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Snowdown moves ahead, despite some event cancellations

Organizers say there are plenty activities to entertain festivalgoers

Durango’s 43rd annual Snowdown festival is all set to kick off Wednesday, despite many event cancellations as a result of recent spikes in COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant.

“Where we can have events we will, and where we can’t, for whatever reason, we won’t,” said Snowdown board of directors Chairman Chip Lile. “We’re just grateful that we’re able to have any events at all.”

He said one of the festival’s biggest events, the Snowdown Light Parade, is set to happen at dusk Friday.

Durango’s 43rd annual Snowdown winter festival is still a go even after a number of events canceled because of a surge in COVID-19. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

“The parade is always awesome, and I think that’s something big that people should be excited for. I’m pretty excited about that,” Lile said.

As of Monday, the Snowdown website listed 21 events that have been canceled this year. Some Snowdown favorites, such as the Fashion Do’s and Don’ts, and Snowdown Bed Race, are among the canceled activities.

“Personally, I’m calling it Snowdown-light,” said Snowdown Follies Producer Janalee Hogan. “There will be some missing things, but overall still fun.”

The Snowdown Follies kicked off last weekend at the Durango Arts Center, and are sold out for all upcoming shows.

“We had our first four shows on Friday and Saturday, and the crowd was really enthusiastic,” Hogan said. “It was great to see people out and about. Things are going really well.”

Some venues, such as the Durango Arts Center, will be requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to take part in the festivities. Wristbands that indicate a person’s vaccination status are available at 965 Main Ave.

At the pop-up Snowdown office where wristbands are being distributed, volunteers said they weren’t sure how many had been handed out.

“We’re probably getting close to 1,000-ish wristbands,” said Downtown Business Improvement District Director Tim Walsworth. “They’re numbered, but they got out of order. We don’t know.”

Also apparently canceled this year is the satirical publication The Snowdown Sneer, which pokes fun at just about anything, including national politics, some of the year’s most notable local stories, the local real estate market and Snowdown itself.

Hogan said she’s heard there are some people who bought tickets to the follies who are choosing not to attend because of the recent COVID-19 surge.

“I think everybody is going to have to make a personal choice,” she said. “Is this a good time for you to go out and do something or is it not?”

San Juan Basin Public Health commended the Snowdown board of directors for the work it has put in to make Snowdown as safe as possible during the pandemic.

“Since the Snowdown organizers decided to hold the event this year, our focus has been to meet with them regularly to provide guidance on how to make the events as safe as possible,” said SJBPH spokesman Chandler Griffin. “They’ve taken a bunch of steps to make it safer.”

He said some of the steps taken by Snowdown organizers include moving some events outdoors, canceling certain events that are logistically difficult with COVID-19 precautions, and requiring vaccines or negative tests for larger indoor events.

“We thank the Snowdown organizers for working with our team,” he said.

Griffin said people must make risk assessments, and attending Snowdown is another one of those personal assessments.

“If you’re out in public, your chances are still pretty good that you’ll be exposed,” he said. “People are accustomed at this point of the pandemic to making risk assessments about what they will attend and what they won’t.”

SJBPH reminds residents who are thinking of attending Snowdown to be vaccinated and have a booster, stay home if you’re feeling sick, mask-up indoors, get tested, and consider the venue of the event you are looking to attend.

“These precautions are not magic. They work,” Griffin said.

Lile said the Snowdown board is preparing for big attendance numbers at events, but with COVID-19 numbers in La Plata County as high as they are, he’s not sure what the crowds might be like.

“We just don’t know,” he said. “We’re hoping there will be good crowds. I just hope everyone takes the precautions that they need to for the places they’re at.”


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