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The 29th annual South Charleston Chamber of Commerce Groundhog Breakfast & Economic Forecast will be taking some novel and necessary virtual twists from its 28 predecessors.

Designed not to be overshadowed by continuing COVID-19 social-gathering concerns, but grounded in the current reality, the yearly business networking event will be presented in a customized onsite/offsite format next month.

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event will take on a very different look,” South Charleston Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Ream said. “The event will be of a hybrid nature, with an extremely limited number of in-person attendees, while the rest of the audience will attend virtually.

“For almost three decades, the Groundhog Breakfast has served as an opportunity for government and business leaders to gather together to listen to presentations from various sectors about those relevant issues affecting the business community,” Ream said.

“During this pandemic, it’s important to remain connected with the community,” SCCC Board Chairperson Alicia Syner said. “Hosting the 29th Annual Groundhog Breakfast as a hybrid event gives participants the option to do what they’re most comfortable with while remaining engaged.”

Ream acknowledged that the logistics are somewhat more complicated this year, since this is the first time that the event will be streaming live, but “if we have learned anything over the last year,” she said, “it is the importance of being able to adapt to the current environment. We will be following the governmental mandates currently in place at the time of the event, including capacity and social distancing requirements.

“Realistically, the in-person attendees will mainly be our speakers and a few guests; the rest of our audience will join us online.”

Ream added there may be an additional upside to the pandemic-imposed reconfiguration of this year’s Groundhog Breakfast format.

“Quite frankly, adding the virtual component may provide an opportunity for those who have never been before to join us for the first time,” she said. “You can now watch the event from the comfort of your own home in your pajamas.

“We are fortunate to be working with the Holiday Inn & Suites Charleston West, which has followed the CDC, state and local government mandates since the beginning of the pandemic almost a year ago.”

Holiday Inn & Suites Director of Sales Don Meador said numerous safety protocols are being implemented diligently at the hotel.

“Masks are required in public areas except when actively eating, and sanitation stations have been strategically placed throughout the hotel and conference center, giving attendees plenty of opportunities to sanitize their hands before entering event spaces,” Meador said. “Touch-free coffee pots and food stations with attendees have replaced traditional buffets to prevent contamination of serving utensils. Our revised room set-ups allow for proper social distancing for meetings and meals, and hotel management has strictly adhered to room capacity limits.”

In-person attendees will be required to wear a face mask (when not eating). In conjunction with Dynamic Graphics, the SCCC has designed a custom Chamber Groundhog Mask that will be provided to those attending in person.

“At this point in time, we have to embrace the situation that we are in and we thought it would be fun and promote safety to commemorate this unique occasion with a custom mask,” Ream explained.

The breakfast buffet will get underway at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at the Holiday Inn & Suites Charleston West, 400 Second Ave. in South Charleston. The speaker presentation will start at 8 a.m., going live online simultaneously. The final speaker lineup will be announced in the next few days and posted on the SCCC’s website and social media pages.

In-person tickets for the breakfast are $35 per person. Virtual tickets can be purchased for $20 each.

In-person and virtual sponsorship opportunities of various levels are available for the 2021 Groundhog Breakfast & Economic Forecast as well.

For information about sponsorships or to purchase in-person or virtual tickets, contact the South Charleston Chamber of Commerce by mail at P.O. Box 8595, South Charleston, WV 25303; call 304-744-0051 or direct email correspondence to executivedirector@southcharlestonchamber.org.