Future of local summer events up to state, local leaders and residents
Forgive the unintentional poetry, but in Crook County, last summer was truly a bummer.
To prevent spread of a deadly virus, Crooked River Roundup leaders were forced to cancel the iconic rodeo and horse race meet. Rubbing salt in that wound, this happened after Roundup leaders proclaimed 2020 the Year of the Cowboy in commemoration of the event's 75th anniversary. Gone was the rodeo, the races and all the other ancillary events that make our community so lively in the early summer. Year of the Cowboy? More like the Year of COVID.
And that wasn't all. Our Fourth of July festivities were reduced to a fireworks show and a scaled back Splash 'N Dash, and the Crook County Fair had to move much of its event to downtown Prineville or cyberspace.
A lot has changed since last spring and summer. Health expert recommendations have pivoted from complete cancelation of events with even minimal crowds to tiered risk categories that allow anywhere from 50 to 300 people at outdoor events. Masks have seemingly replaced directives to stay at home. And perhaps the biggest change of all, there are now multiple vaccines capable of stopping COVID-19 from making people sick.
Of course, at this point in time, Crook County isn't exactly in the best position to host the Crooked River Roundup, Fourth of July festivities or a traditional version of the Crook County Fair. This county is one of roughly a dozen that are stuck in the "extreme" risk category, and vaccines have only been administered to health care workers and school district staff – vaccination of the elderly in Crook County is just getting started. Large crowds and herd immunity could have to wait until late summer or early fall – unless, of course, the state changes its rules again.
It's only February, but this community is at a juncture, and the behavior of everyone from local residents to event organizers to state health officials has a stake in what our summer events will look like this year.
Event organizers appear determined to host all the summer events we lost or modified last year. Theirs is a monumental task that will take substantial planning, outside-the-box thinking and the ability to adapt on a short timeline. No matter how these events look this summer, their effort deserves a massive amount of gratitude.
Residents meanwhile need to step up as well. Masks are a pain. Limiting social gatherings is a going to be a major buzzkill, especially when the weather starts warming. And the vaccine? – it's something new and fear of the unknown is bound to happen. But better days often come through discomfort and sacrifice. What we do now might make a big difference in June and beyond.
And finally, state health and government officials need to keep restrictions and guidelines consistent with the latest information and data about the coronavirus. Should a 300-person maximum for outdoor crowds be increased for "lower" risk counties. Is there a way to allow parades, events in the park and other summer favorites while still protecting the health of our most vulnerable? These are important questions – questions that become very important as the summer months arrive in Crook County.
What will the 2021 Crooked River Roundup look like? How many people will get to attend the horse races? How will we celebrate Independence Day in Crook County this year, and where will the Crook County Fair take place? Those answers are up to all of us.
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