CHESTER — The Chester Shade Historical Association has made the decision to cancel their annual fall activities which include the Genealogy Fair scheduled for Sept. 19 and Meigs Heritage Festival on Oct. 3 due to COVID-19 concerns.
Both the Fair and the Festival are interactive social events designed to “explore your roots” and celebrate Meigs County’s rich history. These types of gatherings now necessitate compliance with COVID-19 protocols, making it extremely difficult and expensive to navigate requirements with volunteer resources.
“We put the safety and health of our attendees and CSHA members first,” said Dan Will, CSHA President. “So we voted to cancel our fall events and wait and see what next year brings. Hopefully we can resume our activities.”
All non-profits are feeling the economic impact of the pandemic, CSHA included. The annual April Banquet and Auction, their main fundraiser of the year, was canceled during the initial shutdown. Most activities at the Courthouse and Academy are free of charge, and this fundraiser is a big part in providing funding for the events and maintaining the buildings.
“We have cut costs wherever we could,” Will continued, “But we were on a tight budget before this started, so there isn’t much else we can do.”
He said it is necessary to keep the buildings heated and cooled to protect both their structural integrity and contents, and security must be maintained. Almost all work done at CSHA is volunteer, so there are very few cuts to be made in staffing.
“We sponsored events here so folks can come out and enjoy the buildings and learn more about their history, as well as that of Meigs County.”
The Old Meigs County Courthouse, usually referred to as the Chester Courthouse, was the original county seat, and is the oldest standing courthouse in the Northwest Territory. The Courthouse is now a museum and the upstairs of the adjacent Academy building holds the office and genealogy library of the CSHA. A kitchen and meeting room located downstairs is available for events with food catered by CSHA members.
The Courthouse is big with an open floor plan, making it easy to social distance with small groups, and is currently open for self guided tours Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and also by appointment for groups no larger than five. “Social Distancing” must be practiced and masks are mandatory (visitors are asked to bring their own masks). Visitors are encouraged to call to verify the schedule before making a trip to Chester.
“We are volunteers, and some things happen that might prevent us from being there during our regular limited hours,” Will said. “But if you call ahead, we will make sure someone is there to meet you. We do welcome and encourage visitors.”
In the meantime, CSHA, like other historical venues, is exploring ways to stay engaged during the pandemic, and making plans to implement necessary changes for what will certainly be a “new normal” in the coming months.
Those interested in the preservation of the Courthouse and Academy are encouraged to become members now and to volunteer when activities resume.
For more information visit their newly updated Facebook Page: Chester Shade Historical Association.
Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for The Daily Sentinel.