PROVO, Utah – For many Utah residents, big summer events like fairs, festivals and concert series are a summer staple. So it was a big disappointment to have all those events canceled last summer due to COVID-19. Now with cases declining and vaccinations widely available, cities around the Salt Lake valley are figuring out the best way to bring these popular events back.
“We’re actually just getting it nailed down right now,” said Keaton Asay, a special events coordinator for Sandy City, speaking about the city’s Fourth of July celebration. “In the past it’s our biggest event, with 35,000 to 40,000 people. We had to think about how we could scale it back.”
According to Asay, the event will include events like the 5k race, a Spikeball tournament and a food truck night. However, they’ll be going without a parade as well as stages for live music. The fireworks show will also be coordinated in such a way as to prevent lots of people gathering in one area.
Part of the difficulty of organizing big citywide events during a pandemic is that organizers have no way of knowing what state or county restrictions might be in place months down the road. With limited time to prepare, Asay said it made more sense for Sandy to plan conservatively, rather than to risk having to make major adjustments at the last minute.
Organizers for South Jordan’s SoJo Summerfest faced a similar dilemma. As one of the first big events of the summer season (usually taking place in early June) the city usually starts planning in the thick of winter.
“At that time, case counts were pretty high. I wish we had a crystal ball at that time,” said Janell Payne, a recreation director for South Jordan.
Unsure of what the next few months would look like, they made the call to delay the event from the beginning of summer to the end of summer (Sept. 13-18).
“I know mask mandates have been lifted for the state. Things are going well now, and hopefully they’ll be even better,” Payne said.
Like Sandy, South Jordan will be adapting its event to whatever circumstances in September may necessitate. One possibility is shifting the event from its regular venue at South Jordan City Park to the Equestrian Park, which has fewer entry and exit points, allowing the city to better control attendance.
For its more limited events held in the past year, the city has begun using an online ticketing and reservation system to help manage crowd sizes and other logistics. That will likely be used again for SoJo Summerfest and possibly for future events as well.
“The benefits of knowing how many people to plan on is very helpful. If people are open to that, we’ll definitely continue that,” Payne said.
In Taylorsville, city leaders are betting on improving conditions with a full steam ahead approach.
“After checking with the county and state health departments, we have been authorized to hold Taylorsville Dayzz this year,” event committee chairman Jim Dunnigan said. “And, if the numbers continue to trend as they are now—with fewer positive COVID tests and coronavirus hospitalizations—we will be allowed to host it without requiring masks or social distancing. But either way, it’s officially a go.”
Taylorsville Dayzz (June 24-26) is expected to include all the features of a “normal year” including vendors, parades, a car show and live entertainment.
Likewise, Midvale City’s Harvest Days festival is aiming to include its regular attractions, albeit with some precautions.
“Safety requirements include signage reminding people to keep within their own groups, eat only at designated areas, and have multiple handwashing/sanitizing stations,” communications officer Laura Magness said during a Midvale City Council meeting in March.
They’ll also be limiting the number of vendor tents so that they can be adequately spaced apart from one another.
Residents can stay updated on various city-hosted events this summer by following their respective cities on social media.