Though there were certainly challenges and uncertainties to overcome, the 27th Annual Pig Iron Day was successfully conducted Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Manpower Park in Jackson.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jackson Firefighters Association agreed to eliminate some of the normal activities, including live entertainment, inflatables and a little baton exhibition. There was also a host of measures taken in setup, procedures and protocols to make the Pig Iron Day as safe as possible as it normally draws a large crowd.

In addition to the COVID-19 concerns, the 2020 Pig Iron Day also dealt with another uncontrollable force of nature -- the weather. The forecast called for rain and possibly storms throughout the day, but as it turned out, there was very little rain. However, the threat of rain no doubt cut down the attendance, especially participation in the Wheels of Steel Car Show, which is held as part of Pig Iron Day by the Appalachia Old Car Club. A total of 38 vehicles registered, which contrasted with the 138 of last year.

Jackson Fire Chief David Channell and other organizers worked with Jackson County Health Commissioner Kevin Aston to conduct an approved event. Aston was on hand Saturday and publicly praised the Jackson Firefighters Association for their cooperation and follow-through efforts to conduct Pig Iron Day in a manner which minimized the health and safety risks of both the volunteer workers and the public. These measures included an extra food-service line, extra seating, multiple hand-sanitation stations, continuous cleaning of dining surfaces, signs promoting social distancing, and the wearing of masks by all workers.

“I’m very impressed with the efforts that have been done here to conduct an event as safely as can be done,” Aston told The Telegram, adding that it could serve as an example for groups planning similar events in the near future.

Another food-service angle employed for the first time -- curbside pickup service -- also proved to be a successful and popular option as it enabled people to avoid coming into the park. Customers could pull into the Jackson Bus Garage lot off Huron Street and drive to the back of the lot to the gate adjacent to Manpower Park to pick up food. This service worked out so well that Channell says it may be offered again next year, regardless of the COVID-19 situation.

Appalachia Old Car Club President John Smith and club members were also attentive to health and safety concerns as workers wore masks, had plenty of hand sanitizer available, used separate pens and pads during the registration process, and promoted social distancing.

Given the COVID-19 concerns, the scaled-down program and the weather forecast, it was no major surprise that overall attendance seemed to be down a bit from the normal turnout. However, the food-service business was steady throughout the afternoon, bidders turned out to support the annual Plaque Auction, and the car show entrants all left with an award.