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This year especially, you don’t want to be in their shoes

Organizers of this spring’s and early summer’s events had it easy, really, there was little doubt as to what they should do about holding their festivals, dairy month breakfasts, etc. in the year of COVID-19. With a governor’s “safer at home” order still in effect until the May 13 Supreme Court overturn ruling, and virus infection numbers still on the rise, anything scheduled for May or June or even early July was dead in the water.

But now what?

The state’s economy is reopening in fits and starts, with no plan in sight from a Republican Party that just had to have Evers’ order overturned, apparently, just because it could. Some local governments are attempting to put their own restrictions in place, but those are being met already with legal actions, not to mention a fair amount of public contempt. For the near future, at least, it looks like a free-for-all with no guidance from Madison as to what should be done, so just decide what’s best for yourself as you seek to stay healthy.

Unfortunately for organizers of upcoming late summer events such as the Clark County Fair, the Loyal Corn Festival, Greenwood’s End of Summer Fest, the Loyal Car, Motorcycle & Tractor Show, etc., the burden is now squarely on their shoulders to decide what’s best. Though still in place are state suggestions to limit crowd sizes, maintain social distancing, etc., there is no lawful mandate, nor likely any law enforcement agency that will enforce rules that don’t exist. It would take some pressure off event organizers if there was a state or even local order in place to prevent the events, but in the absence of that, they have some big decisions to make.

Let’s use the Corn Festival as an example. Easily the most popular of local events in terms of crowd sizes, the Corn Fest is a traditional “homecoming” weekend of sorts, with many alumni returning to Loyal to take part in Spanky’s Run/Walk, grab some sweet corn, catch the tractor and truck pulls, have a beer in the old fire hall, and set their lawn chair on Main St. at 7 a.m. on Sunday to reserve a good parade-watching spot. They come from all over, which is what makes the Corn Fest special. This year, it also is what makes it potentially dangerous.

There is no reasonable way to hold Corn Fest via 6-foot social distancing standards, nor a safe method for disinfecting the sweet corn area well enough to prevent spread of a contagious virus. Can you imagine 6-foot separation of folks along the Sunday parade route, or keeping people far enough apart to be safe at the Boogie & The Yo-Yos Friday night show? Mobs of kids on Main Street for the Jyllibean Dash? Rows of runners lining up for the Spanky’s race? Packed bleachers at the truck pull?

It’s usually a great side effect, but the Corn Fest’s habit of bringing people to Loyal would also mean coronavirus concerns in area businesses. The taverns on Main Street pack ‘em in like pickles in a jar and again, forget any social distancing. Great for the bar business, sure, we get it, but not so much for public health. And you’re right, those who fear getting sick can just stay away, but what of that asymptomatic person who carries something in and spreads it around without even knowing it?

Organizers of the late summer events are holding off with their final decisions, taking as much time as they can to see which way the COVID winds blow before committing to holding or cancelling plans. Another month at most, and they’ll have to make their call, and who knows what the situation will be by then. The possible second virus wave? More public impatience? Lingering concerns about health? Small businesses that desperately need an infusion of cash?

Yep, likely all of the above.

We don’t have any great advice to give these organizers -- who, by the way, deserve all the credit in the world for taking on these thankless jobs even in non-pandemic years -- other than to say your decision should be based on what’s best for the public’s well-being, not the interests of a vocal few.

That said, we will ask that the public understand what a dilemma this is for these people, who are only doing as they best see fit to help their communities. Don’t criticize them, no matter which way they go, lest you volunteer next year to take their place. Members of the TRG editorial Board include Publisher Kris O’Leary, Editor Dean Lesar, and Carol O’Leary.