Concerns over COVID liability may scrap fair parade

No alcohol sales will be offered at fair concert

Posted 7/9/20

The parade and beer garden may be the next Park County Fair traditions to be lost to COVID-19 this year.

The fair has been drastically scaled back due to the pandemic. No carnival, grandstand …

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Concerns over COVID liability may scrap fair parade

No alcohol sales will be offered at fair concert


The parade and beer garden may be the next Park County Fair traditions to be lost to COVID-19 this year.

The fair has been drastically scaled back due to the pandemic. No carnival, grandstand events or exhibits will be hosted at the fairgrounds for the July 22-25 event, though market livestock shows, the Junior Livestock Sale and an outdoor concert and fireworks show remain on tap.

Powell Economic Partnership (PEP)/Powell Chamber has also been working to make the Park County Fair parade happen this year, offering to volunteer its time and efforts to organize the event.

All that was needed was for the city to sponsor the parade so that the event would be covered by the city’s liability insurance. However, after the city’s insurer refused to provide COVID-19-related coverage, the Powell City Council voted 4-3 on Monday to deny the request for sponsorship.

City Attorney Sandra Kitchen had told the council that, if a spectator were to become infected from the parade and sue the city, taxpayers could be liable for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars if no insurance coverage was in place.

However, there is still some hope, as parade supporters are still seeking a way to make the event happen.

Meanwhile, members of the Park County Fair Advisory Board decided Tuesday that they will not sell alcohol at the fair’s free, outdoor concert, planned for Saturday, July 25.

“Alcohol and physical distancing don’t go together,” Public Health Nurse Manager Bill Crampton advised county commissioners on Tuesday.

Because of uncertainty about the pandemic, and with the county government looking to cut its budget, most of the 2020 fair has been scrapped. The fair board, which has provided $1,200 to help pay for the annual parade, nixed that funding this year. According to City Clerk Tiffany Brando, who chairs the fair advisory board, safety concerns were also a factor.

However, PEP Executive Director Rebekah Burns proposed that her organization distribute the entry forms, determine the lineup for the float entries, advertise the events, coordinate with police and alter the parade route so it didn’t end at the fairgrounds, as per the fair board’s request.

“We would do all the legwork for the City of Powell-sponsored fair parade,” Burns said.

However, City Administrator Zack Thorington said the city’s insurer, the Local Government Liability Pool (LGLP), would not cover the event.

Councilor Jim Hillberry — who joined with councilors Steve Lensegrav, Floyd Young and Tim Sapp in voting against a city sponsorship — said he didn’t want to risk holding a parade without the proper insurance coverage.

“I’m not against parades,” Hillberry said, but “looking at [it] from the standpoint of liability to the city, I’d be opposed for us to sponsor it.”

Councilor Scott Mangold — who joined with Mayor John Wetzel and Councilor Lesli Spencer in supporting a city sponsorship — pointed out that Cody just held three days of parades as part of its Stampede. He asked how Cody was covered and if Powell could do the same.

A number of options were explored, including having the city purchase a policy specifically for the Powell parade, but Thorington said the LGLP doesn’t offer that. The option of liability waivers was considered, but it was agreed that getting every spectator to sign one wouldn’t be feasible.

“I’d like to find a solution,” Spencer said. “I don’t know what it is … but I hate just kicking it to the curb.”

Wetzel agreed and argued a parade would be beneficial to the town’s mood.

“I kind of think in this COVID time it’s almost a reason to figure out so we have a little bit of something to celebrate in Powell,” the mayor said. “There’s not much going on. Fourth of July was dead as a doornail downtown.”

Hillberry proposed amending his motion to deny the request by creating a contingency that, if liability coverage could be found, the city would sponsor the event.

However, Kitchen advised the council to consider how such a contingency would be satisfied. The policy would need to be adequate enough to ensure that any lawsuits wouldn’t be paid out by taxpayers. Kitchen suggested that, should a policy be found, it could be considered in a special meeting.

Speaking after the meeting, Spencer said she was making calls about the issue and trying to find options to hold the parade.

“We’ve had a Park County Fair for years and years. In this trying and difficult time, especially, it’s something everyone can look forward to,” she said.

Fair leaders have cited similar sentiments in planning the free concert with local bands, food vendors and fireworks. However, they decided Tuesday to not operate a beer garden.

Public health officials left the decision up to organizers, but Park County Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin relayed that he didn’t think alcohol sales were a good idea, as the number of local cases of the novel coronavirus have risen.

Chairman Brando agreed, mentioning at Tuesday night’s advisory board meeting that one of her family members tested positive.

“Do you want to be the source of another outbreak?” Brando asked rhetorically, saying that she personally wouldn’t want to attend the event if alcohol was served.

Park County Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Mike Garza added that “I think we would be sending the wrong message” if the county sold alcohol against the advice of county health officials.

However, fair leaders all agreed on moving forward with the concert itself.

Commissioner Dossie Overfield said the outdoor event with ample space could be a good idea, “just to give people an option and remember fair exists.”

“I’d hate to cancel it,” added board member Sara Skalsky, “just because, I mean, this town needs something to do.”