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Oneida County Approves Large Gathering At Bubba’s Big Party In September

Bubba's Big Party Facebook

Oneida County will allow upward of 1,000 people gather at Bubba’s Big Party in the Town of Nokomis during September’s Tomahawk Fall Ride.

The county Public Safety Committee approved the event’s large gathering permit on Thursday.

Bubba’s Big Party features camping, socializing, and vendors, and Oneida County Health Officer Linda Conlon pointed out COVID-19 health concerns surrounding large gatherings.

“[The data] really do agree that large gatherings, and that is what we’re seeing, that large gatherings are of a great risk for spread of the virus,” she said.

The Public Safety Committee voted 4-1 to approve the permit, voting along the same lines as the approval for the Hodag Country Festival last month. That event itself later decided to cancel.

The lone holdout against the Bubba’s Big Party permit was Supervisor Billy Fried.

“In this situation, we’re looking at something where you’ll be sending a message that, ‘Okay, even though there’s all these concerns out there, it’s okay to have a gathering of 1,000 people.’ That’s the way it’s going to be perceived. I want you guys to justify to me why you think that’s a good message to send out,” Fried said, referring to other committee members.

Supervisor Mitch Ives said businesses should be able to make their own decisions.

“It’s a private business. Us private business owners are hurting with almost three months and zero income,” Ives said.

Committee chair Mike Timmons speculated people will congregate during the Fall Ride one way or another.

“If it doesn’t happen at Bubba’s Big Party place, it’s going somewhere else,” he said. “The people have come here.”

Bubba’s Big Party's COVID-19 plans include giving campsites as much space as they need, spacing vendors 30 feet apart, spacing picnic tables six feet apart, and spacing the three bars across the property. The event reported 654 people camped on the grounds last year, but more people often visit during the day.

Leading up to last month’s debate over approving a permit for Hodag Country Fest, the county received dozens of public comments, most urging the cancelation of the event. There were just two pieces of public comment for Bubba’s Big Party, both in opposition to the event.

The Tomahawk Fall Ride will go forward, despite its chief organizer, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, pulling out this year.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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