CLINTON — Concerns about the projected crowd for the Chuckwagon Races over Labor Day weekend, the yearly event at the Bar o f Ranch in Clinton, against the concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic are being addressed, according to Eoff family spokesperson Dapple Grayce Eoff.
The Eoff family, which operates the Bar o f Ranch, has hosted the Chuckwagon Races for 35 years at its location just to the west of Clinton. Visitor numbers are projected as high as 10,000 unique visitors – often with horses – attending the event. The races, the central point of the event, draw spectators who watch the events from bluffs overlooking the pasture where the races take place. In previous events crowds have been shoulder-to-shoulder during peak activity periods.
Concern for this year’s event is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where the highly infectious disease has led to public calls, and in some cases orders, for wearing masks and maintaining “social distancing,” generally a six foot or more distance between individuals, in order to minimize infection.
Plans for this season’s race remains underway while acknowledging pandemic requirements, Eoff stated.
“We have submitted a 20 page directive that addresses all of our events within the races separately, as well as the ranch as a whole. We intend to enforce the regulations that are in place by the state at the ranch during that time-- including but not limited to face coverings, seating grids, camp ground spacing, etc. We are currently working on plans to have grocery and food deliveries to the ranch to keep more people on the grounds and out of town,” Eoff stated in a July 29 exchange.
The event will also include people dedicated to COVID-19 health concerns.
Eoff: “We have hired additional security and staff, which include a Certified Infection Control Specialist and 4 APRNs that have COVID certifications and experience with detection and treatment. We are setting up health checkpoints for all staff and checkpoints upon entering the ranch. We have added and are bringing in more running water facilities for hand washing and sanitization stations over the ranch and have purchased an additional 450 acres to space campers. The ride to town is being rerouted to an out of town location.”
City of Clinton Mayor Richard McCormac said the city was working with the Eoff family on an alternate routing for the traditional trail ride, as well as facilities to ensure increased spacing for participants.
The ranch is working with Arkansas Department of Health in developing a viable public health safety plan for the event. The back-and-forth with that department has led to defining grids in spaces where crowds might gather.
Eoff stated the department has been “Very helpful and supportive” while planning is to exceed Department of Health recommendations.
“They’ve requested 2 feet between our grids and we’re allowing for 4 feet, 12 feet from entertainers and crowd and we’re allowing 20,” Eoff stated.
Grids will also be established for race and entertainment -viewers.
“We will have 6x6 grids with 3-4 foot of space between them for concert seating. Family groups will be allowed to fill the 6x6 grids with space between. During the actual races, 10x10 grids (to allow for personal canopies) will be utilized and marked. Family groups and groups that come together will be allowed to sit together,” Eoff stated.
And of course masks: “Face coverings will be required for all persons present, except for children under 10 years of age, who are exempt. Once attendees are seated and maintaining 6 feet physical distance from others, face coverings may be removed. However, if moving around where social distancing is not achievable or any area where there is confinement such that 6 feet distancing cannot be maintained, the face covering must be put back in place,” Eoff stated.
Included is a requirement for vendors, which “... will be expected to create environments where social distancing is respected and enforced,” Eoff stated.
The masking and grid requirements will be enforced.
“We are completely willing and ready to enforce the regulations. My family and I will be wearing them in those places to set an example of compliance. We feel, very strongly, that a year of inconveniences is worth preserving the reputation and ensuring the future of our event,” Eoff stated.