POCATELLO — Rather than canceling planned concerts at the Portneuf Health Trust Amphitheatre due to the COVID-19 crisis, Bannock County leaders are seeking to reschedule acts for later in the summer.
The county is also investigating the possibility of switching the first of a series of free, outdoor summer movies planned for the Portneuf Wellness Complex to a safer drive-in format.
“We are trying to slide everything to the right right now and at least keep everything going,” County Commissioner Terrel Tovey said.
The county originally planned to start offering free screenings of second-run movies at the complex beginning on May 29. The start of Movies in the Park will likely be pushed back into July due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Guy Patterson, business manager and event director for the Portneuf Wellness Complex & Event Center and the Bannock County Fairgrounds.
Patterson said he must still work out some power issues and figure out parking arrangements to make the transition to drive-in movies for the initial movie screenings. He said the county will have the option of sticking with the drive-in format if COVID-19 persists as a safety threat. The movies will likely start just after dark on Friday nights, on weeks in which there’s not a conflict with another event.
“We’re torn right now. Really the balancing act we’re facing on this is a lot of venues are canceling the entire season and it would be easy to give up,” Patterson said. “We’re a healthy community. We’ve been free of a lot of the issues, and people want to get outside and have some entertainment.”
The first concert of the season, featuring 1980s arena rock cover band Hairball, was originally scheduled for May 2 and had to be canceled due to the health crisis. Refunds were issued for all tickets sold. Patterson, however, said he’s still working to bring Hairball to the complex this summer.
“We’re working on a contract with the band’s agent; we’re hoping for some time in September,” Patterson said. “We were afraid we’d lost the show until next year, but they have never played Idaho and really wanted to break into the Idaho market, so he’s trying to sneak us in this year.”
The 1970s rock band Sweet is scheduled to play on June 13. Patterson said the band’s “support show” scheduled for the night before in Las Vegas has been canceled, but the band is still adamant about playing on the scheduled date in Pocatello.
If their concert must be rescheduled, Patterson said they should have openings later in the season because of the cancellation of the Canada leg of their tour. Sweet has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity, as their song “Fox on the Run” was featured in the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy” sequel and was the most downloaded song of 2017.
The heavy metal acts Megadeth and Lamb of God are still officially booked for July 30, but Patterson said the bands have been posting notifications of several postponements on their tour lately.
On July 31, the band King and Country is scheduled to perform at the complex, and the show is likely to take place as planned, Patterson said.
“They have either rescheduled or canceled a bunch of their shows, but they still plan on playing ours,” he said.
Patterson said the county plans to implement some new safeguards. He said concertgoers will be encouraged to wear face masks, and concessions will be sold with condiment packages rather than having pumps set out for the public’s use. Furthermore, he said hand sanitizing stations will be set up throughout the venue. He said plans may still change if there’s uptick in local COVID-19 cases.
Patterson insists the risk posed by the coronavirus must be weighed against the rise in depression and suicide rates, as people are denied typical social outlets. He hopes the county will help locals have a more enjoyable summer.
“This is a complex problem,” he said.