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As events get canceled, Charleston adapts to 'new normal' with drive-in movies

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After spending most of the past three months at home with their two sets of twins because of COVID-19, Cassie Means and Ray Moore used Friday’s drive-in movie night in Charleston as an opportunity to get out of the house with their family.

“We have Granny and Poppy here, and my sisters are here, too,” Means said. “We’re a little nervous [about reopenings], but it’s the new normal.”

In the back of their SUV Friday night, their children played while waiting for the sun to set and the pre-movie cartoon — “Tom & Jerry” — to start. Behind the car, Means and Moore sat in folding chairs, drinking soda and talking with their relatives. They had some time to kill before the feature presentation, “Captain Marvel,” began.

“It’s hot in our house,” said 6-year-old Zachary Moore, one of the four twins in the back of the car. “[When] we get to do fun things outside the house [like this], I love it.”

The movie night, held in the Big Lots parking lot off of Patrick Street, was part of an effort by the city of Charleston to offer new types of entertainment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Friday’s was the first of several movies scheduled throughout a summer that has seen a number of events — like Live on the Levee and ArtWalk — canceled over public health concerns.

Every other parking space in the lot was coned off so attendees could stay socially distant from others. While the event was free, the city distributed about 260 tickets on a first-come, first-served basis to limit capacity, according to Mackenzie Spencer, spokewoman for the city of Charleston.

Sammi King, of St. Albans, said she wishes the city could do similar things more often, especially considering other cancellations.

“We love the idea of being outdoors and getting the chance to actually be active and be around people again safely,” King said.

King has spent the past few months lounging in her backyard pool while most things in the state were shut down. Once restrictions on small gatherings were lifted a few weeks ago, she said, she invited her family over to swim, but other than that, their interactions have been limited for safety reasons.

King attended the movie with her friends, including Norman Clerc.

“I like being outside, and this is nice,” Clerc said. “My friends all invited me to go with them. They said, ‘We have room in the truck,’ and I said ‘OK, it’s Friday night, I’m not doing anything else.’ ”

Clerc said he wishes more drive-ins existed in West Virginia for nights like Friday.

King remembers going to the Valley Drive-In Theater in St. Albans before it closed in 1996. For her and Clerc, Friday night was nostalgic.

“When I was little, my parents would take us to the drive-in. We’d have our pajamas on, and it was usually a double feature,” Clerc said. “I want them to bring back drive-ins.”

The drive-in also inspired nostalgia in Suzanne Washington-Smith. She remembers taking her daughter, Briana Washington, to Valley Drive-In when she was younger. Now, more than 20 years after their last drive-in movie as a family, they came together again.

“We wanted to bring the baby out — Keegan, he’s Briana’s son. So we made it a family affair,” Washington- Smith said.

Keegan is 7 years old, and Washington-Smith said she was happy she could be there to watch his first drive-in movie with him, as she did with both her daughters. Plus, she said, she’s a huge fan of Marvel movies.

“[‘Captain Marvel’] is the only one I haven’t seen,” Washington-Smith said. “It’s a nice, good, wholesome family event.”

Reach Caity Coyne at caity.coyne@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-7939 or follow @CaityCoyne on Twitter.

Funerals for Friday, July 3, 2020

Austin, Daniel - 12:30 p.m., Austin-Hope-McLeod Cemetery, Gallipolis Ferry.

Browning, James - 1:30 p.m., Pineview Cemetery, Orgas.

Cogar, Lela - 11 a.m., Dodd & Reed Funeral Home, Webster Springs.

Cook, Thermal - 1 p.m., Haven of Rest Memory Gardens, Red House.

Estep, Jerry - 2 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Grose, Violet - 2 p.m., Phillips Cemetery, Ovapa.

Hager, Vaughn - 2 p.m., Casto Funeral Home, Ravenswood.

Ratliff, Karen - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

Rose, Mary - 3 p.m., Mollohan Cemetery, Birch River.

Smith, Dorothy - 11 a.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens.