OGDEN — Some large events, those drawing big crowds, may still be going on this summer notwithstanding continued coronavirus concerns.
Organizers of Farmers Market Ogden have been in talks with Weber County health officials about carrying on. The street market is traditionally held each Saturday during the summer on Historic 25th Street, typically drawing large, meandering crowds, and it’s set to relaunch for 2020 on June 20.
But if such events do occur, they will likely have a different look and feel than in years past due to implementation of safeguards meant to guard against the spread of COVID-19. “Maybe you’ll have to be a little more creative, but nonetheless we can have these gatherings and we can do it safely,” Brian Bennion, executive director of the Weber-Morgan Health Department, said Friday.
Several large events typically held over the summer in Northern Utah have already been canceled due to concerns related to coronavirus. North Ogden officials canceled Cherry Days, a large July 4th celebration in the city, while Davis County leaders have decided to forego the Davis County Fair for 2020 in its traditional form, though they’re still mulling some sort of smaller-scale activity. Hill Air Force Base canceled its annual air show, which was to be held in late June.
Even so, Bennion, while still worried about the possible spread of COVID-19 at large-scale events, says they are still potentially doable, and his office has a planning template, crafted following state guidelines, for organizations interested in moving forward with activities. He singled out Farmers Market Ogden, though health department reps have been holding regular meetings with hosts of other large events traditionally held across the county over the summer about the planning process.
“We already are working with the Farmers Market to begin in June,” said Bennion, addressing an Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce gathering via a video meeting. “It’s not going to be exactly like it was last year. They have looked at how you enter into the market, how you exit, how the flow is.”
The health department’s five-page planning template, though it doesn’t dictate specifics, identifies broad guidelines organizers of large events must follow. Weber County, like much of the rest of Utah, is in the yellow or low-risk phase of the state’s coronavirus plan. Private gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed under the low-risk guidelines while larger, organized activities are permissible if the guidelines in the planning template are followed.
Per Gov. Gary Herbert’s order on the matter “event size can exceed 50 individuals if organizational oversight can be provided that ensures guidelines are followed,” the introduction to the template reads. “Formal organizations are required to complete the following event management template to assist their efforts to plan a safe event.”
Notably, the guidelines call for use of face coverings by event employees, volunteers and performers when social distancing isn’t possible and require a means of tracking attendance if contact tracing is subsequently needed due to a COVID-19 outbreak. They also call for a plan to assure social-distancing of six feet at all times between household groups.
“We want them to really be thoughtful as they fill this out and make sure they cover all the bases. If they do, we can continue to grow the size of these events,” Bennion said.
The Farmers Market Ogden website says it’s slated to go from June 20 through Sept. 12 this year, and Kim Bowsher of the Ogden Downtown Alliance, the event organizer, said more details should be coming out next week. Other large summer gatherings in Weber County include Ogden Pioneer Days and the Weber County Fair, and the websites for both indicate they’re still to be held, at least tentatively.
“As the Ogden Pioneer Days celebration is so meaningful to this community, we hope to continue with the traditional activities that honor our pioneer heritage, including our world-famous rodeo — but only as can be done safely,” says a message on Pioneer Days website. “Please continue to watch this website for additional information over coming weeks.”
The Weber County Fair website says the event is set to go from Aug. 5-8, with a theme of “Farm Fresh Fair.” The website makes no mention of COVID-19 contingencies.
More broadly, Bennion said a move in Weber County to the next, less restrictive phase of the state’s coronavirus plan, the green “new normal” phase, may be another four to six weeks off. Bearing on any such move will be downward movement in the number of new positive COVID-19 cases, he said.