August 18, 2020


By Neal A. Shipman

Farmer Editor

Thanks to COVID-19, the summer of 2020 is going to go down in the history books as the summer that never was.
Yes, there was a summer season. But it wasn’t the summer anyone would have ever anticipated. Instead of a summer packed with families planning their vacations, attending family reunions and weddings, they chose to stay close to home in fear that they would contract the coronavirus.
And while families hunkered down at home, they found that their options to take part in community celebrations and special events also evaporated. For people in McKenzie County, North Dakota and the rest of the United States, the list of cancelled events just kept growing and growing amid COVID-19 concerns.
It was an agonizing summer. For people in McKenzie County that meant there was no county fair, no Homefest, no 4th of July celebration in Arnegard, no Ribfest and no Old Settlers’ Day in Alexander.
So it was probably no surprise that close to 2,000 people turned out for an evening of good food and entertainment during Watford City’s FunFest on Main Street last Friday evening.
Was there a risk to holding an event, such as FunFest, where so many people gathered? Obviously, there was. And health experts would probably say that any type of gathering poses a risk of spreading the virus, especially if those attending are not wearing face masks or not socially distancing.
But was the reward of having some degree of normalcy return to area residents during the last few days of summer worth the risk? Again, the answer would be yes. The number of people who decided to enjoy a wonderful fall evening of fun is a testament to their desire to see some degree of normalcy to their lives.
And that is where we as a community, a state and a nation are now at when it comes to how dangerous a threat we perceive the COVID-19 virus as being. By now everyone understands that each and every time that a person decides to go out in the public they are weighing their chances whether or not they could be exposed to the virus.
Certainly, there is a greater chance of seeing the virus spread to others when there are dozens or hundreds of people who are positive for the virus in a community. But that chance has to lessen considerably when there are only six or seven people who are positive in places like McKenzie County. And the risk should even lessen more when those people that have the virus, as well as those that they have been in close contact with, are under quarantine.
The big question that soon will be answered is will McKenzie County see a spike in COVID-19 cases following FunFest? It is only logical based on the precautions of health officials to assume that the county’s number of active cases will go up in the next few weeks. But considering that another mass virus testing is being planned in Watford City next week, we are likely to see the number of positive cases increase as a result of that testing.
The bottom line for those people who decided to attend FunFest, the risk was worth the reward. For a few hours, a degree of normalcy was returned to what has been a summer that never was.