OCHD responds to country fest permit
By Eileen Persike
The day after an Oneida County Board of Supervisors committee granted the Hodag Country Fest (HCF) a large assembly permit for the event in July, Oneida County Health Department (OCHD) Director Linda Conlon said she wants the public to know that issuing the permit was not a decision of the OCHD, and that she has “no independent authority as the Health Officer of Oneida County to stop the Hodag Country Festival.”
Conlon said she participated in the Public Safety Committee meeting held May 26, and provided information regarding COVID-19 and guidance from the Onward Oneida County Committee, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and CDC regarding large assemblies and what precautions should be taken with regard to public gatherings.
The Onward Oneida County guidance suggests limited outdoor gatherings to no more than 50 people.
The HCF also presented a “safety plan relative to COVID-19” to the committee that included 25 suggested changes the organization would make during the festival, scheduled for July 9-12. The plan includes providing masks for volunteers, employees and attendees, posting signs to encourage social distancing, wearing of face masks and proper usage, eliminating the chair line in the entertainment area on Wednesday, July 8, and limiting the number of available weekend wristbands to 16,000.
After reviewing and discussing the guidance that was provided, Conlon noted in a press release, “the Public Safety Committee made the decision to issue the large assembly permit.”
Conlon said OCHD is taking a closer look at that plan and will discuss it with country fest organizers “in order to decrease the risk of disease transmission as much as possible at a mass gathering.”
WXPR reported that at Tuesday’s meeting, Oneida County Corporation Counsel Brian Desmond indicated the county got about 100 public-comment emails on whether to hold the event this year. He said about two-thirds were against hosting the festival and one-third were in favor. All members of the public who commented during Tuesday’s Zoom meeting voiced concerns.