LAS ANIMAS — An unexpected outbreak of COVID-19 in Las Animas is forcing the town to host the 87th Santa Fe Day festivities virtually for the second year in a row.
Just two days before events were set to begin on April 28th, the school district and health department reviewed the sudden cases of Coronavirus, and decided that it would be in everyone's best interest not to have an in-person event. They say they could have easily expected 3,000 or more people to come to town for the festival.
“With our current situation with some of our Covid cases, we felt that would probably become something that would become unmanageable for us to be able to do and to make sure we still had a safe community,“ said Superintendent Elsie Goines.
That "current situation" began when one student tested positive for COVID-19. Since Las Animas is only made up of roughly 3,000 people, the health department decided to test a fairly large amount of students on Saturday due to popular demand.
The health department and school district were both shocked at how many tests came back positive in Las Animas, but chose not to disclose the exact number of cases.
“We have been kinda surprised with how mild some of our cases have been, and I think that makes it even more difficult for us to be able to kind of target and manage that," said Goines.
The Santa Fe Trail Day is the oldest student-lead activity in the state of Colorado. The high school and some parts of the elementary school are quarantined for at least one more week.
#COVID19 STILL IMPACTING COLORADO TRADITIONS: Carmen’s is usually packed on the weekend of the Santa Fe Trail Day in Las Animas, but once again, the festival is being held virtually due to an outbreak. This marks the festival’s 87th year. Full story on @KOAA at 4 & 5 pic.twitter.com/kwaa85dZt2— Natalie Chuck KOAA (@NatalieChuck) April 27, 2021
However, businesses are one of the biggest groups taking a hit from the sudden announcement. All of the vendors who were supposed to participate in the festival have canceled and will not be part of the virtual events, which the chamber of commerce says are still being decided on.
Blanca Cardenes, the owner of Carmen's Steaks and Mexican Cuisine, says the festival is their busiest time of the year.
“From open to close, it’s busy all day! And then, the days before like Wednesday, Thursday, it gets busy all day long!“
The business owners in Las Animas remember how much they were impacted after the same issue arose last year, at the start of the pandemic.
"The street was going to be closed. There was going to be a lot of stuff going on, and I mean, it's going to impact us a lot, but at the same time I think it's for the safety of everybody.
Goings says most of the people in the community have responded to the announcement with support.
“It’s for the safety of everybody so, I mean I’m sad! But at the same time we have to do whatever we have to do so, hopefully everything will get better," said Cardenes.