Note: I wrote this on Friday, but I’m posting it here on Monday.
Two days after announcing that the 2021 Easter Jeep Safari was canceled, the group that runs the event has partially reversed course.
Pending a vote by the county on Feb. 16 on new, yet-to-be-finalized rules on special events amid the pandemic, Easter Jeep Safari trail runs will take place this year, but not the vendor expo that typically accompanies it.
That’s according to Mike Kelso, the president of the group, and Doug McElhaney, who is typically in charge of the Jeep Safari vendor expo. The group, Red Rock 4-Wheelers, made the announcement on its website and social media accounts Friday morning, Feb. 5.
The development comes two days after representatives with the group met with Grand County officials to discuss what could be done to have the event take place in some form. At issue was the county’s public health order, imposed to restrict the size of gatherings and other aspects of public life amid the COVID-19 pandemic as matters of health and safety.
Kelso and Rex Holman, the group’s business manager, said prior to the meeting that the specific regulation on group sizes was the deal breaker that had led the group to vote on Monday evening to cancel the event, prompting rumors on social media the next day that Jeep Safari was off.
The rules as written limit gathering sizes to 250 people if they are held outdoors and bans organized, indoor gatherings for events. The rules take force when Grand County is in the high risk phase, as defined by the pandemic scale created by the State of Utah, and loosen to allow 1,000 people per gathering under moderate risk.
Grand County Commission Administrator Chris Baird said Wednesday, following the meeting, that he offered to create changes to the public health order to allow events to involve more than 250 people, as long as there is never more than 250 people in any single location. If thousands of people show up for Jeep Safari, that would be allowed, but only if they split up into groups of 250 people or less.
Grand County Commission Chair Mary McGann said that she would be willing to lobby her fellow commissioners to approve such changes to the rules since she said she wanted to see the event happen, as long as it abided by the health order. But after the meeting, in an apparent decline of the offer, the Red Rock 4-Wheelers group announced that Jeep Safari was off.
Then, on Friday, they backtracked and took the county’s offer. According to Kelso, what changed was the timeline that the county was offering. County officials told The Times-Independent on Friday, after the decision to go ahead with the event, that the new rules on gathering sizes would go before the Grand County Commission on Feb. 16 for their consideration. Kelso said that this promise changed the group’s mind.
“We were able to come to an agreement with the county as far as a timeline when the ordinance could be revamped,” Kelso said.
As for the flip-flop and confidence that the event would actually happen as announced Friday, Grand County Christina Sloan said that she was “very” confident that Easter Jeep Safari was really back on.
“We have to defer to official commission action, of course, but we had three commissioners in that [Wednesday] meeting that all told Red Rock 4-Wheelers they supported Easter Jeep Safari and the amendments that Chris and I proposed,” Sloan said.
Kelso said he was “elated” to know that Jeep Safari was back on. “It is great that we are able to have it this year.”