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Dayton Days Rodeo bucked off by COVID-19

DAYTON–Like a bull rider who gets a face full of dirt instead of a shiny belt buckle, the Dayton Days with Columbia County Fair Rodeo is yet another casualty of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. After withholding decision-making until the last moment, the Dayton Days Inc. officers and board of directors announced this week that the 2020 Memorial Day rodeo is canceled.

The Dayton Days Parade, which is organized and conducted by the Dayton Chamber of Commerce, had been canceled in April, also due to COVID-19.

The Dayton Days Inc. board, in a virtual meeting April 30, concurred after considerable discussion that Governor Jay Inslee's COVID-19 restrictions would be unlikely to be relaxed enough to permit a rodeo on May 23, just 23 days away.

"We realized that the decision to hold the rodeo would probably not be ours," said Loyal Baker, Dayton Days Inc. vice president, who conducted the virtual meeting in the absence of President Tim Donohue. "The County Commissioners are also unlikely to allow any event at the Fairgrounds against the governor's directives."

The officers and board members discussed the possibility of holding the rodeo with social distancing, and requiring the audience to wear masks. Posting signs advising rodeo fans of the known risk of contracting coronavirus was also considered, along with alternate dates later in the summer. None of the alternatives talked over were feasible under current conditions.

The officers opted to withhold acting until conferring the Columbia County Commissioners during the Monday, May 4, meeting. At that meeting, the BOCC acted to proceed to Phase 2 procedures, and comply with state-mandated restrictions.

County Commissioners Charles Amerein, Mike Talbott and Ryan Rundell advised Dayton Days that large group events will not be approved by May 23. For other activities or events, Commissioners will consider each request on a case-by-case basis.

The canceled rodeo would have been the second event since Dayton Days Inc. reconvened in 2018 after being dormant since the last pari-mutuel horse racing meet was held in 2010.

Dayton Days Inc. partners with the Columbia County Fair for insurance coverage and bills the event as Dayton Days with Columbia County Fair Rodeo. A member of the Dayton Days board sits on the Fair Board. The cancellation of the Memorial Day rodeo is not connected with any future decisions pertaining to the 2020 Columbia County Fair and its rodeo.

Fair President Matt Johnson told the Dayton Chronicle that the 2020 Fair is still in planning. "We are planning to have the Fair and are hopeful we will be free of restrictions by that time," Johnson said. "We are considering alternative solutions in the event restrictions remain to still have some of the fair activities, if we are unable to hold a traditional fair."