Summer events in Dodge County continue to be canceled over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but this weekend in Beaver Dam will see a slate of new ones.
The first-ever “Best Dam Block Party” covering a few blocks of South Spring Street will start Friday afternoon and continue on Saturday, with several area businesses hosting, and include food trucks, live music, vendor booth, prize baskets and more.
The block party will coincide with the newly-unveiled Veterans Honor Walk, with banners now hanging around downtown, a sidewalk sale, the city’s second business scavenger hunt and the rescheduled city-wide rummage sale. Over 1,300 people are listed as interested in attending the block party on Facebook.
The block party stands in stark contrast to several other major summer events in the area that have been canceled completely in 2020, including the Dodge County Fair and Beaver Dam Lake Days, due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services lists coronavirus activity in the state as “moderately high” and in Dodge County as “moderate.” There are 10 active facility investigations in the county and 445 total positive tests, including in Department of Corrections facilities. The seven-day average of positive cases is rising in Wisconsin. A total of 766 people have died.
“I think the community has been really good about social distancing and people socializing in their own group,” said Ruth Metz, owner of Ooga Brewing Company, one of the major organizers of the event. “People do respect each other’s space.”
The block party is being promoted as “socially distanced.” Metz said there will be plenty of activities to spread people out over a lot of outdoor space, distance between vendors, outdoor picnic tables, hand sanitizer and so on. Vendors will be encouraged to keep their areas sanitized.
She acknowledged people are in different places on the pandemic, and some people will be wearing masks while others won’t.
The city’s community development manager Mary Vogl-Rauscher, also an organizer of the weekend’s events, did not respond to messages Wednesday and Thursday.
Dodge County Public Health Officer Abby Sauer said the department is discouraging large public gatherings which make it difficult to do tracing and identify people someone may have been in contact with if they do test positive for COVID-19.
She said the department has not put out any health orders and doesn’t plan to anytime soon, and trusts people to make the right decisions and take responsibility for themselves.
If people do choose to participate in a large gathering, Sauer said they are encouraging people to do social distancing as much as they can, wear a mask if they feel comfortable doing so and follow relevant guidance that is widely available online, including for vendors.
“Hopefully people have been looking at our recommendations and guidance and do it in the safest way possible,” she said.
Sauer also recommended, at social events, sticking with family and the people one has already been around while doing frequent hand washing and sanitizing. She said she hoped the event would be spread out so people can physically distance.
“I think if people do the safe practices, it’s OK to have semi-large gatherings,” she said.
Above all, Sauer added that if somebody is sick, they should stay home.
The county is in the public health unit’s designated “phase 2” of re-opening plan owing to a downward trajectory in positive cases. Phase 2 recommends:
- Continue to follow Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and CDC Best Practice Guidelines.
- Limit capacity within non-essential businesses, bars, restaurants and organizations to 50%.
- People age 65 or older and those who are medically vulnerable should continue to limit travel and remain at home as much as possible.
- Events held outdoors should allow for all people to maintain 6 feet physical distance (36 square feet per person) from others.
- Support online education/remote work options as able.
- If community members choose to gather socially, private indoor social gatherings should be limited to 50 people or less with physical distancing.
- Encourage masking for both staff and consumers
City Attorney Maryann Schacht said she is working on new ideas for the Common Council to consider about such events and opening up the ordinances for businesses in general to use space like sidewalks. She said the city has been very sympathetic to businesses in Beaver Dam and wants to give them avenues to help them as they re-open. The request for the block party had to be run past city officials.
“The whole idea is, because of this virus, we don’t want people to close their shops forever,” Schacht said.
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