The Jefferson County rodeo is on — pending approval of a health plan by the county health officer.
The Jefferson County Rodeo Association voted June 24 to move forward with the following events — barrel racing, an in-county rodeo, a three-day Northern Rodeo Association sanctioned event and a parade. The kids rodeo remains tentative as it requires coordination with the Fair Board, according to Rodeo Association President Quint Theriault.
A committee was formed to begin work on the health plan and how COVID-19 protocols will be implemented, and the Rodeo Association will also work with the Fair Board to finalize days and times.
The Rodeo Association is looking to spread the events out over five days, from Wednesday, Aug. 26 - Sunday, Aug. 30 — all pending approval of the health plan.
A health plan is required for events having 50 or more participants. The Northern Rodeo Association has issued COVID-19 guidelines and the Rodeo Association plans to incorporate those into its health plan.
Of the 24 rodeos scheduled this year through the Northern Rodeo Association, seven have been canceled so far, said NRA Executive Secretary Theresa Sorlie.
The Fair Board voted June 18 to cancel the fair due to COVID-19, but is looking to host a few events, such as an outdoor community concert, a kids horse show and the Wrangler Roundup.
Those plans are also tentative pending approval of a health plan.
The Rodeo Association also discussed having food trucks rather than a concession stand and cans and bottles for alcohol sales — changes due to the continued threat of COVID-19.
Another idea put forward was promoting a family day on Sunday and giving a price point for families of a certain size.
Prior to the vote, Rodeo Association members discussed their stance on COVID-19 and the various restrictions it has imposed on events.
“I see a lot of guidelines, but not a lot of laws,” said Cassidy Parsons.
“If you do not feel safe, do not come,” said Brady Nordahl, adding that the county still needs to have events and support the community.
Parsons said no one wants to be responsible for an outbreak, but believes there are more contestants this year, which would lend itself to a larger crowd.
“People are bringing their families to these events because they’re tired of hiding,” she said, referring to the state’s now lifted stay-at-home orders and 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors.
The Fair Board canceled some events because they did not allow for social distancing, such as the barn dance, and others would not have allowed enough people to attend to be profitable, such as the Dueling Pianos fundraising auction. The Fair Board also canceled the baked goods auction, exhibits and judging competitions.
Some Fair Board members believed the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 guidelines, such as social distancing and regular disinfecting, would have been daunting tasks to carry out.
Other considerations included the added cost of more portapotties, sanitizer and the loss of parking revenue.
In a typical year, the Jefferson County Fair and Rodeo can attract up to 1,500 visitors.