Golden event organizers taking wait-and-see approach

Planners say that while event chances look better than last year, uncertainty remains

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/21/21

While spring is nice, fall’s quite pleasant and most everyone enjoy throwing on their Viking horns for Ullrgrass in January, every longtime Golden resident knows that summertime is when the city …

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Golden event organizers taking wait-and-see approach

Planners say that while event chances look better than last year, uncertainty remains

Posted

While spring is nice, fall’s quite pleasant and most everyone enjoy throwing on their Viking horns for Ullrgrass in January, every longtime Golden resident knows that summertime is when the city really comes alive —- thanks in no small part to the many community events that takeover the city each weekend.

But after a quiet year that came and went without fireworks, fried treats or much in the way of carefree frivolity, many Goldenites are likely eyeing this summer with a mix of cautious optimism and wariness, wondering if the next few months will be a welcome return to fun and freedom or another bummer of a summer.

Already word has come that Buffalo Bill Days will not happen in 2021.

But while Buffalo Bill won’t ride in 2021, will Golden’s roster of other blockbuster summer events stay away with him?

Lora Knowlton, an event planner in charge of managing the Golden Fine Arts Festival, the fall beer tasting and chili cook-off and other events put on by the Golden Chamber of Commerce, says that many event organizers say it is just too early to be able to answer that question.

“For the most part everybody is pretty much in a holding pattern,” said Knowlton. “That is if they haven’t canceled already.”

However, what is clear, Knowlton said, is that the current unpredictability resulting from restrictions and case rates that continue to evolve makes planning events especially hard for organizers.

“Most importantly, events just cannot spend money on promotions and advertising unless they can be outrageously assured that the event can still take place,” she said. “And so people don’t want to move forward with rock solid plans until they can be sure that the event won’t have to be canceled.”

Adding to the challenge, Knowlton said, is that many event organizers lost money when they were unable to hold their events last year which makes them even more hesitant about running that risk again.

Meanwhile, the continually changing nature of the pandemic and uncertainty about where vaccination efforts will be by this summer mean that organizers are left trying to anticipate where the pandemic situation will be by the day of their event and what impact it might have.

For now, Knowlton said she is proceeding with planning for the arts festival and chili cook-off knowing she will need to decide six to eight weeks out whether the event is for sure “a go or a no-go,” an amount of time she said is standard for many event promoters. However, promoters for larger events typically need even more time, she said.

The one exception to that, she said, is the Golden Farmer’s Market, which has been labeled an essential business and will proceed this summer just as it did last year.

At this point, Knowlton said it is looking like this year’s Farmer’s Market will be able to be more relaxed than last year’s, which was held with significant capacity restrictions and new rules about where people could enter and exit the market.

However, current circumstances could also change, which is why planning the market has demanded flexibility.

“We just recently went through and did our preliminary layout and how many vendors we can have and figured out how many vendors we can have,” she said. “But again we are holding our breath that it is not going to have to change.”

While Knowlton is among those taking a wait and see approach, others are feeling more optimistic.

Among them is Golden Lions Club member Ed Dorsey, who says Goldenites can expect an in-person Fourth of July celebration complete with the annual fireworks show put on by the city.

At this point, Dorsey said he is hopeful that since the event is outside, there won’t be any restrictions, including a mask requirement.

“That’s what we are hoping for,” he said.

However, he also acknowledged that it’s possible that they will have to work around COVID-19 restrictions and there are some that might mean the event has to be canceled altogether.

“If social distancing is required at six feet then that’s an impossibility, common sense will tell you that,” he said. “You can’t really keep people away from each other and you don’t know whose family is whose so it’s very difficult to do something like that.”

For that reason, Dorsey said the organizers are reserving the option of choosing to cancel the event and will announce any cancellation. They’ve also made some changes, including delaying the start of the event until 3 p.m. and eliminating the children’s ride area for this year.

The Golden Civic Foundation is also moving ahead with its fifth annual Golden Summer Jam event, a night of music held on the grounds of the Colorado Railroad Museum.

The foundation has also lined up three bands to play at the event, including Wildermiss and the Great Salmon Famine. However, their plans also call for the event’s capacity to be reduced by 30% from 2018.

“We are in the process of working with Railroad and our food vendors regarding COVID safety but our Board was comfortable hosting this event with a significant reduction in attendee numbers (nearly 30%) and also due to the fact the railroad museum’s ground are very spacious, are outdoors and because they have already done a great deal of work to make their location and offerings COVID “safe” for their guests.”

Whatever organizers plans, they will likely need to consider both rules and guidance for their events from both the county and state. However, on April 16, Colorado went ahead with lifting its statewide requirements in favor of allowing counties institute their own requirements.

Jefferson County responded by instituting a new public health order that outlines a plan for Jefferson County to lift all capacity restrictions for both indoor and outdoor events on May 15, although it could reinstitute them if hospitalizations rise to certain levels.

That new order was welcome news to Knowlton,

“This is very encouraging!” She responded.

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