Area fire districts upset with strict state guidance on summer carnivals: ‘Just not feasible’

Local News

ROCHESTER, (WROC) — Over the last week, a number of festival organizers announced they are unable to host events this year. Some say the state’s COVID-19 guidance is hard to keep up with, others say it’s just too confusing to work with.

Several local fire districts have fallen into this category as well, as they work to finalize plans for summer carnival fundraisers. At this point in the game, many districts like Webster and Spencerport have already canceled.

Organizers say guidance is too strenuous, and some of it too confusing. Several districts explained in more detail on a zoom call with News 8.

“Everything has to be fenced in, contact tracing, one entrance, one exit,” said Lance Marchese, President of Mendon Fire Department, who has not yet finalized plans.

“I know right now you have to take a temperature check,” said Andrew Nichols, carnival chair for Hilton Fire Department, who is also undecided on plans this year.

These are some of the guidelines districts would have to follow for their annual summer carnivals. The guidance is different than that of festivals, as Assemblymember Jen Lunsford explained. The carnivals would have to follow guidance of “outdoor amusement” — falling under the same category as amusement parks.

Lunsford has been advocating in Albany for more answers and feasibility on behalf of the districts.

“Finally in probably mid-March I think there was some guidance about outdoor amusements,” she said.

Lunsford has been working to get more answers on the confusing aspects of the guidance, but not enough response. She says at this point, it’s already too late for most districts to go through with anything at all, considering how far in advance they have to plan.

One of the most confusing guidelines – the 33% capacity limit for outdoor events like these.

“33% capacity for an outdoor activity to me seems arbitrary and I have yet to find a decent reason for why that cap is in place,” Lunsford said. The state fair can operate at 50% capacity this year.

Lunsford says some guidelines are onerous, saying visitors would all have to file in through a single access point, with hosts keeping track of everyone’s contact information for contact tracing purposes.

“That would mean that our firefighters with large open fields would have to fence off the fields, create single points of access, staff them, have huge lines coming in,” she said.

Lunsford says events like these can raise up to 60% of each district’s revenue. Funds usually go towards equipment, clothing, and other events. A lot of that money will be lost this year.

“We have cut just about everything we could we are down to the basics, we are still spending two times more than we are bringing in,” said David LaRue, President for Webster Fire Department.

These districts say if they could ask anything of Governor Cuomo – it would be to treat their local communities with the same urgency as he’s treating the state fair – which will be happening this year.

And hopefully – all of this stress will be gone for good – come next year.

“I would like to see a uniform guideline or statement or something saying this is allowed, this is not allowed, if you can do this safely by all means do it,” said Aaron Baker, VP Spencerport Volunteer Fireman’s Association

Both Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza released a joint statement Thursday afternoon – asking the state to issue updated, clear guidance and guidelines specific to festivals.

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