The status of the 2021 Defeat of Jesse James Days is in limbo as celebration leaders remain uncertain of the future status of COVID-19 and associated restrictions.
In an online message last week, DJJD General Chair Galen Malecha said leaders “are working closely with city officials, the county Public Health Department and public safety personnel to gauge all of our options.”
DJJD, a four-day celebration the weekend after Labor Day, is considered one of the largest community celebrations in Minnesota and draws 200,000 people to Northfield annually the weekend after Labor Day. Events include re-enactors portraying the 1876 First National Bank robbery, car show, live music, and other activities. Malecha said individual events are being evaluated, and leaders “are continuing planning based on their ability to practice social distancing, host virtually or follow capacity restrictions while still being viable. However, we recognize that this continues to be a fluid situation and we are prepared to change course as necessary.”
“We are continuously working through different potential scenarios, while keeping in mind current health guidelines, capacity limits and recognizing the economic challenges continuing to face our local businesses and sponsors,” Malecha wrote. “At this time we are committed to hosting the celebration. However, the size, scope and duration will possibly be a scaled-down version than what we have had in the past.”
The celebration is intended to honor the community for pushing back against the robbers, and recognize bank teller Joseph Lee Heywood who died while protecting First National Bank deposits. While organizers have said they don’t have an estimate on the revenue the celebration generates for area bars, restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores, food booths, retail shops, artists, craftspeople and nonprofits, the figure is substantial.
Last year, DJJD included a one-day limited event with most activities pushed online. Ongoing uncertainty around DJJD comes as other statewide celebrations also remain in limbo due to uncertainty over how long the restrictions state public health officials say are needed to combat the spread of COVID-19 will remain in place over the summer. Already, the Minnesota Street Rod Association-sponsored Back to the 50’s Weekend and Freeborn County Fair have been canceled until next year due to ongoing restrictions. A key factor they said in their decisions was the feasibility of holding reduced-capacity activities while ensuring enough revenue was generated to support the event.
However, according to the Pioneer Press, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has said he believes the Minnesota State Fair, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic, “should be a pretty close to normal event” this year. Also, he reportedly plans to loosen COVID-19 restrictions this week.
Currently, indoor social gatherings are limited to 15 people, and outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 50 people. Restaurants and bars can operate at 75% capacity indoors and outdoors, but parties of no more than six people are allowed to be within 6 feet of each other. Gym capacity remains at 50%, or 250 people. Seated indoor venues can host a maximum of 3,000 people, and unseated indoor facilities can host 1,500. Outdoor events and entertainment events can host a maximum of 10,000 people.