A Grand National Cross Country racing event is coming to Fayette County this weekend, with hundreds of riders expected to participate at the Boy Scouts’ Summit Bechtel Reserve in Glen Jean.
The second annual Yamaha Racing Mountaineer GNCC race has about 500 ATV riders expected for Saturday’s races and around 700 motorcycle participants for Sunday’s races, said GNCC media manager Kayla Bolton.
ATV riders and their families are expected to arrive Friday evening, then leave Saturday afternoon after the races; bike racers will arrive Saturday afternoon, race Sunday and leave in the afternoon, Bolton said. With the expected large numbers of riders and their friends and families, GNCC has implemented a number of health and safety procedures at its race sites, according to guidelines on the organization’s website.
Among them, vehicles must be parked no fewer than 10 feet apart on both sides, autographs and podium celebrations are suspended and only one rider and mechanic are allowed on the starting line. There are a number of other guidelines, but not requirements, to promote social distancing.
Masks and other personal protective equipment will be offered to attendees, Bolton said.
Tim Cotter, GNCC’s event director, said by phone that last year’s inaugural race drew about 2,400 people to the Summit Bechtel Reserve.
“I don’t know what to expect this year,” Cotter said. “I’d be happy if we had that number again.”
On Tuesday, Gov. Jim Justice took issue with a report of crowds gathering at a youth baseball tournament held last weekend at Nitro High School, which raises questions, given the possibility of much larger crowds gathering in Fayette County this weekend.
The baseball tournament brought in eight teams, almost all of them from West Virginia, but Justice said that when the event came to his attention, he asked local and state health officials to go out and inspect the event.
“From the standpoint of an out-of-state sporting event like that, I don’t know if we should be doing that,” Justice said about the youth tournament. “I mean, really and truly, that call I guess came from the Kanawha County officials and everything; they made the call. I surely didn’t know anything about it until I heard a complaint that people were down there.”
Kanawha Commission President Kent Carper said Thursday the county board of education made the call to hold the tournament, not other county officials, and said Justice’s comments were “political bull.”
The governor said he took issue specifically with that event because, at the time, Kanawha County was nearing the orange level on the state’s color-coded school reopening map, which means schools must go 100% remote. Fayette County has stayed about one point above the orange/yellow line for the past seven days, meaning children soon might be able to return to in-person schooling, if the rate of COVID-19 spread slightly slows.
“From the standpoint of us using good judgment, especially in Kanawha County when we knew we were going to probably end up orange, in fact not going to be able to go back to school, the optics for that is terrible,” Justice said. “And you know I don’t know if we ought to be doing that. I mean, that doesn’t make a bit of sense in the world for me, but [it’s] not my call.”
The Governor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment for this report.
A spokesperson for the Summit Bechtel Reserve wrote in a statement that the local health department has approved GNCC’s health and safety protocols for this weekend.
“We take the well-being of our community extremely seriously. Prior to allowing this third-party event to use Summit Bechtel Reserve as a venue, we contacted the Fayette County Health Department and confirmed [that] they had coordinated with GNCC and approved the event’s health and safety plan,” the spokesperson wrote.
After starting racing in mid-May, Cotter said, GNCC is happy to finally be racing again in the Mountain State, which the company calls home.
“We’re a West Virginia-based company, and we’re excited to be able to produce our event in West Virginia,” Cotter said. “We don’t get to do too many events in West Virginia, so this is somewhat of a homecoming for us.”