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Fairgrounds brings back drive-in movies to lift revenue, spirits during COVID-19

By Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY — Drive-in movies, a classic piece of Americana, are making a comeback amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With theaters closed, drive-ins hit the mark for social distancing and the Rowan County Fairgrounds is joining the ranks of other venues trying to bring back a classic American activity and, hopefully, regain some lost revenue.

Randall Barger, events coordinator for the fairgrounds, noted the grounds have hosted drive-ins before and the venue has lost other events it cannot host due to the pandemic, including the annual Hippie Fest, two motorcycle shows and a number of rentals. So it has been looking for a way to generate revenue.

“We figured people would want to go out and do something,” Barger said.

The grounds cleared the drive-ins with Salisbury Police Department, and the venue hopes to get all the permits it needs to have all the normal treats available, including fried Oreos.

The venue originally planned to show “Hobbs and Shaw” on Friday and Saturday, but Barger noted the weather would need to cooperate and on Thursday morning he said the fairgrounds were too flooded to continue. The venue originally planned to set up a screen on Wednesday, but the wind and rainy weather put a damper on that plan, too.

Linda Knight, who is back to help organize the shows, said she would like to find a way to cover cars so people can enjoy the movies, rain or shine.

On top of the weekend movies, every Wednesday will be kids night and a more kid-friendly flick will be showing.

Barger said the fairgrounds plan to keep drive-ins going as long as people want to come. He noted that putting on the drive-ins is expensive and there are licensing payments involved with showing each film, every time.

“I mean there aren’t a whole lot of things we can do,” Barger said. 

Events like bingo and parties the venue would normally host are also off limits.

“Without any revenue, you’ve got to start thinking about what we can do,” Barger said.

Barger and Knight both had the idea and worked to iron out the logistics. Some of the inspiration came from drive-in church services being held around the county.

The fairgrounds has big plans, including a dinosaur weekend featuring a “Jurassic Park” film and an “American Graffiti” night to bring out classic cars.

Barger and Knight both remember seeing drive-in movies when they were kids. Knight said she first came up with the idea to do drive-ins because she wanted something fun to do for date night with her husband, who retired from the Army after 26 year of service.



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