More space than problems at St. Pat’s Bash

By 
M.P. Regan
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
On the green carpet

Partygoers arrived at last week's St. Pat's concert in good spirits. Pictured are, from left, Kurtis "Jack Sparrow" Nelson and his sister Mylaila Norbeck as they exit a limousine, with the assitance of driver Billy Shaw. J.P. Plutt photo

Fun Bunch

A group of friends kick up their heels in anticipation of a good time. J.P. Plutt photo

It had been highlighted by local police and area health officials as a possible two-pronged nightmare.

But last week’s St. Patrick’s Day Bash held in and around the Frontier Event Center ended up being more like just another night in Dillon.

“It turned out being pretty uneventful for us,” reported Dillon Police Chief Don Guiberson of the March 17 get-together that in the weeks and days leading up to it raised concerns that it might attract a crowd so large that it would overburden local law enforcement and lead to a surge in COVID-19 infections in Dillon.

“It was pretty quiet really,” stated Guiberson, who that night scheduled duty for four additional police officers.

“We had two MIPs,” said Guiberson, using an acronym indicating Minors in Possession of alcohol.

“Two DUIs and one driver without a driver’s license,” added Guiberson.

“All the arrests and citations involved folks from north of here, about 80 miles,” noted Guiberson, indicating that the alleged offenders all came from Butte.

“There was a lot of traffic early, so we thought we might have a problem,” recalled Guiberson of a seeming large influx of out-of-town vehicles into Dillon during the day.

“But I don’t think our caseload was bigger,” said the more-than-two-decade veteran of the city’s police force.

“Really, it wasn’t much different than a typical weekend evening.”

Typically, Butte hosts the state’s most popular St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the state. But that celebration was canceled in Butte this year, for the second straight year, over health concerns about hosting a large gathering of people during a pandemic.

Organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Bash in Dillon hoped many of the revelers who originally intended on observing the holiday in Butte would instead come to Dillon this year—and party like it’s 1999.

That possibility inspired Beaverhead County Public Health Director Sue Hansen to cite the gathering as a potential “superspreader” event during a meeting of the Beaverhead County-City Health Board meeting this month.

“I mean, we have a small community, and they’re having people come in from all over the state,” said Hansen during the March meeting of the Beaverhead County-City Health Board.

“There’s a party and they’re going to be in close proximity of each other,” said Hansen.

But close proximity seemed rare real estate at the event, whose attendees represented only a small fraction of the number its organizers hoped to draw and that local officials feared would show up.

“They didn’t seem to have any trouble social distancing,” said Guiberson of attendees at the St. Patrick’s Day Bash, held in the Frontier Event Center (the building on East Helena Street that formerly served as home to a local Shopko outlet).

“They probably could have easily double-social distanced,” estimated Guiberson of attendees that usually seemed to number in the dozens at a venue the state building inspector last week okayed to host up to 974 people for the gathering.

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