Looking forward in 2021

By Page H. Gifford

COVID, COVID, COVID was the word heard echoing throughout 2020. The pandemic was uppermost in our minds and influenced our thoughts and actions. It has affected us in many ways, prompting fear of the disease itself, economic instability, a growing political divide, and a belief by some that the pandemic doesn’t exist. Though 2020 will not be a year we want to remember, we will remember it in years to come because of its historical nature and ramifications.

As of Jan. 3, there were nearly 750 cases and 11 deaths in Fluvanna related to COVID-19. It has wreaked havoc on small businesses in the county. In the early part of the pandemic in March, there were empty stores and empty streets, people only went out for essentials, including toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Places like Local Eats did well staying afloat by selling groceries and take-out while most dine-in restaurants took a hit economically and relied only on take-out to keep their businesses running. Unfortunately, after 15 years, the Fork Union Family Restaurant closed its doors for good.

By the first phase of reopening in the spring, customers came back and businesses resumed almost full-time. Many small businesses got help from the federal government through the CARES Act and those out of work did get unemployment payments. Yet, everything still remains precarious.

Strange that during so much uncertainty there were a few bright spots that showed there is hope for this year. In Fork Union, where stores have shut down and only one restaurant remains, a new business is coming to town and bringing jobs while a medical cannabis business may also be coming to the area as well. This is good news for Fork Union and Fluvanna County. In Palmyra, Tractor Supply is building its retail space next door to Sycamore Square and businesses there are hopeful this will give a boost to their bottom line.

Real estate went bust in 2008 but boomed in 2020 with the pandemic. A new subdivision with retail is proposed for the area at Rts. 53 and 618 where a new roundabout has been installed. Village Oaks is constructing new housing, including townhouses and all this has prompted area realtors to look for properties to sell like the cleverly worded Monticello Realtors’ “The shelves are empty.” Most houses at Lake Monticello have sold in one to three days. Sellers were surprised at the speed at which their houses sold.

“Our home sold before it was officially on the market,” said Kitty and Ron Davis of Lake Monticello. They moved into a smaller, newly built home in the area.

What also may be a boon to Fluvanna may be the trend that many people are leaving close-knit areas like cities and crowded suburbs to seek refuge from the pandemic in rural areas. This might be seen as a blessing for growth or some may view it as a disruption to their traditional way of life. One building inspector who said he had never been busier said it seemed like  a lot of people from northern Virginia and New York are relocating here.

We are experiencing many changes in the present that will be a prelude to the future. Some are a result of ongoing political turmoil with the advent of Black Lives Matter, and the demolition of Civil War monuments and statues. Some called the removal of Civil War statues and monuments as an attempt to erase history, but area African-American leaders, like Supervisor Mozelle Booker and NAACP President Ben Hudson, do not believe in denying racist history by destroying iconic relics of the past but do believe it has to be preserved so people understand and do not forget. They agree that “we must have a conversation,” and that it is a necessary component to healing and moving forward. The divisions we experienced and the reasons for it shows how we have not ye addressed the past.

The arts found ways to remain strong in the community with online performances and art shows. The Fluvanna County Arts Council has a new president and a new agenda, incorporating the best talent, visual and performing, under one umbrella. Its goal is not only bring entertainment, but to bring meaning, hope, and healing through the arts at a time when we need it. It was a disappointment not to be able to perform live but many are looking forward to the latter part of 2021 as a revival for the arts in our area and for live performances to resume.

Though we had a lot to be disappointed and fearful about, we also had a lot to be grateful for coming into the new year.


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