ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Saturday was an exciting day for organizers of “Down by Downtown” in Roanoke.
“We were so excited just to be able to have something in person, and so many people came up to us saying they were just grateful to be back out in the world and doing things,” said Julia Boas, Events Director for the Roanoke Outside Foundation.
An estimated 1,000 people attended a concert in Elmwood Park on Saturday, April 17. The event was not only a headliner for the three-day music festival, “Down by Downtown,” but a conclusion to the Blue Ridge Marathon.
The concert was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but this year, organizers remained hopeful.
“We were making announcements throughout the day today, just being like ‘Hey guys, let’s all chip in. Let’s do this together. There’s people watching us today, to show that we can do it, and that we can do it right,'” Boas said.
For Chip Cody, a runner in this year’s Blue Ridge Marathon, it was a chance to get back to his beloved Roanoke community.
“I grew up here, and I live in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and I’ve come down to run the race every year since they started in 2010,” said Cody.
Preparations were handled throughout most of the day inside the park’s amphitheater, from sound checks to stage setups.
“I love to be able to volunteer and spread the word of musical events or marathons,” said Willow Rosenblatt, a volunteer.
COVID-19 safety measures were also strictly enforced, to prevent further spread of the virus.
“It was a lot of different aspects on the different staggered straight times and the waves, and the spacing in the amphitheater,” Boas said.
Rosenblatt says it’s time for people to get out and support their local businesses.
“Even though [COVID-19] is still a threat,” said Rosenblatt, “I still want to tell people that there’s no reason to shelter in place at home anymore.”
Despite the pandemic, organizers say safe events can still happen and they’re more than ready to lead as an example.
“I think that if it can set us on the path towards being able to have successful events again, then it was all worth it,” Boas said.
For the music festival’s full lineup, visit the Down by Downtown website.