winterfest story- fire toilet 2.19.jpg

Sawtooth Rural Fire District volunteers show off the outhouse race sled they made for the 2020 Stanley Winterfest. The 2021 event has been approved by city officials, with requirements designed to keep people safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Stanley Chamber of Commerce members can plan Winterfest in earnest, since City Council members approved their safety action plan at a Jan. 7 special meeting.

“I just want to thank everyone for even considering Winterfest,” Russell Clark, co-owner of Mountain Village Resort, said at the teleconference meeting. Due to the coronavirus, Stanley council meetings are held telephonically.

Last month Chamber President Josh Franks said chamber members were working on a plan to hold Winterfest during the pandemic. In order for the event, which includes several wacky races, a pub crawl and live music, to take place Feb. 12-14, Franks said people will have to adhere to health and safety guidelines. Guidelines include wearing face coverings and asking people to maintain physical distance. Hand sanitizer is also expected to be a common site during the event.

Council members and Mayor Steve Botti were concerned about how the guidelines will be enforced. Chamber members plan to hold only outside events, with nothing staged indoors. Botti countered that if the weather is bad, people will want to congregate inside businesses.

But Franks had a plan. “We’re going to have bonfires outside,” Franks said. “No matter what, everything is going to be held outside.”

As for enforcing masks and physical distancing standards, Botti is worried the honor system won’t be enough. Jeffrey Hall, a chamber board member, conceded that could be an issue. Chamber members will be busy running the festival, he said, and won’t be able to keep a constant eye on attendees.

“We’re really investing in signage, but that’s really all we can do,” Hall said.

Hall said chamber members have spent a significant amount of money on signs, banners and posters to promote both the event and the new guidelines. Stanley businesses depend on Winterfest financially, and Hall said chamber members are doing everything they can to make sure it is a safe event.

It’s important to remember the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic, Botti and Councilwoman Laurii Gadwa pointed out. Public gatherings are currently limited to 10 people, not only because of the governor’s order, but because the Stanley City Council set that crowd size limit in November, too.

Although she said the safety plan was “extremely thought out,” Gadwa wanted to be sure chamber members will keep up safety measures during the festival. If Idaho moves to Stage 3 of the governor’s reopening plan, which allows for crowds of 50 people indoors and 25 percent capacity outdoors, then Gadwa wants assurances the rules set forth by the chamber will still be enforced.

Botti said if COVID-19 cases don’t decrease in Idaho the possibility of canceling the event remains.