Hoopfest, Pig Out in the Park and the Spokane Co. Interstate Fair still a go despite COVID surge

SPOKANE, Wash. — In the next few weeks, you could grab some corndogs, play some games, or be shooting hoops in downtown Spokane. Three big events are coming back, but may be at risk with the COVID-19 surge.

Hoopfest, Pig Out in the Park and the Spokane County Interstate Fair were all canceled last year because of the pandemic. We’re just weeks away from them starting up, and like many of us they’ve been trying to keep up with all the changes as the virus changes.

Bringing back Hoopfest, the fair, and Pig Out in the Park this year will make things feel a little more normal, but it’ll still be different.

“It has been very stressful, I’m not going to lie about that,” said Erin Gurtel, the director of the Spokane County Interstate Fair.

The constant changing COVID climate has been tough to follow, but they’re leaning on the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) for advice. Right now, the district says things are a go.

“The high rates of transmission, if we continue to see that, we may need to have additional protocols in place over the next few weeks,” said Dr. Frank Velazquez, Interim Health Officer at SRHD.

The fair will have plenty of sanitation stations around. Gurtel says they updated many bathroom facilities have been updated to touch-less, too.

Normally more than 200,000 people walk through the fair during the 10 days it opens in September. Crowds may be a concern, but Gurtel says they will follow anything the health district recommends.

“Right now, we’re moving full-speed ahead. We are aware that we may have some things we’re going to be working through, maybe masking will come back into play, we just don’t know yet,” Gurtel said.

Last year, the fair did hold a fair food drive-thru, but Gurtel says she’s excited to have the full fair back this year.

It has been tough for them to find some staff, but operations will go on as is. If people are interested in working for the fair this year, Gurtel says they can stop by the Spokane County Fairgrounds office Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to apply.

RELATED: Hoopfest to be much smaller this year

As for Hoopfest, it’s looking for volunteers to help out on September 11 and 12, too.

The world’s largest three-on-three basketball tournament will be a bit smaller this year.

Hoopfest director Matt Santangelo says they have about half the number of people registered to shoot hoops, which means they’ll see roughly 12,000 athletes. That translates to roughly around 3,200 teams.

There will be fewer courts this year, too, and they’ll be spread out in downtown.

“We’re right where we thought we’d be. There’s just so many conflicts in September,” said Santangelo. “School’s back in, fall sports, interstate fair. There’s just a lot more conflicts we have in September than we normally have in June. So the fact we got to this number, we’re thrilled.”

Santangelo says they’ll continue moving forward in planning Hoopfest unless the health district or state tells them not to.  They’ll have sanitation stands, handwashing stations and asking players to do health checks beforehand.

“We’re aware of the external forces, the uptick in cases, we’re paying attention to air quality. We’re trying to communicate that out to teams that are registered the best we can,” he said.

Hoopfest put plans in place in case they do get canceled. If it’s because of COVID-19 after August 17, teams will get a full refund if they’re requested. If it’s due to COVID-19 after that date, teams will get a 20 percent refund.

If Hoopfest is canceled because of air quality, which September could see some bad smoke, there will be no refunds.

Hoopfest says it will be watching the air quality closely and plan to postpone games if the air quality index remains above 150 for more than two hours. If AQI remains above 150 on Sunday, they will cancel the tournament.

As for Pig Out in the Park, which kicks off in a few weeks from now, it’ll also be a little different. Instead of beer gardens, you’ll be able to walk around with beer instead of be crowded in one area. At this point, it would take something drastic for all these events to get canceled.

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