The annual Trappers Rendezvous, held in January at Harvey County West Park every year of its existence, is awaiting a decision of the Harvey County Commission as to whether it will be allowed to occur where it was born.
The next edition is scheduled for Jan. 15-17.
"We told our Scouters that the event will take place unless a governmental entity shuts us down," said John Ferguson, one of the event organizers.
The event has grown from a couple of Scout troops camping at West Park to upwards of several thousand scouts from multiple states over the course of 44 years.
"We have never held this anyplace but Harvey County West Park. It is near and dear to our hearts," Ferguson said. "We are just hoping that we are able to proceed."
The question in front of Quivira Scout Council is where and how many Scouts will attend the event. The council does own a camp facility near Sedan, which could be pressed into service for the Rendezvous if Harvey County chooses not to allow the event to move forward at West Park.
The Harvey County Commission is reviewing the event and will likely make a decision after consulting with EMS department. The council and county are in year four of a five-year contract for the event.
"The COVID-19 task force discussed this at our last weekly meeting," said county administrator Anthony Swartzendruber. "Our concerns are as follows — with over 2,000 participants this would be a mass gathering. By 2021 (it) may or may not be allowed depending on what limits are in place at that time. Public Health Experts are predicting that it will be a difficult time in the next few months. Another concern is that the event will bring in participants from other states."
The event draws several thousand Scouts and leaders each year. This year, organizers anticipate the event will draw about 2,000.
"We appreciate the event and using local vendors and going to local stores," Swartzendruber said. "With that you are mixing people from multiple states that creates tracking and tracing issues in the event of an outbreak."
At issue is COVID-19. The council has put precautions in place and used those procedures recently at a camping event near Goddard.
"I am very happy to report that we have had no reports of COVID-19 as result of that event," Ferguson said.
Commissioners questioned how social distancing guidelines can be observed at the event — and what message the commission would be sending if the announcement of the event moving forward while restrictions on fans and crowds for high school sporting events remain in place.
Currently there are no gathering size restrictions in place in Harvey County.
The county COVID-19 task force has consulted with the county health officer, Dr. Doyle Detweiler. Detweiler recommended not allowing the event in the county.
"My concern is it puts our employees at risk," said Commissioner Randy Hague.
All attendants at the event must have a signed waiver form from a guardian. If the member of a Scout unit begins to show symptoms of COVID-19, the unit will be sent home.
The Scouts have a crew called a 911 crew — a mix of licensed EMTs and Scouts training to be EMTs — that will visit each Scout unit during check-in to check temperatures and perform COVID-19 screening.
During a meeting between the commission and council members, it was not made clear if moving the event this year would result in it being moved permanently or if it would return to West Park.
There has been talk on the council of moving the event to a Scout ranch near Sedan.
"The location is fantastic, the atmosphere is fantastic, the support we have received from Harvey County Parks has been just amazing. We don’t want to have a change," Ferguson said. "I am only one voice. ... I am hoping that if we cannot have this event at Harvey County, that whatever we end up doing is not a lasting solution."