Fairground to take place of mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Gastonia

GASTONIA, N.C. — Carnival rides and concession stands will soon take the place of a mobile vaccination clinic in Gastonia.

Channel 9′s Gaston County bureau reporter Ken Lemon discovered the spot at Eastridge Mall is now becoming a fairground.

In the height of the pandemic, you couldn’t drive 10-yards without hitting a cone or barricade set up for COVID-19 vaccinations. By the end of this week, the space is expected to be packed with children, rides and games.

Channel 9 was with emergency crews when they first set up a drive-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the site in March. Monday, it is being prepped for something that is opposite.

Starting Friday, hundreds of families are expected to come for the Gastonia All-American Fair -- 10 days of funnel cakes and games.

(WATCH: Gastonia vaccinations move to Eastridge Mall Friday)

Many residents who spoke to Channel said it’s about time.

“Well, I think that is phenomenal,” resident Cam Tracy said. “I’m excited about it opening back up.

Resident Diane Weaver said this opening is a sign for her.

“We are at the end of it, of COVID-19,” Weaver said.

Physician Crystal Bowe said she is still seeing people test positive for COVID-19 regularly. When Channel 9′s Ken Lemon told her about the fair, she said she was “less than thrilled.”

Bowe said the problem is the vaccination rate in Gaston County is 33% fully vaccinated, which is about half the national average. Some of the lowest numbers in the state, and Bowe said there are still people in the community dying of COVID-19.

“I’d like for us to be over COVID,” Bowe said. “If we don’t get enough folks vaccinated, our rates are going to go back up and it’s not going to go well. We might be done with COVID, but COVID is not done with us.”

The Gaston All-American Fair has not listed any plans for changes due to COVID.

Channel 9 spoke to one fair employee, who said he has been doing this for decades in March of last year. They were on their way to North Carolina when COVID-19 hit.

He said he hasn’t worked since then and his employment benefits expired long ago.

(WATCH: Gaston County 12-year-old suffering from ‘Long COVID’ months after contracting virus)