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Weekend concerts draw large crowds in Palmer

Organizers say they encouraged social distancing, offered personal protective equipment
Attendees walk around a concert event at the Alaska Raceway on Aug. 1, 2020.
Attendees walk around a concert event at the Alaska Raceway on Aug. 1, 2020.(KTUU photo)
Published: Aug. 2, 2020 at 11:09 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Restrictions on gatherings in Anchorage have pushed some large concerts out to the Alaska Raceway Park in the Butte. Over Friday and Saturday, hundreds gathered at the park for a series of concerts, where many chose not to wear face coverings or leave six feet of space between themselves and others.

The Country Backyard Barbecue event was initially moved from Anchorage out to the park because of emergency orders in the city and the large amount of space the raceway provided, and took place on Saturday. The day before, the raceway was the location for the Rock in the Last Frontier Festival.

The park’s owner, Michelle Lackey Maynor, said there was plenty of space, and attendees were encouraged to make use of it, in addition to required temperature checks at the entrance and hand washing stations.

“That was an opportunity for us to allow them to come out and use this space, and we have plenty of space to use it,” she said.

Despite the recommendations, many in the crowds clumped near the front of the stage. While some did choose to keep their distance, Maynor said it’s ultimately up to the individuals attending to decide for themselves.

“We can’t be the enforcers of making sure everybody’s in their bubble,” she said. “But we are definitely doing our part to make sure everybody’s spaced apart.”

The events were organized by Alaska-based production company Erickson Unlimited. In a statement to KTUU, the company’s founder Brad Erickson wrote: “Our guests’ safety is our first and highest priority. Despite extensive efforts to encourage personal health and safety, including providing hand washing stations, hand sanitizer, and free facial coverings, some concert goers decided not to follow our guidelines for COVID-19 prevention. We will examine our practices going forward, and encourage all Alaskans to take seriously the precautionary measures available to each and every individual. We must work together to stop the spread.”

Neither the state of Alaska or the Matanuska-Susitna Borough have any official restrictions on capacity, but distancing of six feet, wearing face coverings, and frequent hand-washing are all encouraged.

The Department of Health and Social Services did not respond to a request for comment Sunday night.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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