black and white days

Brandon Kooyman, of Chilliwack British Columbia, grooms a cow at Black & White Days in Richmond in 2013. The annual event has been canceled as well as other town celebrations in the valley in May.

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One of the great things about living in Cache Valley is all of the town celebrations that take place throughout the spring and summer.

However, 2020 is shaping up to be a year when many of these annual events will not take place or be modified. The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc with these traditions so far.

Mendon’s May Day celebration did not happen on May 2 as originally planned. Next to be canceled was Smithfield’s Health Days, which was to take place on May 9. Richmond’s Black & White Days will not take place on May 16.

“The little girls that dance the Maypole start practicing the end of March, and then the court or royalty that are juniors in high school have preparation for a dance and floor show throughout April,” Mendon Mayor Ed Buist told The Herald Journal earlier this week. “So, once we got into about the second week of April, we knew there was no way to do the full-fledged thing.”

Nibley’s Heritage Days and Millville’s Old Mill Days that take place in June may also not happen. Then come events in July with the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day. For now, those cities are hoping restrictions will be lifted.

For Mendon, May Day has taken place for 157 consecutive years. The mayor is still holding out hope something can be done later this month on a Saturday to make it 158. If not, the girls that would have been honored in 2020 will be part of the 2021 celebration.

“It has never been missed,” Buist said. “We are calling it a postponement and still holding out hope. … We will be meeting later this month to decide. … Boy, it is sad.”

Mendon also has a celebration for Pioneer Day, which this year would be on July 25. Preparations are ongoing, but with caution. Buist said he told the chairman to not commit anything financially yet to that event.

“My hope is we will be able to do our fireworks at the very least,” Buist said. “I’m keeping an eye on the other celebrations, especially those in July. Logan shut theirs down for the Fourth of July and I understand. I am keeping an eye on Hyrum (which celebrates on the Fourth). … We are holding our breath.”

With health being the theme, Smithfield decided more than a month ago that its celebration would not take place. Health Days draws a lot of people for the weeklong event that includes a parade, baseball games and fireworks to name a few.

“With our celebration being earlier in the year, it was a pretty easy decision to make,” said Curtis Wall, the city councilman over Health Days. “If our celebration was later, it would be hard. Do we do it or not? For us, everything had to be put together six weeks ago, and we didn’t know what was going to happen. We certainly had concerns.”

Smithfield is planning to have the annual races that take place on the final day of Health Days, which include the Mayor’s Mile, a 5K and a 10K race up Smithfield Canyon. They are planned for June 6. Fireworks that were already purchased will also be used at some point this summer, probably after a baseball game, Wall said.

“We have some pickleball courts we are trying to get done that will be amazing,” Wall said. “We will follow all the requirements from the governor and from the Bear River Health Department.”

The Smithfield Recreation Department was one of the first in the state to open back up. Director Brett Daniels is hopeful the races planned for the first weekend in June will take place. The Health Day races will be combined with the 16 Crossings race — a trail run — that is scheduled for the same day.

“We are hopeful the races will take place in June,” Daniels said. “We are pressing forward. … We have a pretty detailed plan that staggers people, but still may not be able to go forward with it if we don’t get the permit or if we are not into yellow,” the state’s color code for the low coronavirus risk phase.

A final decision will be made June 1. If there are still restrictions, the races could get pushed back again or possibly canceled for the year.

Daniels said the recreation center has some strict restrictions in place right now. Each week since opening up has seen a few more people. The recreation center is seeing about 25 percent of what it normally would see during this time of year.

Richmond was planning for its 105th Black & White Days. While the full slate of events have been canceled, there are a few that are tentatively planned for later this summer. The namesake Western Spring Holstein show was rescheduled for Aug. 30 through Sept. 4. The draft horse pull is set for Sept. 5.

“We are going to try and have the cattle show and horse pulls, assuming that we can have gatherings,” said Jeremy Kimpton, the city administrator. “The last I heard, we are not going to have the booths or the other entertainment.”

Calling off the celebration in Richmond was not easy.

“It was a shocking thing for everybody,” Kimpton said. “When it all started, we thought in a few weeks we will back to normal. A few weeks have now turned into months. The mayor has been loud and clear that if we are still under any mandates as far as crowds go, it will be canceled again. We are using caution and will revisit it in July.”

Shawn Harrison is the sports editor at The Herald Journal. He can be reached at sharrison@hjnews.com or 435-792-7233.

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