City goes ahead with festival at Fairbanks

Tribune-Star/Austen LeakeWhat do we have here?: Miley Grey marvels at a water gun her mom won her on May 24, 2019, at the Banks of the Wabash Festival in Fairbanks Park.

The city of Terre Haute says it has taken COVID-19 into account, and Summerfest 2020 at Fairbanks Park is a go.

The festival, which includes a carnival, kicks off this Friday and runs through July 18.

While there is in a resurgence nationwide in coronavirus numbers, Eddie Bird, superintendent of parks and recreation, said the parks department and park board is following Gov. Eric Holcomb's "Stage 4.5" plan for reopening, and it allows outdoor festivals.

Bird said carnival operator Luehrs Rides Inc. is following or exceeding Disney Theme Parks guidelines and those for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

This spring, the city parks department canceled the Banks of the Wabash Festival in April because such events at the time were not permitted under the governor's emergency orders.

"When we canceled that, we talked about Luehrs coming and doing something in the summer. This is replacing that [On the Banks of the Wabash]. Our part is we are just letting them set up, and we get a percentage of what they make," Bird said.

"Luehrs has been a great company to work with and are always very clean and professional," Bird said. "They have gone above and beyond of what they need to do, I believe, to keep everybody safe."

City Attorney Eddie Felling said the city is complying with all state requirements.

"The potential for it being shut down is always a possibility,' Felling said. "The bigger issue is making sure the public understands the responsibility that they have by attending an event like this. They need to be very conscientious of the guidelines in place with social distancing and masks, especially while indoors."

Luehrs Rides will incorporate safety measures, among them:

• Employees temperatures will be taken and recorded daily. Any employee with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will not be allowed to work;

• All employees must wear facemasks and to wear gloves in accordance with CDC Guidelines;

• Plexiglas protection will be placed between employees and patrons as needed;

• Riders will be limited to help separate patrons;

• Markings or cones are to be used in waiting lines to indicate 6 feet;

• Hand sanitizers will be provided at every ride or attraction;

• Employees will thoroughly disinfect and sanitize all equipment daily.

Roni Elder, health educator for the Vigo County Health Department, said the City Parks and Recreation "is following the stages that the governor has put out. And, in their plan that they have in place, they really thought through everything and are following industry guidelines."

Elder said the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus does remain where people congregate in large numbers.

"Any time that there are a lot of people coming together and don't follow social distancing and don't wear a mask, there is always the potential there could be a spike in our [COVID-19] cases," Elder said.

If there is a local spike, it would be about 7 to 10 days before it shows up, she added.

While the risk outdoors is lower, and attending events with a group of people that are "your primary contracts already, you don't need to be concerned about that. It is when you are in close contact with other people longer than 10 to 15 minutes that you have been exposed to who could be systematic and have coronavirus and could spread it to you if you are too close," Elder said.

Elder said it is important to remember "that if you are in the high risk categories, if you are over 65, if you have health issues, this event might still be something that you might want to sit out."

Anyone with symptoms also should stay home, she advised.

Temperatures are expected to be near 90 degrees this weekend. While it was thought heat might curtail the virus, that hasn't shown to be the case.

Terre Haute City Councilman Todd Nation, whose City Council District 4 includes Fairbanks Park, said that while he did not have access to the information on which the parks department reached its decision, "Personally, my family is still very concerned about going to large public gatherings, and we won't be attending," Nation said.

Nation said his decision in part is based on having small children. He has a 3-year-old son and a 4-month-old daughter.

"I realize that people who don't have small kids may feel differently about these kinds of issues," he added.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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