EVANSTON — The existing Wyoming public health orders in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic will remain in place through June 15, with one notable exception. Public gatherings of up to 250 people will be allowed starting on June 1, provided those gatherings take place outdoors and social distancing and increased sanitization measures are in place. Any food service at outdoor public events will be required to follow the provisions already in place for dining establishments.
During a press conference on Wednesday, May 27, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon announced that COVID-19 has done what wars, armed conflicts and the Great Depression could not — cancel Cheyenne Frontier Days. An obviously emotional Gordon, his voice cracking, said CFD and other large rodeos throughout the state, including the Cody Stampede, Laramie Jubilee Days and more, have all been canceled.
Gordon stressed that he understands how important these events are, from both a cultural and economic standpoint, but said he had been meeting with the directors of these events and the mutual decision was made by everyone involved and not forced by the state. He said these large events are not ones that can be thrown together at the last minute, that they’re difficult to host when entertainment acts start canceling, that success is dependent on people still attending and that from both a public health and a business perspective it did not make sense to hold them this year, given the large amount of uncertainty and the potential losses that could occur.
Flanked by mask-wearing and distanced representatives from the six major rodeos that have been canceled, Gordon said, “To proceed in these uncertain times would be touch and go, at best, and could quite possibly compromise the events’ capacity to put on a rodeo next year. … In the end, going off halfcocked, in the collective minds of everyone up here, just wouldn’t be worth it. This coronavirus thing sucks, there are just no two ways about it. … I suspect each of us would rather be somewhere else with something else to say.”
Here in Uinta County, numerous summertime traditional events have already been canceled, while others will look very different. Annual June events, including the Urban Renewal Ball, Kids Fishing Day, the Safe Kids Fair and the Evanston Bluegrass Festival, have all been canceled. A Harley Davidson MS fundraiser, originally set for June 13, has also fallen victim for COVID-19 cancellations.
The Evanston Rodeo Series, which would have kicked off June 12-13, has been canceled for the entire season. A notice on the website states the cancellation is due to both COVID-19 and the coinciding economic downturn that makes it difficult to solicit sponsorships of the events.
July events, such as the Arts Inc. MAT Camp and the Evanston Brewfest, have already been canceled, as has the Roundhouse Festival slated for Aug. 7-9. According to organizer Jonny Pentz, the Evanston Car Show that typically occurs in downtown Evanston on the same Saturday as Brewfest has been postponed to Labor Day weekend to coincide with Cowboy Days. Pentz said the car show has been rescheduled for Friday, Sept. 4, at the Uinta County Fairgrounds.
The Evanston Cowboy Days Spring Fling is going forward but will look decidedly different. The queen contest will still take place at the fairgrounds on Saturday, June 20. However, instead of a dinner and auction event, dinner will be served curbside from a Henry’s Backyard BBQ truck in the Murdoch’s parking lot, followed by a brief ceremony at the fairgrounds to award prizes and crown royalty. As for Cowboy Days itself, organizer Dustin Matthews said at the present time the plan is to hold the events as always, but there’s still a great deal of uncertainty over how things will unfold in the coming weeks and months.
The Uinta County Fair is still scheduled for late July; however, that too will be without some of the traditional offerings. Fair manager Ami Barker confirmed that “all free-stage and grandstand events have been canceled for the 2020 Uinta County Fair.” Barker said, “At this point in time, the fair board is planning to carry out the remainder of fair as we have in previous years.”
Other Evanston Parks and Recreation District events that have already been canceled include the High Uintas Gymnastics Camp and the Summer Slam Baseball Tournament. Activities, including family golf day and track and field day, have been postponed until further notice. Other activities scheduled for later in July, such as Pitch, Putt and Drive and Skate Park Day, are currently scheduled as planned.
The status of the City of Evanston’s annual Fresh Air, Freedom and Fun Festival on July 4 is listed as “to be determined.”
One event that is moving forward is the Strike Out Cancer Softball Tournament, scheduled on June 12-13. Organizer Nicole Espy said that is still taking place, with 58 teams currently registered. Espy said the tournament will look somewhat different this year, with only eight teams at a time allowed in the complex, no trailer parking, and a social distancing area in the parking lot for food and a beer garden. Player temperatures will also be taken when they enter the complex.
Golf tournaments, including the Rotary tournament on June 13 and the UW Cowboy Joe tournament and auction on June 20, are still scheduled to take place.
Leanne Hutchinson with the Evanston Farmer’s Market said the market will likely still continue on Thursdays beginning in July; however, there will likely be restrictions in place. The fate of the Thursday night Depot Square Concert Series is as yet undetermined, although the new orders allowing for up to 250 people at outdoor events may be a positive determining factor.
Bear River State Park Superintendent Tyfani Sager said, as of now, the Movies in the Park scheduled for dusk on June 11, June 25, July 9, July 23, Aug. 6 and Aug. 20 are still set to proceed, as is the Bear River Mountain Man Rendezvous at the end of August. Statewide, Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites in general will reopen on May 29, including battle sites, forts and more.
The multiple cancellations of events, many of them fundraisers or revenue generators for nonprofit organizations, are definitely impacting organizational financial health. The Evanston Cowboy Days’ website said an online auction will be set up in an effort to replace some of the funds lost from the change in the Spring Fling.
Shasta Wigginton with Arts Inc. said the year has been “financially devastating,” with the cancellation of the Ceili at the Roundhouse Celtic Festival, Young Musicians Festival, MAT Camp and the Bluegrass Festival, as well as all but two shows of the annual concert series. Wigginton said the decision has already been made to forego the concert series in 2021 in an effort to “allow ourselves the best chance at a healthy financial recovery,” although the plan is to hold all the other Arts Inc. events next year.
Other events throughout southwest Wyoming that have already been canceled include the Fossil Butte Fossil Fest in June and the Oyster Ridge Music Festival in late July.
Calls to Wyoming Downs to ascertain the status of that operation for the summer and whether live racing will take place were not returned by press time. Events set for later in the summer, including the Chamber of Commerce Light up the Night Water Lantern Festival, are currently still scheduled.