By Shereen Siewert
A planned three-day music event at a Wausau-area venue will go on, but is no longer billing itself as a “COVID Herd Immunity Festival,” according to the group’s Facebook page.
Now dubbed the “July Mini Fest,” the event is being held July 16-18 at the outdoor Q&Z Expo Center, 234000 CTH Q, Ringle. The festival will feature performances by 15 bands including Sponge, Blacktop Mojo, Bobaflex, Versus Me, Static-X and others. Two groups have withdrawn from the festival, one due to concerns over the way the event was being promoted.
Marathon County Administrator Lance Leonhard said event planners were meeting with county leaders Thursday to determine whether a special permit or other accommodations would be necessary based on the size and scope of the event.
Among those meeting with Q&Z were Marathon County Sheriff’s officials, who typically offer security guidance for large-scale events.
“If there’s a large assembly that requires a security plan, the sheriff’s department can help navigate that,” Leonhard said.
The Marathon County Health Department was also part of the meeting, but Leonard said there is no county ordinance that would allow health officials to shut down the event for disease-related concerns. Rather, the health department’s role is to determine whether special event camping requirements are necessary – something that would be required if camping is allowed – and oversee food inspections if food vendors are part of the plan.
If the event attracts 3,000 or more people for at least an 8-hour period, a large assembly permit is necessary, by ordinance. Leonhard said no such application was received as of early Thursday.
But if Q&Z estimates are correct, such a permit might not be a requirement. On social media, Q&Z stated they have a 10,000-person capacity at the outdoor venue, but will sell to only 20 percent capacity.
Becky Frisch, director of Marathon County’s Conservation, Planning and Zoning said staff will be evaluating the information provided at Thursday’s meeting in light of applicable zoning regulations for the property in the town of Easton, and “intend to be in contact with the landowners by the middle of next week to inform them of the results of our review.”
Plans for the event drew a mixed reaction on social media. Many Q&Z Facebook fans posted messages of support for the event. But observers from around the world took to Facebook and Twitter to denounce the idea of having a large-scale festival amid a pandemic after Q&Z’s plans made national headlines.
Q&Z was quick to respond on Facebook:
“For the record the venues land can accommodate up to 10,000 occupancy,” the post reads. “This is an OUTDOOR EVENT for 3 Days. We are only selling 20% of that so anyone has the choice and ability to social distance. The Festival is also not called “Herd Immunity” and the name no longer tied to any of our social media or promotion.”
A three-day pass to the event costs $105.50.
Q&Z did not respond to a message inviting comment for this story.