Taste Of Our Towns [T.O.O.T.] Canceled For Second Year - The West Virginian
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Taste Of Our Towns [T.O.O.T.] Canceled For Second Year

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For the second year in a row, Taste Of Our Towns [T.O.O.T.] in Lewisburg has been canceled.

“After thoughtful consideration, and discussions with Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, Greenbrier County Health Department, Greenbrier Valley CVB, Lewisburg Downtown Business Association, and others, Carnegie Hall has determined that it will not be possible to safely hold what would have been the 37th Taste of Our Towns (TOOT) food and music festival in downtown Lewisburg in October,” announced Carnegie Hall on September 15.

Carnegie Hall CEO Cathy Rennard explained the biggest driver behind the choice.

“I don’t see this as a financial decision so much as a community health and wellbeing decision,” Rennard said. “Of course, we will have to be creative in our efforts to replace the lost income but the Carnegie board, staff and TOOT committee is confident that cancellation is the right course of action. We will see you in October 2022!”

The event meets the same fate as many of last year’s parades and festivals, such as the Shanghai Parade and Martin Luther King Jr. March. Although a sad decision, Lewisburg Mayor Beverly White thanked the committee for making it.

“I’m glad that the committee put the needs of our community ahead of what they would have accomplished if it were held,” said White. “I’m very proud of the decision they made and I’m hoping that everyone will understand. It’s for the safety of everyone and for that, I’m glad.”

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 57 more deaths from COVID-19 in West Virginia were identified between September 16 and 17, the time of writing. Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet Secretary, said “we mourn with all families suffering the loss of loved ones due to COVID-19. If you are eligible, I urge you to schedule your COVID vaccine today.”

This is the second year in a row that T.O.O.T. has been canceled due to COVID-19 and its variants. As the pandemic spiked in fall and winter of 2020, Carnegie Hall announced T.O.O.T. would not be happening for the first time in 35 years.

“After thoughtful consideration, Carnegie Hall has determined that it will not be possible to safely hold what would have been the 36th Taste of Our Towns (TOOT) food and music festival in downtown Lewisburg in October [2020],” announced Carnegie Hall in a press release in August 2020. “Dozens of vendors and volunteers help make this an event that local residents and visitors from near and far look forward to every year. The Board of Directors, volunteers, and staff at Carnegie Hall plan to bring back a strong, exciting TOOT in October 2021.”

This would not be the case, however.

In December 2020, both Carnegie and Greenbrier Valley Theatre offered an update, with then-president and CEO Sara Crickenberger of Carnegie Hall, explaining “we really need for the folks who support us to continue to support us. We’re applying for grants for programming. … A lot of granting agencies don’t like to support staff or the electric bill and those are the things we’re trying to pay right now. … We’ll be here, we’ll be ready to go as soon as it’s possible, as soon as we can get everybody back in the building, out on the lawn.”

In 2021, Carnegie brought back the outdoor Ivy Terrace concerts on Thursday nights, bringing out hundreds of people to the joint New River Community and Technical College and Carnegie Hall lawn. Despite this, rising cases of the delta variant of COVID-19 have hospitals in West Virginia at capacity, without much chance of rates lowering until more of the population gets vaccinated.

The result is the loss of one of Lewisburg biggest annual events and Carnegie Hall’s biggest fundraiser.

“The Board of Directors, volunteers, and staff at Carnegie Hall plan to bring back a strong, exciting TOOT in October 2022,” reads the announcement. “The cancelation of the event for the second year in a row is a blow to both Carnegie Hall and all of the vendors and nonprofit organizations who rely on TOOT to raise funds.”

Those looking to support Carnegie Hall and the local arts community can do so online at carnegiehallwv.org/support.

“They can still send donations to Carnegie Hall and I know they would appreciate it. I would too” White said. “This is their big fundraiser and it’s the second year they’ve had to cancel it. Any help they can get would be truly appreciated.”

“If you are in a position to make a contribution to the Hall, we would greatly appreciate your support during this time of challenges and uncertainty,” reads the press release from the 2020 cancelation. “Donations may be made online by clicking the donate button on the website at carnegiehallwv.org or by mail to Carnegie Hall, 611 Church Street, Lewisburg, WV 24901. For more information, email info@carnegiehallwv.org.”

The 2018 Taste Of Our Towns festival on the streets of Lewisburg.

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