Washington County officials have elaborated on their decision to host a recent livestock event that drew hundreds to the Washington County Fairgrounds.
This past Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Fairgrounds hosted The Sift, a pig show which drew an estimated 200 to 250 participants. The event also featured a Saturday night cornhole tournament.
When asked why the county allowed an event of this size to occur when events of similar or smaller size have been postponed or cancelled in recent weeks, both County Judge John Durrenberger and Commissioner Joy Fuchs said that primary reasons for the county’s decision were because the event was centered around youth, and did not revolve around social interaction.
The two said Governor Greg Abbott’s order earlier this month giving local governments authority to levy restrictions on outdoor gatherings was not very specific when referring to youth events outdoors. According to Fuchs, this particular event was already planned before the order from Abbott, and organizers were anticipating fewer than 100 people to attend. She said organizers actually apologized to the county for any headaches caused by the larger-than-expected turnout, adding they did their best to enforce social distancing across the Fairgrounds.
Durrenberger said the county uses a format similar to the restaurant capacity rule when determining what outdoor events can proceed, making sure to not have people “stacking up on top of each other”. He said the county considers how many people will be in attendance, if those people will follow social distancing orders, and how interaction between attendees will take place. He noted that, in the case of the Fairgrounds, the county holds sole authority of deciding what events take place there, but it works with the City of Brenham to decide on other events within city limits.
In the case of the recently cancelled Chappell Hill Volunteer Fire Department barbecue cook-off—which was scheduled for this past weekend—Durrenberger said that event would have been more akin to a “party”, featuring alcohol and close social interaction. Durrenberger said this event was far different and a lot smaller than any baseball or softball tournaments going on, with Fuchs saying Washington County is not the only place hosting these sorts of livestock events. In this case, the two felt it important to allow youth to have an outlet with their animals.
*Edit @ 10:05 a.m.* Although Durrenberger was asked specifically about the Chappell Hill Volunteer Fire Department cook-off, he later clarified that his answer was in reference to all cook-offs in general, and did not specifically mention the Chappell Hill Volunteer Fire Department in his answer.
Durrenberger said if people wishing to hold events respect and follow the proper guidelines and capacity rules, they will most likely be allowed to do so. He said, “We’re not playing favorites. We’re doing what’s safe for the community and for the people involved.”