Fair, rodeo plans approved

Labor Day concert nixed
Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Making a point

Dillon Mayor Michael Klakken emphasizes a point during Friday’s Beaverhead County/City Board of Health meeting, while board advisor Ben Abbey looks on. J.P. Plutt photo

A divided public health board approved preliminary plans to have the Beaverhead County Fair and Dillon Jaycees’ rodeo, but voted against the potential risk thousands of people at the concert would bring.

Representatives from the fair board updated the plans with public health input prior to Friday’s board meeting, and incorporated requested changes to reference compliance with state of Montana guidelines. The public health board approved the plans and changes for the fair unanimously.

The fair plans mirrored those for a recently-held roping event – no overnight stays, no mixing of groups, contestants enter one way and exit another; few to no spectators, and those that are there are separated physically; periodic cleaning and disinfection; additional handwashing stations with hand sanitizer available; along with other precautions such as masks and gloves. The fair board previously decided to not hold open class or merchant exhibits and to cancel the carnival this year. The animal sale and auction would have virtual elements and in-person sales would be limited to just buyers present, who would be separated physically.

The rodeo plans are to cut attendance to half of normal seating (an estimated 1,500 people); separate seats into color-coded groups to make it easier to trace contacts of a potential positive COVID-19 case; require periodic cleaning and sanitization; and provide personal protective equipment. Jaycees officials also said they will hire a security team to assist with ensuring the rules are followed and ask people who refuse to comply to leave. Jason Schumacher of the Jaycees said the group agreed on not offering hard liquor for sale, though beer sales are still in the offing.

Board members approved the rodeo plans 5-2; members Tom Rice, Charlotte Quist, Russ Schwandt, Mike Klakken and Carla Weidinger voted in favor; members Nicole Hazelbaker and health officer Dr. Megan Evans voted no. Hazelbaker said it was a difficult decision on her part, but she took into account health officials’ concerns about the safety and ability to trace contacts.

“It would be a great thing for the community and an opportunity for the Jaycees to put it on or the community, but I’m also looking at our medical providers. Because of their expertise, they requested we not allow this to take place,” she said, adding she researched other rodeos that occurred and was uncertain it would be a good idea.

Quist highlighted personal responsibility to determine risk as the reason for her vote in favor.

“At this point in this COVID outbreak, an individual will have to take some responsibility for choosing what events they are willing to attend, what risks they are willing to endure,” she said.

“We will do what we can to make it Montana’s safest weekend,” Schumacher said after the vote.

Klakken and Weidinger voted to approve the concert; Quist, Rice, Evans, Schwandt and Hazelbaker voted no for the event.

Public health did not make decisions on the parade, as no plans had been submitted for that event at this time. Schumacher said the Jaycees had not focused on the parade until they had a better idea of whether the rodeo and concert could be held.

The public health board also discussed the upcoming Dillon History Days. Hansen said she had no plans for some of the surrounding events listed, and wanted more information on those. That event is slated for this weekend.

The next public health board meeting is scheduled for July 31.