Ride to Rendezvous will roll again
By Don Nelson
Winthrop’s annual ’49er Days celebration will likely return in some form this year, but the popular Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival has been canceled for the second year in a row.
Organizers of the 76th annual ’49er Days are working on including as many activities from the usual schedule as possible, depending on how the state’s Phase 3 COVID protocols apply.
But Rick Northcott, president of the Rhythm & Blues Festival board, said the event won’t be staged this year after the coronavirus forced cancelation last year.
“It’s tough to get acts together when you don’t know how many people you can have,” Northcott said. For the past several years, the festival has been staged at what’s called the Blues Ranch, an expanse of open fields and wooded property just west of the Winthrop town limits.
The lineup of acts is usually finalized by now, Northcott said. The festival is typically scheduled for mid-July and was set for July 16-18 this year. Organizers considered but eventually rejected the idea of a “drive-up” event, Northcott said.
Last year, the festival was already sold out for its 33rd iteration by the time it was canceled. Ticket holders were given the option of returning some of their refunds back to the festival.
Northcott said the festival used the approximately $20,000 in returned funds to pay musicians to stage a 6-hour “virtual concert” that drew an international online audience. He said the festival may try to do something similar this year.
Ride is on
The Ride to Rendezvous traditionally finishes with a promenade down Riverside Avenue in downtown Winthrop on the first day of ’49er Days, but the ride was canceled in 2020. It’s back this year. The annual backcountry trip on horseback or by wagon train is hosted by the Washington Outfitters and Guides Association (WOGA). For more information, visit www.woga.org/events.
This year’s ride is scheduled to start on May 3, with arrival in Winthrop set for May 7. Tentatively scheduled for the next two days, May 8 and 9, is the packers’ rendezvous at Mack Lloyd Park, featuring displays, entertainment, packing exhibitions, food, arts and crafts and an auction.
As for ’49er Days, the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce website includes this caveat, along with the event’s schedule: “COVID-19 Notice: This webpage includes the events this heritage festival would typically include. The planners of this event are carefully evaluating each component of the celebration for safety and feasibility during the global pandemic. Please come back to this page [https://winthropwashington.com/events/old-west-festival] as we get closer to the event for more details.”
Typically the full schedule includes a parade on Saturday, a country western dancing display, mechanical bull rides, kids’ games, the Mack Lloyd Park activities, the Mountain Men encampment, cowboy poetry, music and campfire stories, and a barn dance. The poetry, music and stories event is set for the Winthrop Barn, but the dance will be outside on Riverside Avenue.
May be modified
In a special event permit application approved by the Winthrop Town Council last week, the celebration’s organizers indicated that “it’s the intent of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce and WOGA to follow the Governor’s recommendations and support/encourage social distancing … at this time, we would like to proceed based on the governor’s current recommendations, understanding the need to be flexible” — with the provision that events could be modified.
At last week’s Winthrop Town Council meeting, Anna Kominak, one of the event’s organizers, said she is carefully reviewing the existing state guidelines for gatherings, but there may be some confusion in the wording about what’s allowed and what’s not. She said the organizers hope to have better information available in April, and are planning to be “fluid and flexible” as to what can safely occur.
Anne Young, marketing director for the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, said this week that “we are analyzing the components that we are able to do.” Under the right conditions, that could include the parade, she said. The Mack Lloyd Park activities can likely proceed with proper social distancing, she said.