BLACKFOOT – Questions were answered and an official green light was given Monday for the Idaho High School Rodeo Finals in Blackfoot.
Bingham County Commissioners hosted a meeting Monday afternoon with Southeastern Idaho District Health Director Maggie Mann, Blackfoot Mayor Marc Carroll, along with Kelly Duffin and Holly Davis from the Idaho High School Rodeo Association regarding the state rodeo slated June 16-19.
Following information tips from members of the community regarding concerns about last weekend’s rodeo and rodeos in the county going forward, the commissioners felt it would be appropriate to host a meeting to discuss the plan for the upcoming rodeo and whether they felt the rodeo could be conducted under social distancing guidelines.
Commissioner Mark Bair met with Carroll on Friday about the rodeo after attending Thursday night’s District 4 competition at the Eastern Idaho State Fairgrounds. Because of the concern about going forward, they worked through the weekend with Mann about the outlook for the rodeo. Duffin and Davis were then brought into the discussion.
After Bair introduced everything, Mann announced that after reviewing the plan put forward by Davis and Duffin, she put her “stamp of approval” on the plan going forward, minus some caveats.
Previously, Mann was not included in the meetings with the Eastern Idaho State Fairgrounds and the rodeo, which left some area of concern for her and elected officials. Mann said she felt the plan for the rodeo in Blackfoot was more than sufficient for it to take place, and that it had changed significantly since the plan provided to Bannock County — which is where the rodeo was contracted to take place for 2020 and 2021.
Commissioner Chair Whitney Manwaring stated, “I went to the rodeo Friday. It was spaced out and not a lot of people there. My concern is who will police the social distancing in the crowd?”
Duffin and Davis handled this quickly, stating that each of the districts are required to police their own people and are legally bound via contract to do so. Manwaring acknowledged that it ultimately is the choice of the person to attend an event, and feels that the plan is sufficient.
The biggest concern left after Mann provided her approval revolved around legal responsibility. Bingham County and the City of Blackfoot do not want to be held accountable for anyone contracting COVID-19, and their insurance will not cover it. Moreover, they do not want to be a cause of increasing cases.
Duffin and Davis said they will have 190 contestants and expect up six people to join per contestant, meaning their will be just over 1,000 people total visiting the area. The grandstands will hold 3,000, so, those 1,000 or so with wristbands to enter will be able to safely social distance, and not all events are taking place at the same time so there will be some coming and going at different times.
Once they finished explaining how it will go, Carroll expressed his concerns. He said that when all he had seen was the Bannock County plan, he was in agreement that it could be conducted safely. After seeing the new plan and hearing from Mann, he provided his approval as well.
Carroll provided a scenario of someone coming in and infecting local people with COVID-19 while Manwaring provided the opposite; that someone local could infect someone visiting for the rodeo. Because of these concerns, it was asked if it could be delayed, which Duffin explained that if it is, the Idaho team will not be allowed to participate in the national finals. He explained that Idaho historically has a good showing at nationals every year and will be missed if they are not allowed to compete and travel.
Carroll said he is concerned that it would be against Gov. Brad Little’s orders of tournament play, but Mann stated that it meets the governor’s requirements. City Attorney Garrett Sandow only had one question that needed answered, which was, “Maggie, does it meet the order of Gov. Little?” which was answered with a resounding, “Yes. I believe it does.”
County and city leaders all thanked the rodeo for wanting to hold their event here, and said they welcome them any time. They went so far as to say that they would love to see Bingham County become the home of the state high school finals. Duffin explained that their board of directors “has a long-term memory and will hold a grudge.” They previously had voted 17-3 to approach Bingham County to host it following the denial by the Bannock County commissioners.