The crowd enjoys opening act Angus Mohr during the first Fridays on the Plaza of the year Friday, June 7, 2019, in downtown Cheyenne. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – On Wednesday, Mayor Marian Orr announced the Fridays on the Plaza summer concert series would be canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

But eight of the nine members of the Cheyenne City Council have introduced a resolution that asks the mayor to reconsider the decision, and they’ll be discussing the matter at a special meeting Monday night.

The resolution states the city had a plan for the concerts that was approved by the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department, that the mayor didn’t receive input from the governing body and that local health officials did not recommend the cancellation.

It says, “The Governing Body of the City of Cheyenne supports and encourages events to be held at the Cheyenne Depot Plaza, provided they meet all guidelines and recommendations from the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department and the State of Wyoming that have been put in place due to COVID-19.”

Last year, the 13-week concert series brought thousands to downtown Cheyenne, with performers like The Burroughs and Celtic rock band Angus Mohr. Orr said the decision to cancel the event was made after a meeting with the Community Recreation and Events staff, but Councilman Scott Roybal, who proposed this resolution, said he first heard about the cancellation in the Tribune Eagle.

Roybal said, “As a council, we felt like we were not consulted in any way, shape or form. We are part of the leadership of Cheyenne.”

Roybal also noted the city had plans in place to host the event under health department guidelines, and that many businesses are in a difficult time financially.

Though there was a plan in place, Orr pointed to a rise in COVID-19 cases as a major point of concern. While there were no active cases in the county toward the beginning of June, Laramie County had 47 active cases as of Saturday morning – the highest number since April.

“We had plans for coordinating different sections of the plaza to allow for 250 in each section. ... But we know that, really, what we’re doing is just skirting around the issue and trying to make loopholes where there probably shouldn’t be, because this is still a very serious situation for our community,” Orr told the Tribune Eagle on Wednesday.

If the cases continue to rise, Orr said kids might not get to go back to school in the fall.

The mayor also voiced concerns about a lack of mask wearing at public gatherings like the DDA’s Summertime On The Streets event, and reminded residents to take proper precautions on the Fourth of July weekend. Though residents were spread throughout the downtown at the DDA event, a large number of attendees were not wearing masks.

On the other hand, a number of downtown businesses told DDA Marketing and Event Director Haylee Chenchar that the event was their best sales day since the last Cheyenne Frontier Days. And with this year’s CFD cancellation, a number of local businesses will feel the pinch this summer.

The City Council resolution states that the mayor’s “unilateral decision” will cause “irreparable economic damage to downtown businesses and the City of Cheyenne.”

Councilman Pete Laybourn is the only city councilman who is not sponsoring the ordinance, and while he cares about the city coming together, he said the coronavirus risk far outweighs the benefits of Fridays on the Plaza.

“With cases spiking here in Cheyenne, I don’t think it’s a good idea – that’s not the time to stop restrictions,” Laybourn said. “The city needs to lead the way. We are the responsible party here, and we need to make sure that what we do protects the public.”

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

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