Galvanized by good weather and relatively low confirmed cases of COVID-19, Ebensburg Borough’s business community and residents gathered for food and drinks Thursday at local establishments in lieu of Wheels & Wings, which had been canceled by borough officials.
Restrictions on large gatherings due to COVID-19 spurred Ebensburg Borough officials in early May to cancel Wheels & Wings, an annual event drawing crowds to Ebensburg for the past 15 years.
Later that month, with the virus’ spread mitigated, Gov. Tom Wolf allowed Cambria County to enter the green phase of the state’s reopening plan, which meant gatherings for a planned or spontaneous event are limited to a maximum of 250 individuals.
In the past week, several businesses in the borough used social media to advertise a “Wing Walk” as a substitute for Wheels & Wings.
A food truck from The Grove, a Strongstown bar specializing in wings, was parked outside Coal Country Brewery at 625 W. High St.
The Wing Walk started at 4 p.m. and ended at 9 p.m. For much of the afternoon, there was a steady stream of dozens of people hungry for wings and socialization at the line for The Grove’s wings.
The Grove owner Austin Crowe estimated that he served well over 150 people by about 7 p.m.
Coal Country Brewery served beer to people who sat outside at tables six feet apart. To order, people were admitted a few at a time to enter the brewery with masks.
Hand sanitizer was available inside the brewery.
“We are happy with the turnout,” Crowe said. “We are glad to see people out having fun after being crammed up for three months.”
Coal Country Brewery owners Chris and Mike Kutchman said they hope Wheels & Wings returns next year, but the Wing Walk was an nice substitute.
“I don’t want to replace what the borough has done in the past,” Chris Kutchman said. “We just needed to step in this time.
“We thought it was a way to bring business in even through the Wheels & Wings was canceled.”
Further along West High Street, Rik-N-Nik’s pizza restaurant owner Rick Ardini served slices to people walking in from the Wing Walk, which he advertised on his business’ Facebook page. He said there were 28,000 total engagements between his page as well as Coal Country’s page.
In addition, Castle Pub and other establishments in Ebensburg promoted the event.
“Ebensburg borough officials have been canceling events. Instead, we should be adapting events to go with the guidelines,” Ardini said. “We agree Pennsylvania is well ahead of other states as far as controlling the virus. The purpose of this Wing Walk is to help everybody get through this together and stop everything fun from being canceled.”
Jerry Huber, of Ebensburg, said he was glad to be out to enjoy food and company of friends.
“Ironically it’s not raining like it does on this day for Wheels & Wings,” he said with a laugh.
He and his wife, Susie Huber, walked along West High Street with friends including Chuck Marcinko, who said maintaining social distancing was important as well as having fun.
“We are excited to get together with friends,” he said.
Social distancing was a bygone practice for many visitors who gathered outside for wings from the Grove and brews from Coal Country Brewery.
“Some people are really cautious. Some people have had enough,” Mike Kutchman said. “But we are doing everything we can to keep people safe.”