This is one gathering that hasn’t gone up in smoke.
The annual Weedstock music festival is set to go on in Oklahoma despite an ongoing coronavirus outbreak and pushback from elected officials.
The three-day outdoor festival is expected to draw thousands to Stillwater, beginning Thursday, for “peace, love & music from your favorite red dirt bands,” according to the organizers promoting the event.
But local Mayor Will Joyce said there was nothing loving about risking the spread of the coronavirus, potentially overwhelming local hospitals and screwing up plans to reopen schools for in-person learning.
“It is not the right time for thousands of people to gather for a 3-day music festival,” Joyce said on Twitter last week.
“On a more personal level, I’m asking people to consider the general welfare of our community and make the responsible and caring decision not to attend this event at this time,” Joyce went on.
Oklahoma has reported more than 48,700 coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The spread of COVID-19 ramped up in mid-June and peaked on July 27, when the state reported more than 1,400 new cases.
The number of new cases has dropped off since then, though the state has reported several hundred new cases on each of the last few days.
Stillwater has recorded 646 cases and three deaths during the entirety of the pandemic.
An event representative told CNN that organizers have taken a variety of precautions to keep people safe. A mask mandate will be in place for attendees. Workers will also be required to wear masks and gloves.
“Organizers say they have purchased thousands of dollars worth of personal protective equipment including mask, gloves and plexiglass,” the representative said. “We will have masks on hand for anyone arriving without a mask so that they can enter the festival. If someone refuses to wear a mask inside they will be asked to leave.”
There will be four outdoor bars slinging alcohol for the event. Attendees can also shell out extra cash to camp out in a tent or with an RV during the festival running from Aug. 20 to Aug. 22.
The organizers argued to CNN that the 60-acre event space, the Tumbleweed Dancehall & Concert Venue, will be large enough to encourage safe social distancing.
The venue is technically outside of city limits, so Joyce said he doesn’t have the authority to shut it down.
Joyce acknowledged the financial hardships venues are facing during the pandemic, but he told The Oklahoman that he still felt the concert was inappropriate.
“Venues like the Tumbleweed have unfortunately been bearing a lot of the burden,” Joyce said. “It’s unfortunate. It’s certainly not something we ever want to see happen, but given the nature of the disease we’re dealing with, those types of events can be problematic given the spread of the disease.”