The crowd that attended the Athens Orthopedic Clinic’s Twilight Criterium on Friday was pale compared to that which showed up on Saturday. With cycling races finally and activities expanding across Washington Street and College Avenue, Athens residents and visitors alike have enjoyed the return of the annual festival.
In addition to the exhibit, food court and beer garden the night before, Saturday’s festivities also included Keith King’s BMX shows, a 5k race and a kids’ zone. All the while, the bike path was spread all over the city center with attendants encouraging runners on the sidelines.
Local resident Sydney Rister has attended Athens Twilight on several occasions over the past few years and enjoys it every year. She spent several hours at the Kids Zone with her children, which offered a variety of activities ranging from bouncy houses to rock climbing.
“I love the atmosphere,” Rister said. “It’s family-friendly … it’s equipped for all ages.
In general, the return of Athens Twilight and his way of bringing out the Athenian community in such an important event sparked the theme of a return to normalcy a year and a half after the start of the pandemic. People had mixed feelings about it.
Diana Velasquez, a junior at the University of Georgia, said that while she was delighted that Athens was picking up the pace of events and rallies, she still feared the potential negative consequences of COVID-19.
“We don’t have a mandate to [vaccinations] or something like that, so it’s a little dangerous, ”Velasquez said. “I know this is a high risk area, and it worries me a bit because I feel like I’m getting back to normal, but at what cost? “
The pandemic was recognized at the event – an initiative from the Georgia Department of Public Health titled Say ‘YES’ Summer was on display at the exhibit, offering free vaccinations against COVID-19.
During the three days of Say “YES” Summer in Athens, they performed around 120 vaccinations according to the department’s communications director, Nancy Nydam.
“Twilight is a big event in Athens – it attracts a lot of people from the area and the surrounding area, and therefore it just draws a big crowd,” said district health director Dr Stephen Goggans. “One of our key strategies right now is to try to make vaccination as easy and convenient as possible by going to places where people are already. “
Despite this, many were excited to return to events like the Twilight Criterium in Athens – at the very least, it definitely brought the community together in a way it hasn’t for a year and a half.
Local resident Erin Seymour was happy to see the community come together as she did for the Twilight Criterium.
“It’s exciting to feel the sense of community,” Seymour said. “It was pretty cool to see a kind of resurgence of people coming out and moving around.”