After some debate, Hailey councilmembers concluded on Monday evening that the city could not support a handful of popular summer events due to COVID-19 concerns.
Events postponed until next year include the Sawtooth Riding Club’s Hailey Days of the Old West Rodeo, the Wood River Land Trust RiverFest and the Summer’s End-Draper Rendezvous Music Festival.
Both the Hailey Farmers Market and Antique and Arts Fair can go on—provided they come up with social distancing plans—and Hailey’s annual Independence Day fireworks display is still a go.
Prior to the council’s verdict, Summer’s End founder Luke Henry said that he had already decided to postpone his festival, which would have featured more than 60 musical acts, to August 2021.
“There would be many risks—[COVID-19] cases showing up in a second wave, financial risks. It took me a long time to come to this decision,” Henry said. “It breaks my heart to be letting people down and not be bringing music here this summer, but it’s hard to pull something off with so much uncertainty. Ultimately I think postponing this is the best thing for our community.”
Wood River Land Trust Deputy Director Amy Trujillo said that RiverFest organizers had also decided to postpone the event due to crowding concerns.
“RiverFest would have the potential to be a large attractant,” she said.
Like Trujillo and Henry, Sawtooth Rangers Riding Club president Casey McGehee said he was also on board with postponing the nonprofit’s rodeo. If the event were to go on, the club would lose at least $30,000, he said.
“My wife and I went up to the arena last week with tape measures and calculated the ultimate number of people that could sit on each bleacher and still do social distancing. We could only allow 313 people in—that’s all,” he said. “And we could have no concession sales because of the transfer of money and food.”
Currently, the Main Street Parade on the Fourth of July remains up for debate.
“A lot can happen between now and July 4,” Chamber of Hailey & the Wood River Valley Executive Director Mike McKenna told the council. “There would be a negative business impact if we don’t do anything, but we may not have a choice.”
Councilman Juan Martinez voiced support for holding the parade.
“This is a moment to celebrate hope, perseverance and adaptation, and we have an opportunity to do that,” he said. “I understand people’s [COVID-19] concerns, but we are at a much better point now, and we should be giving people something to look forward to.”
Councilwoman Heidi Husbands questioned how social distancing could be accomplished on floats.
“Our curve is flattening, and for me that’s more of a reason not to hold the parade,” she said.
At the end of the meeting, Mayor Martha Burke offered support to each event organizer in attendance.
“I know how hard this is for all of us,” she said. “These events will be missed this year, but we are all looking forward to 2021.”