. In the end, all 11 present board members voted to cancel Pioneer Day this year, which was set for Aug. 29.
“For them to permit the event, we had to mandate that everybody wear masks. The committee was talking through that, but as we brought the board into that conversation, the idea of ‘do we want to be in a position where we have to enforce those rules?’ We want Pioneer Day to stay a real positive event,” Kellis said. “One of the articles was in the paper, and there were some comments on the article. Not that we’re going to run off after every little comment, but we just don’t want to be in a position of enforcing something like that.”
The event’s committee submitted a plan to the health department last week, but Kellis said the board saw “some lingering issues” that could arise if the board held Pioneer Day.
“As the board sat and discussed the entirety of it, they decided to cancel this year and come back and do it bigger and better next year,” Kellis said. “At the end of the night, the board just said they didn’t think they wanted to do anything that someone could [use to] make a suggestion against the organization — ‘they made me put a mask on’ or whatever it would be — so they decided last Friday that they would cancel the event. It was a unanimous board decision by the end — maybe not at the beginning of the discussion, but by the end of it, everybody was resigned to the fact that it was probably the best decision for everybody, even though we wanted to try to make a real positive event for the town and the county.”
Kellis indicated that some board members’ family members also had underlying health conditions, and the board was unsure how many people would feel comfortable coming to the event due to the pandemic, despite precautions the board and committee were planning for the event.
Some of the activities and presentations that the historical society had planned for this year included historical booths from at least 10 local communities, the Grassy Run Historical Society’s Appalachian skills demonstrations, the Highland County Antique Machinery Club’s display of antique tractors and farm machinery, and local magician Steve Farris’ magic show.
“Each one of those people were somewhat disappointed, but they also realized that they had to take care of their one booth — we had just dozens and dozens of elements to the entire event,” Kellis said. “I think they understood that it was basically on us to enforce the mask rule. There have been a couple counties around us that have gone from orange to red — Brown and Clermont — and with this being a couple weeks out, even if the board voted to go ahead on Friday, there’s always the potential for something to happen in between where we’d be canceling with even less notice.”
Kellis said the historical society estimates it will lose around $20,000 this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To donate, visit hchistoricalsociety.weebly.com or visit the museum, located at 151 E. Main St. in Hillsboro, on Fridays and Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. The Highland County Historical Society recommends that those who visit the museum wear a mask.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.