Libby Dam and Lake Koocanusa.
By Mati Bishop
Event organizers who made the difficult decision to move forward with their summer 2020 event planning in the thick of the COVID-19 outbreak were rewarded this week when Montana Governor, Steve Bullock, announced that on June 4 the state will move to phase two of his reopening plan.
Phase two of the state plan allows for groups of up to 50 individuals to gather and businesses to operate at 75% of capacity. Events and gathering places can operate if they can provide for appropriate physical distancing. Vulnerable populations are still encouraged to adhere to stay at home guidelines.
The cost of the pandemic has been great in Lincoln County in terms of both loss of life and loss of business. Lincoln County had the first death in the state of Montana due to COVID-19, but has successfully enacted social distancing measures and limited the total number of cases to seven, none of which were active at the time this article was completed.
Libby businesses took a massive hit when large events including the Big Sky Bash, Riverfront Blues Festival, Troy’s Old Fashioned 4th of July, and Logger Days made the decision to cancel during their planning phases. The uncertainty of the spread of the pandemic this spring and the effect it was going to have on the reopening of the economy made it nearly impossible to collect the sponsorship and ticket revenues required to host largescale events.
Despite the continued uncertainty, events like the Ignite the Nights Car Show, Kootenai Harvest Festival and Highland Games made the decision to move forward with their planning and incorporate social distancing and other changes into their programs.
“Because of the successful implementation of safety measures for customers and vendors at the Farmers Market,” said Kootenai Harvest Festival planning committee member and owner of Gracious Table, Many Bell. “The Harvest Festival committee made the decision to continue with planning and hope that our city will be more ‘open’ by fall.”
Even with the state and county moving to phase two, the hardest part of the plan to move forward may not be over. With local businesses closed for an extended period, sponsorship dollars have been hard to come by for local events. The result will likely be scaled down events and less advertising for those events. The smaller scale of the events will help with social distancing efforts, but it could take a toll on the long-term viability of some events that are run as nonprofits and depend heavily on raising sponsorship dollars to cover their costs. This is especially true considering the potential for a second spike in the number of COVID-19 cases nationally.
“We plant the ingredients for our menu at the Harvest Festival four months ahead, so waiting to make this decision wasn’t an option. We do have a contingency in place if circumstances change and we need to cancel,” said Bell.
Having events through the summer is good for the community as well as the businesses in Lincoln County. Watching marque events cancel through the spring left many residents with a feeling of loss as their summer favorites like the 4th of July Celebration in Troy were canceled. The loosening of restrictions and knowledge that some of the county’s most popular events are going to happen has brought about a sense that things are returning to normal.
Caution is still advised by Lincoln County Health Officer, Brad Black, who has advised that residents, especially those in high risk categories, continue to exercise social distancing habits and limit their exposure to visitors from out of state who may arrive for events held after the 14 day quarantine requirement is lifted on June 1.
Ultimately, it will be up to the individuals who attend the events to exercise the necessary precautions to keep an outbreak from taking place in Lincoln County. Anyone feeling sick or suspecting that they have been in contact with someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 will need to be responsible and stay home. Not following these guidelines can put a large portion of our vulnerable population at risk according to health department and Center of Disease Control guidelines.
The low number of cases in Montana and the move to phase two of reopening are seen by many as the result of residents successfully executing social distancing measures and flattening the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the new phase opens, those same residents will be expected and encouraged to continue making decisions to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe.
Here is a look at some of the events that are still planning on moving forward in Lincoln County this summer. Please visit the Montanian’s Facebook page and post your events that did not make it into this list.
Kootenai Highland Gathering at River Bend
This annual tradition brings competitors from all over the country to showcase their skills in a variety of classic Scottish games and tests of strength. Expect to see a lot of kilts and have a lot of fun. More information is available at facebook. com/kootenai.highland ers.
This year the rodeo at J. Neils arena will feature the Mini Alberta Chuckwagon Races along with the traditional rodeo events that have made it one of the most popular summer weekends in Libby. The event is fun for the whole family and more information is available at https://www.face book.com/kootenairi verstampede.
Ignite the Nights
This year the Igniters Car Club will not be able to allow burnouts during the Friday night cruise of Mineral Avenue, but the remainder of the event will be the same and promises once again to be the highlight of summer events in Libby. New for this year are Pin-up and Rockabilly contests that will add another dimension to the entertainment on Saturday. The new House of Libby Events Center is working through plans to host a craft beer festival to coincide with the event. More information about the car show is available at https://www.face book.com/igniterscar club/. Information about House of Libby and the craft beer festival will be posted as it becomes available at https://www.facebook.com/houseoflibbyevents/
Crazy Days Street Fair
on Mineral Ave
The Libby Area Business Association hosts vendors, artists, crafters and more for its annual street fair on Mineral Avenue. The street is closed for the event from 11 a.m until 3 p.m. More information is available at https://www.face book.com/LibbyMont ana59923.
