WEST FARGO — "Not really."
Those words were echoed by almost all of the people who were asked if they were worried about the coronavirus as they flocked into the Sawyer Brown concert at The Lights plaza in West Fargo Thursday night, Aug. 6.
Donna Dick of Mayville said she carries her own mask and she really wasn't worried about the virus as she and her friend entered the outdoor concert stage area on a gorgeous summer night.
"If I get worried, I just put on my mask," she said.
Gretchen Young of West Fargo also wasn't worried about the virus. She was simply excited to not only see one of her longtime favorites — Sawyer Brown — but also the new, city-owned plaza surrounded by apartments and businesses, where a huge stage filled one end.
Concertgoers, who paid more than $40 a ticket, were carefully checked before entering the plaza. A team of event staff took the temperature of each person and handed out masks to about half of attendees who didn't bring their own.
One of the staff members said as the 7 p.m. concert was about to begin that no one had been turned away after their temperature was taken or after being asked to put on a mask.
"I guess we are lucky," she said.
Small bottles of hand sanitizer was also offered to concertgoers.
Owen Warrey and three of his friends, all carefully wearing their own masks, came to see his father's band, The Green Light Night, open the concert.
"Not really," Warrey said when he and his Casselton friends were asked if they had any worries about the virus. He also said his father didn't seem concerned.
Also apparently with few worries were the people in the sports bar and restaurant Bar Down that has views of the plaza through its windows.
With no social distancing, not one person was seen wearing a mask — even the staff — in the crowd of more than 200 who filled the bar and an outside patio as many waited for the concert.
It was the same outside on the plaza. Even after every concertgoer was required to put on a mask as they entered the concert, almost all of them could be seen taking it off after they were inside. There was some social distancing inside the venue.
The refusal to keep masks on was despite a one-page handout given to visitors from the mask-wearing event staff urging them to wear them.
"To help ensure that events like concerts, street fairs and cruise nights happen in West Fargo, please wear your mask," it read.
The concert followed last weekend's rock and roll Hairball concert, and another is planned for this Saturday night featuring Jimmie Allen with Matt Snell.
Epic Events, an offshoot of Epic Properties that developed the multi-use complex on Sheyenne Street and 32nd Avenue South, is hosting the series of summer concerts at the plaza. The outdoor plaza is managed by the nonprofit West Fargo Events, which leased out the space to Epic Events for the concerts.
Some concerns about the concert were raised at the West Fargo City Commission meeting Monday night.
City Administrator Tina Fisk told the commission it appeared social distancing and mask regulations were followed at the Hairball concert. However, photos of the concert area seem to show hundreds of people standing close together with no masks. The images were circulated on social media, and many residents decried the city's decision to not cancel the events.
Kenzy Olson, vice president of marketing and public relations at Epic, told The West Fargo Pioneer that the venue would be following all recommendations set forth by Gov. Doug Burgum, including selling only 1,800 tickets for the 3,000-person venue to keep capacity below recommendations.
Olson said about 1,500 people attended the Hairball concert. She said seeing the photos of the crowd was "disappointing," but she believes Epic is continuing with the events for mental health reasons.
“We’re doing the events for morale and people’s mental health,” she said.
Commissioner Brad Olson said if the city is following state guidelines, the upcoming concerts should not be allowed, especially when Cass County is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases.