The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Beka Compton
The Times 

Waitsburg Celebration Days cancels events amid pandemic

The Celebration Days board voted to cancel the upcoming weekend-long event, erring on the side of caution


Courtesy photo

The Waitsburg High School Marching Band marches down Main Street during the Waitsburg Celebration Days in 2018. The Celebration Days board voted to cancel the 2020 festivities to help combat COVID-19.

"This year's Celebration Days weekend of 'family friendly' fun events are cancelled due to Washington State health concerns about COVID-19," said Lisa Naylor, President of the Waitsburg Celebration Days Committee.

The board met last Wednesday, April 1st, utilizing Zoom and phone conference calls. During the meeting, board members discussed the impact of COVID-19 in Walla Walla and surrounding counties, with some members of the board weighing in with their personal concerns about potentially exposing their families should the event take place.

Naylor explained to the board that she had held discussions with City Administrator Randy Hinchliffe who noted that the fairgrounds are a recreational facility and events scheduled during the current Stay-at-Home order would be cancelled in compliance with the governor's declaration. Hinchliffe also noted that future fairground events, scheduled after the order has been lifted, will be determined by the event hosts, not the City.

Wendy Richards, a board member who manages the Burgers, Bands and Brews event, told the board that many of her volunteers are 60 years of age and older and hesitant to help at the event this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many volunteers would not be willing to commit to in-person duties due to the uncertain circumstances.

Royalty Director Ann Adams said that she is "bummed that Queen Lena Berens won't get to have 'her' weekend...," but she is "...glad that the board ultimately chose everyone's safety over the event."

"Lena has worked so hard to get ready for the season ahead of her. She has done a wonderful job promoting the event so far," Adams said. "We are hopeful that Lena will get to travel throughout the summer and promote the 2021 Celebration Days."

This is the second royalty court that Adams has seen through an event cancellation. In 2011, Adams was the Dayton Days royalty advisor. That same year many equine events, including Dayton Days, were cancelled following an equine herpes virus outbreak.

The board is currently working out all of the cancellation details. The classic auto show held on Saturday is also considering rescheduling. Board member Joy Smith said she would contact sponsors to see if funds received need to be returned or can be held for next year's event. She will also follow up on pending grants.

The Waitsburg Celebration Days board is optimistic that the 2021 event will go off without a hitch. The event was originally created in 2013 after Smith and other community members banded together following the loss of the Days of Real Sport.

Waitsburg event cancellations started happening in March, beginning with the Mat Birds wrestling tournament on March 14. The Waitsburg Town Hall board voted to cancel the St. Patrick's Day dinner fundraiser on March 17. The Waitsburg Commercial Club cancelled their annual Awards Banquet that was scheduled for mid-April, and the Touchet Valley Little League season was also cancelled.

Shortly after the meeting, Governor Inslee announced that he was extending the 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' declaration through May 4. Group gatherings over 10 people are temporarily banned to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease.


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