Harvest Festival at
The sixth annual Harvest Festival is free to get in and features hometown bands, local vendors, crafters and locally grown food. There is a local farm to table dinner and sack races and other activities for the kids. Learn more at facebook.com/Koot enaiHarvestFestival.
There are other events planned and in the works for the Summer. Share yours at facebook.com/The.Montanian. Remember when you are out and about to keep safe and practice social distancing so that our community can continue to reopen, and we can enjoy our Summer and the great events that go along with it.
Libby Dam and Kootenai
River water levels update
By Brian Baxter
Concerned parties, professionals, Army Corps of Engineers, and Libby Dam officials all Zoomed into a COVID-19 crisis-caused virtual meeting on Tuesday, May 14 at 7 p.m. Introductions were made by Scott Lawrence of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The meeting was officially titled, Libby Dam / Kootenai River Basin 2019-2020 Winter / Spring Overview.
First up was Robin Fox, Meteorologist for the National Weather Service and Hydrology Program Manager out of Spokane, Wash. Fox gave a highly technical weather update stating that northwestern Montana has been seeing a varied range of 70-100 % average of normal precipitation recently. Mean temperatures have been near to slightly above average, with the bulk of water year precipitation falling in December of 2019 and January of 2020 as snow. During late February and March, precipitation was 50 – 70 % of normal. Fox added that temperatures were at or below normal for the onset of spring, which allowed snow packs to accumulate. She further stated that as of May 14, high mountain snow remained normal and above, especially over 5,000 feet in elevation. Water supply is currently above normal, and this leaves potential for the rivers of the Kootenai, Yaak, Fisher, and Moyie to rise with minor flooding possible. At the time of this writing, one week after the meeting, we are certainly seeing that. As longtime residents are aware, things can change rapidly as we approach summer. Fox stated that any early summer warming will effect snowpack, and that in late June and July, predicted temperatures above average with below normal precipitation could create much drier conditions. With statistics that Fox cited showing a prediction of a warmer and drier summer, the possibility of drought could create extremely dry conditions in northwest Montana and northern Idaho. We shall wait and see.
Story Continued on to Page 3
Local Graduation information
Libby High School and
Graduation will be held on Saturday May 30 at 11 a.m. at the Logger Football Stadium. See page 6 for more information.
Grads on the Gut Cruise
At approximately 12:30 p.m. the community is welcome to celebrate the Libby High School graduating by joining in to watch graduates cruise the gut on Mineral Ave wearing their caps and gowns in the back of donated pickup trucks. Upon completion of the cruise, graduates will receive gifts generously donated by the community. For more information call Mary Gier 291-7157.
Troy High School
Graduation will be held on Saturday, May 30 at 1 p.m. on the Troy Football field. For more information see page 7.
Kootenai Valley Christian School Graduation
Graduation will be held on May 22 at 11 a.m. For more information see page 8.
Area campgrounds begin to open; few remain closed
By Mati Bishop
The majority of the National Forest Service developed campgrounds, cabins and lookouts reopened prior to the Memorial Day holiday weekend in what is seen by many as another step towards normal after the COVID-19 outbreak.
While many of the sites reopened, users of the facilities are still expected to follow appropriate social distancing guidelines and continue to keep personal safety and the safety of their community at the forefront of their mind as they recreate.
There are some facilities that did not open for the holiday weekend. Some of the facilities that are not yet open and their estimated date of reopening according to usda.gov include:
Howard Lake and Lake Creek campgrounds are expected to open on June
Loon Lake and Pleasant Valley’s reopening in the Libby ranger district is still to be determined.
Big Therriault and Little Therriault campgrounds in the Eureka ranger distance have reopening dates that are still to be determined as well.
In the Cabinet ranger district Big Eddy, Marten Creek and Willow Creek campgrounds are scheduled to open on June 18.
People with existing reservations for forest service lookout and cabin rentals will be notified of the status of their reservation via email. Some cabins, such as the Bull River Guard Station are available for rental at this time. Some lookouts such as the Yaak Mountain Lookout rental are not.
Detailed and up to date information regarding reservations and availability of these and other cabin and lookout sites is available at recreation.gov.
Developed facilities are not cleaned between visits. It is the responsibility of the users to bring their own cleaning supplies and clean the facility before and after they use it. More information regarding safely using developed recreation sites is available at https://www.facebook.com/kootenainf/