WEST FARGO — The first concert on the plaza of the new Lights in West Fargo is almost here, and concerns are building about it happening during a pandemic.
Famous 80’s throwback band Hairball performs at 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 1 at the MIDCO stage on the plaza.
Fargo resident Camille Brandt isn’t attending the concert, but she’s surprised the city is allowing it to be held when active cases of COVID-19 in the state are at an all-time high. Several city commissioners have expressed concerns, but voted to allow the event and other concerts to go forward.
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“The decision should be based not on what we wish it would be, but what the reality is now,” Brandt said.
She knew about the controversy surrounding a concert by The Chainsmokers in New York on July 25, billed as a “drive-in music experience.”
Instead, video from the concert showed people crowded near the concert stage, dancing closely together.
The Lights plaza is owned by the city but managed by West Fargo Events. This particular event, and several other concerts in August, are being promoted by Epic Events, which is renting the space.
McKenzy Olson, vice president of marketing and public relations at Epic, said they’re taking the same precautions as were taken during the recent appearance by University of Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck.
Attendees will have their temperatures checked prior to going in, and they’ll be required to wear masks when they enter.
The promoter will strongly encourage people to keep masks on throughout the concert but will not enforce that once people have entered.
The venue capacity is reduced to 45% of capacity, which is a cap of 1,800 people.
Hand sanitizer will be available, high-touch areas will be disinfected frequently and venue staff will all wear masks.
Olson said she knows there will be criticism of the event, but that would happen whether they held it or cancelled it.
“We’re doing the events for morale and people’s mental health,” she said.
One difference between the P.J. Fleck appearance and Hairball will be in the matter of seating.
Families could sit together at the coach’s talk but were separated six feet from others.
For Hairball, it is general admission, with seating only offered for attendees who are disabled.
When Brandt saw an ad for the Hairball show, her first thought was when one person goes up near the stage, others will follow.
“Pretty soon, we’re shoulder to shoulder,” she said.
Olson said there will be security officers present, advising people to keep distance from one another.
However, they wouldn’t physically force anyone to move because that is out of their realm of responses, she said.
West Fargo city commissioner Eric Gjerdevig said he voted to approve a recent request for the concert to be held because it was stated the promoter would follow state guidelines related to COVID-19.
“You have to be able to enforce social distancing. I have no idea how that’s possible (at a concert),” Gjerdevig said.
He said if he sees in photos or video that people were crowded together, he’ll ask the commission to consider cancelling the rest of the concerts at the venue.
As for the national, negative attention that followed the aforementioned concerts, Gjerdevig doesn’t want that to happen here.
“I hope West Fargo is not next,” he said.