After four months of tabling the discussion of a music festival proposed at the Sonoita Fairgrounds, the County Board of Supervisors finally voted earlier this month in opposition of the event, yet granted permission for a Halloween celebration only a few days later.
The three supervisors unanimously voted against the M.U.S.I.C. Foundation of Arizona’s event that had been scheduled to take place on Oct. 24. But in a split 2-1 decision, Supervisors Manuel Ruiz and Bruce Bracker approved Halloween festivities at the fairgrounds on Oct. 30.
“For the record, I will not support this event,” Supervisor Rudy Molera said in reference to the Halloween celebration, which County Manager Jennifer St. John said would bring between 150-200 individuals to the fairgrounds.
“I personally do not feel that an event of 150 to 200 people is consistent with the current pandemic, so I will not support it,” Molera said, moments before his colleagues approved the item.
Speaking on behalf of the County Health Services Department, St. John said that the Santa Cruz County Fair and Rodeo Association, which hosts the Halloween party each year, had offered a plan with all the necessary safety precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In documents submitted to the board of supervisors, the SCCFRA said the event would consist of a costume contest, bounce house, hay maze, hay rides, and a “tractor treat,” where children will receive their Halloween candy.
The association stated that there would be signage throughout the fairgrounds to remind people to maintain their social distance, wash their hands frequently and follow other CDC recommended health guidelines.
Visitors will be required to wear a face mask, and there will be hand sanitizers available throughout the event, as well as an additional hand washing station.
Most activities will take place outdoors with the exception of the hay maze, which will take place inside Gardner Hall, where staff will control the number of people inside the maze at the same time to ensure social distancing.
Staff will only allow one family inside the bouncing castle at a time, with time limited to five minutes, and all participants must wear a mask inside the castle.
St. John asked that the board of supervisors add one condition to the bounce house portion of the event.
“We would like to add an additional caveat that cleaning be done inside the jumping castle after each family leaves, so that we can try to ensure that it is safe for the next family that comes in,” she said, adding that removing the jumping castle entirely was another option.
As for the music festival – which was initially set for discussion on the June 16 meeting agenda and was originally scheduled to take place on Sept. 25-27 – St. John said the setting didn’t offer enough space to allow for social distancing.
“This event is expecting at least 1,500 people,” she said, advising the board not to approve the event. “One of the main reasons is the area in which people are going to be able to view the stage and listen to music, there’s not the ability to social distance.”
In August, the board approved a three-day Labor Day Rodeo event that was expected to attract about 1,200 people to the fairgrounds during the first two days.
St. John said organizers for that event had been able to set up additional bleachers around the racetrack to allow for spectators to social distance. But that wasn’t an option for the music festival.
“This is a much smaller area and they’re not able to bring in the additional seating spaces,” she said.