CORBIN — Life for many Americans is at a standstill thanks to COVID-19. Church doors and department stores have closed. Although gas prices have dropped, there are orders not to travel, and standing six feet apart and sanitizing everything in sight is the new normal.

But in all the uproar, change and chaos there are some certainties and occurrences that give cause for celebration — pandemic or not — such as a birthday, especially a milestone birthday.

So when travel plans canceled for one local business owner’s birthday celebration, friends and loved ones planned a surprise birthday celebration that will likely be remembered for years to come.

Corbin’s Wrigley Taproom & Eatery Owner Kristin Smith celebrated a birthday on Monday, and while there was much to celebrate, it’s been hard for the restaurant owner not to be consumed by the impact of the global pandemic on not only her passion but her employees.

But for at least a day, at least for a few moments, love and life, friends and family shined brighter than any disease, thanks to those closest to her.

Melissa Bond and Jane Whitaker hosted what was called a socially distant surprise birthday for Smith, inviting several of her friends to come together for a drive-by vehicle parade in downtown Corbin. Smith stood in front of the Wrigley as friends waved from vehicles decorated with streamers and window paint. And she returned waves as horns honked from passing cars.

Smith was gifted with a piece of art that she had long been wanting, created by Eastern Kentucky artist, Stef Ratliff.

Friends and family were offered the opportunity to contribute to the artwork or to a restaurant relief fund set up for employees.

Corbin Mayor Suzie Razmus joined in the birthday festivities.

Although Razmus is a friend of Smith’s, she said there’s no doubt Smith has done an amazing job for the City of Corbin. And Razmus said keeping spirits up and having these sort of social distance celebrations is important.

“It helps to encourage each other,” Razmus said. “When we have the opportunity to do something like this, when you reach out to loved ones and to people that mean a lot in the community it helps lift everyone’s spirit, we’re all going through it together.”

Razmus said we all have moments of feeling up and other moments where we’re down and we need to remember to encourage others and they’ll do the same for us. As a fellow business owner, she knows all too well the pressure that Smith and so many others are going through during this global pandemic.

“She’s such a humble person and such a loving person,” said Razmus of Smith ahead of the surprise birthday parade. “I know that this is really going to have an impact on her, just knowing how many people are thinking about her on her special day. I think this is a great idea.”

Reflecting on her surprise birthday celebration, Smith admits the previous weeks have been difficult and all she wanted from her friends was a great big hug.

“Of course, I knew that wasn’t possible so I definitely had the birthday blues,” said Smith. “But when my community surprised me with a parade of love and celebration down Main Street, I was completely overcome with tears of joy.”

Smith said that was the best hug and birthday ever. One she will never forget.

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