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COVID-19 risks too great to hold ‘Staying Clean’ car show

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The decision was a difficult one, but organizers of the annual Belmont County Schools Staying Clean Car, Bike and Truck Show have canceled the community event and fundraiser for drug prevention this year due to the coronavirus.

Just last month, Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato and the Classy Chassis Car Club had intended to continue the event with protections this September, but growing concerns and complications related to COVID-19 made the prospect more unlikely.

The car show joins other mass gathering events to be canceled, such as the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival and the full Belmont County Fair, although the junior fair will continue.

Fregiato said some concerns included personal health protection needs of car owners, guests and workers during the event. He said red tape from state regulations was also onerous, although the local Belmont County Health Department was offering help.

Like the pumpkin festival, the car show organizers did not want the gathering to bring any COVID-19 infections to the area.

“Neither the Classy Chassis Car Club nor the Quarter-Mile with the Judge wanted any blame for the spread of coronavirus to accrue to it, whether there is any spread or not I don’t know, but we did not want either organization to be tagged with such an accusation,” he said.

Belmont County students had also taken a role in prior car shows. Students at Belmont-Harrison Career Center would also be unable to prepare specialized trophies this year.

“Predominantly, the students wouldn’t be able to be organized and in attendance. The schools, we don’t know their status, we don’t know the bussing,” he said.

Another beloved part of the show for attending children and students was the chance to get a closer look at the sheriff’s vehicles and test-run motorcycles.

“They had to be sanitized after each use, and this defeated somewhat the purpose,” he said.

For the past three years, the show has been a major fundraiser for preventative education and incentives to keep Belmont County students from using illegal drugs. Fregiato underlined the continuing importance of the fight against drug addiction and the importance of stopping addictive behavior before it starts.

“One crisis, the coronavirus crisis, does not make any other crisis – the heroin, the opioid crisis for example – disappear. Those other crises still continue and we can’t lose sight of that factor.”

So far, the show had raised $38,600 from donations.

“We are giving each individual an opportunity if they want that returned to them,” Fregiato said. “We will not be having a car show, but the crisis continues whether there’s a car show or not, so the funds are still needed for the classroom endeavors and for other programs.”

Donors have until Sept. 1 to request their donations be returned.

Fregiato and the other organizers than all the donors. Fregiato added that they continue to plan for a car show in 2021.

“The response has been quite favorable. The community has always been fully supportive of this organization,” Fregiato said. “There is a lot of disappointment, but the folks do understand.”

The drug free clubs will continue in Belmont County’s public and private schools this school year. Belmont County Juvenile and Probate Court Judge Al Davies, whose court operates the program, said the scope of the club will not be impacted by the loss of this year’s car show.

“Obviously we’re very disappointed that the car show is not going to proceed this year. The car show for the last several years has been the Number One source of revenue fundraising for Belmont County Schools Staying Clean,” Davies said, commending the professionalism and dedication of the show organizers.

“Thankfully…it should not drastically affect our ability to provide programming. We do have funding. We should be able to continue what we normally do in regards to the operation of the club this year,” Davies said.

He said they also operate elementary school programs and the program Too Good For Drugs for all fourth graders.

“We’re looking into how we can maintain that program as well for the year. We’re going to do our best to try and make certain we can continue operation of all these programs. They provide a very valuable benefit to our kids and to Belmont County,” Davies said. “Certainly we don’t want to see this happen next year and the following year else we will have some issues, but for one year we should be able to get by.”

He said there are about 1,800 middle school and high school students involved in the Staying Clean program in public and private schools.

Davies said the programs are well-organized and all money is spent on the programs. He does not expect the coronavirus pandemic to impact the club operations.

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