While uncertainty still looms, event organizers are forging ahead with plans for annual events in coming months.
Under Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest plan, which Walla Walla County is currently in as of March 22, 2021, the coronavirus safety guidelines allow a maximum of 400 spectators with capacity restrictions depending on the facility for event spaces, arenas, concert venues and rodeos.
Indoors, the maximum capacity for events is 400 people or 50% capacity (not including vendors), whichever is less, as long as six feet of physical distancing can be maintained between groups.
Outdoors, events with groups of 15 and a maximum capacity of 400 people are allowed, as long as people can practice social distancing.
All vendors, the venue and the host are required to comply with many COVID-19 event-specific safety practices like screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms at the start of every shift, according to the governor’s website.
With a green light to start planning events, there are still many unknowns down the road since many events were canceled last year during the pandemic.
Walla Walla Fair & Frontier DaysWalla Walla Fair & Frontier Days organizers are in full swing planning mode.
Walla Walla County Fairgrounds General Manager Greg Lybeck said they are planning a full in-person fair this year for Sept. 1-5 from 11 a.m.– 11 p.m. Sept. 1-2 and 11 a.m.- midnight Sept. 3-5 at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds, 363 Orchard St.
“All events enjoyed at past fairs will be included this year,” he said.
The band Chicago will be headline the fair at 7 p.m. Sept. 1 in the grandstands. The fair’s entertainment committee is working on filling stages and the grounds with acts, he said.
Kevin Smith, board president, said staff has been working to put plans in place for the safety of fairgoers, vendors and attendees.
They are also working with the International Association of Fairs and Expositions on protocols other fairs are following that have proven successful, he said.
“We are not anticipating having to adhere to strict capacity guidelines in September,” Lybeck said. “Fairgoers will be asked to follow any state guidelines in place at that time.”
In 2020, after long debates and prioritizing the health and safety of residents, Walla Walla County commissioners decided to cancel the fair.
Last year’s ticket holders could choose to be refunded or roll their tickets over to the 2021 fair.
Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the ticket office at 509-527-3250.
The Walla Walla County Fairgrounds will also be hosting a showcase event for the first time outdoors on the Pepsi Stage lawn June 5, with dinner, music, dancing, a silent auction and games.
The Spring Demo Derby will not take place this year, but the Walla Walla Valley Honda Demolition Derby will on Sept. 2 at 6 p.m., according to the fairgrounds website.
Dayton Days is expected to take place Memorial Day weekend, May 28-29 at the Columbia County Fairgrounds, 5 N Pine St., Dayton.
A two-day evening rodeo is planned as COVID-19 restrictions lift statewide. There may be a slack performance Saturday afternoon if enough entries come in. Talks for a Saturday parade are underway with the Dayton Chamber of Commerce.
All Wheels Weekend
All Wheels Weekend, which last year went virtual with the car show and offered a cruise around town for locals, will celebrate its 27th year in person again, as long as the state does not regress in phases come June, according to an assistant at the Dayton Chamber of Commerce.
The event takes place Fathers Day Weekend, June 18,19 and 20, on Main Street in Dayton with the classic Show and Shine, Friday Night Cruise, live music, food, and a demolition derby.
Organizers are proceeding with a typical event, only with social distancing and masks required.
Walla Walla Guitar Fest
Rob Barrett is hopeful he will be able to hold Walla Walla Guitar Festival, but it won’t be a typical event like in the past.
Last year, the festival was allowed to move ahead, although attendance was considerably reduced.
He said he calls it the “WWGF 10th-anniversary celebration” this year because it could not be an official full-fledged guitar festival.
If funding and capacity limits make the event financially feasible, it will occur Oct. 15-16.
Various establishments downtown would host musicians, and the big show would take place at The Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center, 6 W. Rose St.
Walla Walla Spring Fling
The seventh annual Walla Walla Spring Fling is happening May 7, from 2 p.m.- 8 p.m., May 8 from 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. and May 9 from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. at Pioneer Park, 940 E Alder St. It will benefit Reach Out Walla Walla, according to organizer Liz Pierce.
There will be food, commercial, arts and crafts, handcrafted vendors, stage entertainment all three days and a car/cycle show on May 8 from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m., Pierce said.
Each vendor will be required to have hand sanitizer at their booths, there will be marks on the ground for distancing, and attendees will be required to wear masks to follow the coronavirus safety guidelines.
