Local residents enjoyed the Moonlight Festival, which was held Saturday in Downtown Somerset.

The City of Somerset pulled the trigger on its successful Moonlight Festival over the weekend, complete with good food, drink and talented artists and musicians.

Of course, in 2020, nothing can be done without a measure of controversy. I’m sure it wasn’t a real easy decision for Mayor Alan Keck and his staff to move forward with the festival.

With the COVID-19 numbers all over the place, there is reason for concern.

But there were safeguards in place on Saturday — people coming into the festival were screened, and contact information was taken. You were not admitted unless you had a mask — and masks were available for those who forgot to bring theirs along.

All in all, the City of Somerset did everything it could do to have a safe event.

Basically, here were Keck’s options: You have an event with safety in mind, or you cancel it and avoid the criticism that is bound to ensue.

Keck chose the former and the majority of the community seemed to appreciate that decision.

Sure there was some measured outrage. You could see that on the Commonwealth Journal Facebook page when we put the story online.

Let me explain our coverage of this festival — or any event — during this pandemic: We do not take photos based on how many people are wearing masks or not. We do not and will not do a “mask count” at these events. We are not the mask police. On Saturday, we were covering a community event. It’s that simple.

Some of our readers were upset that an event of this magnitude, with so many people in town, was attempted during a pandemic. I’m certainly not going to be critical of those folks. They have concerns about this nasty virus and they don’t want to see it spread.

But I also see the value in people being able to go out and do something that is remotely normal.

Personally, my family and I go into stores, go out to eat and are as “normal” as possible. My daughter is back doing in-person schooling and is active in her dance and gymnastics classes. My grandson is playing football and my granddaughters are taking part in their activities outside of school.

I’m certainly being careful — as careful as I can be, at least, based on the information I have available. I wear a mask when appropriate and try to keep my distance from others when I’m out in public.

But I do know there are others who don’t feel safe even going out to dinner. There are folks with underlying health conditions who are at high risk and who would not want to be in a throng of humanity, whether they are masked or not. For those individuals, staying home during a downtown festival was probably the best option.

Personally, I applaud Mayor Keck and the City of Somerset for taking a step toward normality.

What I hate to see is the division and the bickering this virus has sparked, not only in our community, but around the nation.

For me, it’s really pretty simple— If you’re asked to wear a mask, do it. Do your part to help keep our community safe, so that we can successfully have these types of events. Don’t bitch and moan because of this slight inconvenience. No one likes wearing the things. Maybe one day in the not-too-distant future, we won’t have to. And if you just flat out refuse to wear a mask, then don’t try to go into places where they are required. Problem solved.

By the same token, if you think an event is unsafe based on your situation, don’t go. No one is making anyone attend a game, a festival — heck, if you don’t feel like your child should go to school, you can still do virtual learning.

We have options. We have the freedom to make our own choices.

I know these times are very trying. But let’s try not to be hyper-critical of those who have a different outlook.

 JEFF NEAL is the Editor of the Commonwealth Journal. He can be reached at jneal@somerset-kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jnealCJ.

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