A Mexican rodeo and concert Sunday afternoon that drew about 2,000 participants to private land in southeastern Weld County, apparently without ensuring distancing and mask-wearing, raised pandemic health concerns and state authorities dispatched an emergency official with the power to order a shutdown.
Weld County Sheriff deputies said they tried to prevent this event last Friday but failed.
The deputies were limited in their authority because Weld County lacks a permitting process and county commissioners have said the county will not enforce the statewide face mask order that Gov. Jared Polis issued last week, sheriff department spokesman Joe Moylan said.
The situation was shaping up as the latest test of Colorado’s ability to ensure reasonable precautions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus amid a resurgence of cases. Jefferson County authorities recently ordered the Bandimere Speedway to enforce distancing and mask-wearing for car race events.
On Sunday, the rodeo event promoted by Vail resident Carlos Barkleys was similar to a rodeo and concert previously staged in Elbert County that led to a coronavirus outbreak and one hospitalization, authorities said.
Weld County deputies were on scene along County Road 37 north of Lochbuie, monitoring traffic backups and responding to noise complaints, Moylan said. “We are hearing there is virtually no social distancing going on, no masks being worn. … We received at least half a dozen calls about a wild party. Other people have called about unexpected traffic.”
But county officials couldn’t shut down the event due to county commissioners’ actions last week based on a view that the county should not enforce the Polis order because state lawmakers had not made it a law, he said.
A sheriff’s sergeant last Friday contacted the owner of land where the event initially was planned off County Road 39, Moylan said, and that owner told his on-site manager not to host the event. But then the event was moved to a different site nearby along County Road 37.
“Our hands are a little tied. We don’t have a permitting process for events like this. We are just monitoring, hoping this doesn’t get out of control.”
Shortly after 5:30 p.m., a state operations center spokeswoman said a state official with the power to shut down the event was en route.
“We rely on event organizers to follow state law, and we rely on local officials to help with enforcement. If local authorities aren’t enforcing local or state orders, the state can issue a cease and desist order,” Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials said in an emailed response to Denver Post queries.
“Weld County Sheriff is on scene and a Colorado Office of Emergency Management representative is en route to the event. Mass gatherings, especially without physical distancing or mask wearing, are particularly irresponsible.”