Downtown Walla Walla events
Wheelin’ Walla Walla will take place on Sept. 10-11 for its 25th anniversary, but the show will look different due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to Cindy Frost, events and public relations manager for the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation.
The event is still being penciled out, but Sept. 10 is the registration and check-in day at the fairgrounds from 9 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. That night, the Cruise starts at 6 p.m. from the fairgrounds. Show n’ Shine is Sept. 11 from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m., with the awards ceremony at 3 p.m. on Main Street.
The Downtown Farmers Market will begin May 1 and run until the end of October every Saturday, 9 a.m.- 1 p.m., at 106 W. Main St.
There are no plans for Summer Sounds, but in late summer the foundation may look at hosting it.
The Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival is canceled in 2021, but Walla Walla Sweet Onion Restaurant Week, where restaurants showcase a menu item or two with the Walla Walla Sweet Onion, will take place the last week of June to promote the onion and local onion growers, Frost said.
Fourth of July in the Park
Fourth of July in the Park at Pioneer Park, which was canceled last year, will move forward assuming the event will happen, but a final decision will be made as the date approaches, according to the city of Walla Walla’s Parks and Recreation Director Andy Coleman.
He said COVID-19 restrictions would need to loosen for the event to happen.
Walla Walla Balloon Stampede
Laurie Spencer, producer of the event from Lighter than Air America, said Walla Walla Balloon Stampede is set for October 13-17, and they will be flying out of Howard-Tietan Park, 616 E Tietan St.
Kid’s Day will be on Oct. 13, where depending on COVID-19 safety guidelines, every kid who comes down to the park will get a tether ride in a balloon. Scheduled for Oct. 15 is Nite Glow, where they inflate the balloons after dusk, and then the burners light the insides of the balloon up.
The city of College Place is moving forward with annual events this year, all following COVID-19 guidelines. Last year, the city modified many events to provide safe ways to celebrate due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“All of the events we will try to do special this year since it is the city’s 75th anniversary of incorporation,” City Administrator Mike Rizzitiello said.
The College Place Farmers & Artisan Market will begin May 27 and run until Sept. 30 every Thursday from 4 p.m.- 7 p.m. at Lions Park, 801 SE Larch Ave.
Though the market occurred in 2020, this year will look a little different, and the city will be able to bring music to the market.
They will host Movies at the Park at Lions Park near sunset. They will screen “Moana” on July 10; “Onward” on July 24; “A Bug’s Life” on Aug. 7; and “Coco” on Aug. 28.
The Freedom Festival is scheduled for June 27, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at College Place High School, 1755 S College Ave.
Fall Festival will be on Oct. 28 from 3 p.m.- 6 p.m.
“We are trying to plan for this event. Traditionally it has a bouncy house, vendors, candy giveaways, harvest maze, and more. We will see what we can do within the COVID framework.”
Winterfest will be hosted on Dec. 2 from 4 p.m.- 7 p.m. with fireworks, vendors, a parade, caroling, tree lighting, and more.
Fort Walla Walla Days is canceled.
Waitsburg Celebration Days is canceled for the second year in a row due to too many uncertainties surrounding the pandemic.
The Caledonian Games Association is planning a festival July 10 starting with a parade at 9 a.m., according to Sue Friese.
“Very little else is on the docket yet and not very much confirmed ... Caledonian plans are developing for a fun day of family entertainment,” she said.
She will be announcing plans soon, she said.
Milton-Freewater Jr. Show
Oregon’s top-down approach has not been garnering the vaccination numbers that will allow the county to open up for its large annual events, according to previous U-B reporting.
Currently, Umatilla County is in the ”moderate risk” category of Oregon’s four-stage COVID-19 risk level plan.
The M-F Jr. Show will be a modified event not open to the public but will allow exhibitors to show their animals in-person and will take place on May 7,8, and 9 at the Milton-Freewater Jr. Show Grounds, 84487 Highway 11.
The kids will bring their animals in and show them to the judge but the sale of animals will be online like last year, according to Livestock Superintendent Zack Jordan.
There will be an in-person horse show on May 1 at the show grounds, which is allowed by Oregon coronavirus safety guidelines with a maximum capacity of 150 people.
The Frazier Farmstead Museum‘s annual Summer Festival, a long-standing event held each June in Milton-Freewater, is canceled this year, according to Linda Whiting, the museum director.
The museum will host its annual Family Fall Festival Oct. 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1403 Chestnut St.