By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
State health officials have not denied a request for Cody to hold its summer-long Nite Rodeo, however, the state’s health officer is reminding organizers that the event can have no more than 250 attendees.
In an email to the Cowboy State Daily, Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti said there was some confusion surrounding the Cody Stampede and the role of state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist.
The rodeo’s organizers, in a Facebook post, said the Health Department had rejected their request for a variance to allow the Cody Nite Rodeo to proceed.
But Deti said Harrist took no such action, instead just reminding rodeo organizers that under statewide health orders, the number of attendees to such an event must be limited to 250.
Gov. Mark Gordon and Harrist announced Wednesday that orders limiting gatherings to 25 people had been changed and that for outside gatherings, up to 250 people can attend if social distancing guidelines are observed.
Harrist, in an email to Dr. Aaron Billin, said the revised rules would allow the Cody Nite Rodeo to occur.
“….the new orders would allow this event with up to 250 spectators starting June 1, and the order gives the event venues specific provisions they have to follow,” Harrist wrote. “Knowing that these types of events have importance economically and culturally (especially now that the large rodeos have cancelled their events for the summer), this was the type of event we meant to allow to happen in the orders.
“However, I would really prefer that we stick to 250 spectators for a couple weeks to see how that goes…it gives the event venues a chance to determine what they need to put into place to make sure social distancing happens with a limited number of people before we think about expanding that number further…”
On Thursday, Harrist received an email from Marc Thompson, a Cody Stampede representative, asking for a copy of her “letter of denial” for the Rodeo to share with the board of the Cody Stampede, which also organizes the Cody Nite Rodeo.
Harrist told Thompson there was no denial
In her first response to Thompson, Harrist wrote: “….Just for clarification, the Cody Nite Rodeo can occur beginning June 1 with up to 250 spectators. As of June 1, rodeos are allowed under Statewide Public Health Order #2, with up to 250 spectators in the stands.
“If you would like to have more than 250 people in the stands, that would require an approved exception request. I am happy to discuss having more than 250 spectators, but my strong preference is to stick to 250 for at least through June 15.”
Thompson asked again in another email for Harrist’s “official denial letter” and asked about the size limit expected in upcoming public health orders.
In her second response, Harrist wrote: “I hesitate to speculate too much on the next number, given that we will need some time to see the effects of these changes. Potentially it could stay at 250 with increased ability to obtain exceptions for larger events in larger facilities that could easily space people, or move up to 500.”
“There is not an official letter declining the exception request. My response to the exception request was essentially the same as my response to you – that this event can occur beginning June 1 with up to 250 spectators, and that my strong preference would be to keep the spectators at 250. My understanding was that the intention was to start immediately (or June 1) for the rodeo….are you asking for an exception request for a rodeo with 750 spectators beginning June 15? I would consider that given by the time it occurs we would have two weeks of data indicating whether holding events of up to 250 can be successful….”
The Cody Stampede’s organizing board announced Friday that it intended to hold both the Nite Rodeo and the Cody Stampede Rodeo as scheduled.
The Cody Stampede Rodeo, originally scheduled for July 1-4, was one of six that Gov. Mark Gordon and rodeo officials had announced Wednesday would be canceled for the year.
The board, in its Facebook post, said it never agreed to the cancellation and vowed to hold both the Stampede and the Nite Rodeo.
Deti said Harrist has received a request for an exemption from statewide health rules to allow the Cody Stampede parade to be held, however, she had not received a request for a variance that would allow the Stampede itself to take place.