Despite Mask Mandate, Reports of Non-Compliance as Fair Kicks Off

Flathead health officials say they have received reports of unmasked attendees, while fair manager acknowledges shortcomings

By Micah Drew

The Flathead City-County Health Department has received numerous complaints about non-compliance with public health policies put in place at the Northwest Montana Fair and Rodeo since it commenced Aug. 19, officials reported Thursday.

Interim Flathead City-County Health Officer Tamalee St. James Robinson said in a meeting with the health board on Aug. 20 that while the fair rules require masks once attendees enter the fairgrounds and in the grandstands of events, she has received numerous reports of behavior deviating from that standard. When asked by a board member whether there was anyone evaluating the situation, she indicated that she had passed along the complaints to the fair board.

Photos posted on social media show dozens of attendees in the grandstands during the Lee Brice concert Wednesday night not wearing masks, and in many cases not socially distanced, although there is an exception to the rule for members of the same household.

Fairgrounds Manager Mark Campbell said that overall he was pleased with the first day of the fair but admits they “have some execution things to work on.”

Campbell said the fairgrounds is understaffed by nearly 50 people, making it difficult to enforce masking as planned. He also noted that the gate staff were inadequately prepared to enforce the mask mandate on the first day, but moving forward there will be a stronger presence at the entrances to increase compliance with the masking rules.

“The signage is there, the distancing is mapped out,” he said. “People aren’t fully participating… and we have some improving to do.”