As in years past, the festival offered an exceptional musical weekend, with an unreal lineup that âmelted Iowaâ in the words of a festival goer on Twitter. This year’s backcountry, however, had a different vibe than it did in the past. Even though love and harmony were in the air, so was anxiety about COVID-19.
Last Thursday, Sam Summers, the main organizer of the festival, encouraged festival-goers to get vaccinated and bring a mask with them to the event.
âYou know, let’s use our best judgment here,â he said. âIf you’re in a line and waiting for food or to enter, put on your mask. We try to keep the festival as relaxed as possible, but at this point it’s a good time to keep doing the right thing in mind.
He made it clear to spectators that it was their duty to stay safe this weekend at the event, which is exactly what our state leaders have been communicating to all of us since March 2020.
âIt’s been a long time for live music, as you know, and everyone is excited. It was great lineup, âsaid Luke Dickens, another organizer of the Sunday event. âWe heard the concerns about parking and added 800 parking spaces on Saturday. We have four to five times as many porta-pots. We have three times as many food vendors. And we’ve tried to make safety our number one priority. Not having shuttles was difficult for us, and that’s part of what happened with the parking lot. We just didn’t feel good about packing people on a hot bus. We asked people to get vaccinated, and we asked people who were not vaccinated to wear a mask. “
Event planners for any event, including the backcountry, have made tough decisions and pivoted planning in the face of unprecedented situations – like all of us – in the hellish landscape that has been around since March 2020. The Situation regarding COVID-19 has changed dramatically in Iowa over the past two weeks. The guidelines they must work with are considered political, are challenged due to conspiracy theories, and are constantly changing.
However, they had the power to be stronger and more transparent with ticket holders about the percentage of capacity they were selling the venue to and the number of people attending. Both are factors that Dr. Melanie Wellington of the University of Iowa and the clinic recommends as keys for bystanders to assess the risk of catching COVID-19.
# hinterland2021 was a complete bait and switch. They promised limited ticket sales and Covid precautions, but it’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen there, no Covid precautions, and everything also failed logistically (parking, camping, queues). ‘waiting, port-a-pots, etc.).
– Booknerd Betty ðð¦ (@booknerdbetty) August 7, 2021
Last Tuesday, IPR’s Clay Masters announced that the festival expects 14,000 attendees, which is the festival’s current attendance record, set in 2019 during Hozier’s set.
The festival said it sold the 10-minute festival round one passes in April when it announced the Hinterland 2021 as a limited capacity event. They said they could put additional tickets on sale pending the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and the number of cases in Iowa.
On July 15, they sent out a press release to the media with the set times and included information that there were more day passes on sale for Friday and Sunday. It was the last communication from event planners on how many people they expected to host.
After that, day passes for the festival continued to be sold until Sunday evening, the last day of the event.
Indianola Police Department officer Jonathan Scott said on Sunday he was told the event expected between 17,000 and 18,000 people on three nights. Madison County Emergency Management Director Diogenes Ayala also confirmed the estimate.
Festivals do not advertise their ticket sales, and they rarely announce before an event how many people are expected. There are a lot of reasons for this, but in the event of a pandemic, this information is more important to ticket holders than it was before.
“What happened to the reduced capacity?” “
Spectators commented on social media over the weekend how many more people were in attendance at the event than they expected, and some even packed their bags and left because they felt uncomfortable with so many people in the crowd with them.
âWe thought there would be reduced capacity, and it isn’t. It’s got a lot of people here, âsaid Dr. Leah Casanave, who works for the Douglas County Health Department in Nebraska. âWe thought it would be different. I mean yes, I am worried about the delta variant. We stayed behind. We did not go to the pit. We stayed very far from the scene.
Dr Casanave has been working in public health for a year and she said she sticks around because there was room for social distancing and she wanted something normal.
âWe felt good that there was room for social distancing. When I have been in the food section, I put on my mask. And you know, I haven’t taken a vacation for six months. We just wanted to come and listen to the music and do what we’ve always done.
Rolling Stone magazine reported on August 6 that officials were investigating COVID-19 outbreaks linked to two recent outdoor music festivals: Faster Horses Festival in Michigan and Pendleton Whiskey Music Fest in Oregon. Outbreaks raise new concerns about the safety of events, even when taking place outdoors, as the more transmissible delta variant spreads.
Michigan officials say at least 96 cases can be traced to the Faster Horses Festival, which took place in Brooklyn, Michigan, July 16-18, while Oregon officials review 62 cases related to Pendleton Whiskey July 10 Music Fest in Pendleton, Oregon. In Michigan, a person considered a “secondary case” – infected by someone who contracted Covid from Faster Horses – is hospitalized. Neither event required participants to be vaccinated, âBrian Hiatt wrote for the magazine.
âThese events are the wake-up call across the arc,â he wrote, citing Dr. Emily Landon, executive medical director for infection prevention and control at the University of Chicago Medical Center. âI think we find what you do outside is important,â Landon adds. âAnd even though people are vaccinated, it looks like we may need to be more careful with overcrowded events. “
Hiatt continues in his report that Landon is most concerned about pit-type areas and crowded festivals. Even stadium seats are much safer than these scenarios, she says, thanks to the increased distance between fans and the lack of countless close contacts that occur when one wades through a sea of ââpeople. âWhen you put people in an orderly configuration, facing the same direction, it’s really different,â she says. “Even that distance of a few feet between the seats makes a big difference, compared to being in a pit at a show.”
Given the report, Dr Casanave says that when she returns home to her one-year-old daughter and to the office, she will mask herself and watch for symptoms and get tested if they arise.
âIf you are vaccinated, I would say, be careful and wear your mask at work. I will not quarantine per se, but I will wear my mask just to protect others. If you want to test, wait 3-5 days, then I would recommend a PCR test. ”