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Baraboo Young Professionals cancel Night Market after officials voice COVID-19 concerns
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Baraboo Young Professionals cancel Night Market after officials voice COVID-19 concerns

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Night Market file (copy)

Zaylee Considine, 3, swats at bubbles during the Night Market in downtown Baraboo in 2018. 

Organizers of a tentatively planned event on the Baraboo Square in late October saved council members from making a decision by cancelling it.

Baraboo Common Council members were supposed to review new information regarding the Baraboo Young Professionals’ plans for a night market at the end of the month during a special meeting Tuesday. It would have been the third annual event.

Instead, the matter was settled before the proceeding by BYP Secretary Nicki Green in an email to City Clerk Brenda Zeman. The message, sent Monday afternoon, was to notify the city of their intent to cancel the event permit applications.

“After another call with the health department this afternoon, we are going to forego night market events for the remainder of the year,” Green wrote. “We will start looking at a spring event after the new year.”

The event was approved contingent upon the council receiving more information from the Sauk County Public Health Department after concerns were raised by members during discussion of the Baraboo Night Market during its Sept. 22 meeting. City Attorney Emily Truman said staff who usually approved one of the applications recommended the issue be reviewed by council out of concern for the possible safety risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Baraboo Fire Chief Kevin Stieve, who is one of the officials on the committee that would have decided on the permit application, said during the meeting that the planning was in its initial stages and organizers had only just met with health department officials. He agreed with members that public safety was most important.

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The group consulted with the Sauk County Health Officer Tim Lawther, according to a letter sent Monday by Lawther to Mayor Mike Palm, interim City Administrator Ed Geick, Truman and Stieve.

Lawther explained in the letter that department officials urged the group to consider planning again in the spring time and avoid hosting a large, public gathering when COVID-19 case numbers in Wisconsin are on the rise.

“Ms. Green was honest, transparent, and responsive to questions, and she clearly wants to prioritize public health and safety,” Lawther said, adding that cases within the Baraboo School District have nearly doubled since Sept. 18. “We have seen a 36% increase in active cases in the City of Baraboo this week over last.”

He said department officials “recognize how difficult this recommendation is for organizers and supporters to hear” but that “bringing 1,000-5,000 people into a closed-off Baraboo Square is too risky for residents and visitors.”

The event itself, which would center around large numbers of people gathered while eating and consuming alcohol, would “lower inhibitions and reduce the likelihood of mask wearing.” With so many people in a small space, social distancing would also be “difficult, if not impossible,” Lawther wrote.

The health department advises against hosting a gathering with more than 50 people unless social distancing can be ensured. Lawther said the department will work with the organization in the future to “help them hold a successful, and safe, Night Market.”

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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