Hillsville, VFW pressured to pull plug on Gun Show & Flea Market

It took a threat to charge the town with criminal charges to finally stop issuing permits to vendors for the major Labor Day weekend event.
On U.S. 221 in Hillsville on flea market weekend.

Up until this week, the town of Hillsville was going to ignore health warnings and have the annual Carroll County Gun Show and Flea Market over Labor Day weekend, but a notice from the Virginia Department of Health told the town it faced Class 2 criminal charges if it issued permits for the event that draws a half million visitors each year.

The final nail for this year’s event came Friday when the Grover King VFW Post 1115 voted to cancel what would have been the 53rd annual running of the event. Quartermaster Gary Adams said staging the event became impossible with all the pressure.

“It is with heavy hearts that we must announce that the Labor Day show will indeed be cancelled. Trust me when I say that this hurts us as much as it does any of you, the vendors, or the general public,” Jeremy Hundley announced on Hundley Flea Market’s Facebook page. “This was not our decision and is something we worked really hard to avoid. To the public: we will work twice as hard to make sure that Memorial Day and Labor Day are great shows in 2021 and we hope to see you all out in full force. To the vendors: I will begin contacting you guys and issuing refunds either on Friday of this week or on Monday of next week.”

The VDH warning came after the agency told the town that it could not have food vendors on site and officials said it would have the event anyway. That brought the additional action from the state and Gov. Ralph Northam, who pointed to an executive order that limits crowd size.

VDH also changed the gun show’s classification to a “festival,” which brought more regulations. The annual Galax Fiddler’s Convention cancelled it 2020 event months ago, as did organizers of FloydFest.

Said Northam in a press conference:

Virginians need to remain cautious and do the things that we know reduce transmission: wear a face covering, maintain physical distance and stay home if you are high-risk or experience COVID-19 symptoms. The virus is still with us, and we must continue to adapt our lives around it and ensure we are keeping our vulnerable communities safe.

New cases of the COVID-19 Coronavirus has hovered just above or just below 1,000 daily but Friday’s report from VDH found 2,015 cases, an amount that may bring cutbacks and increased regulations.

Carroll County has 321 cases, including 17 new ones reported Friday. Galax has 342, with 6 new cases. VDH says it has received more than 23,500 complaints about businesses ignoring the safety rules and is asking the state for funds to hire 100 additional inspectors.

“If we get this new staff, they will be solely tasked with enforcing the executive orders and educating the public and businesses on executive orders,” Julie Henderson, director of the VDH Office of Environmental Health Services, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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