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Big crowds at Kentucky Expo Center could test Beshear’s mask requirements

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 9:13 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2021 at 12:50 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Days before hundreds of thousands of August visitors begin converging on the Kentucky Exposition Center, electronic signs at vehicle entrances already flash warnings.

The signs display in big capital letters, “MASKS ARE REQUIRED WHILE INDOORS.”

The restrictions are part of a requirement ordered by Governor Andy Beshear for all state buildings, which includes the 1.2 million square feet of indoor space at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

“You’re not allowed to enter without the mask. That’s the requirement,” Kentucky Venues President David Beck said. ”You must have a mask when you enter the building.”

The indoor mask requirement comes at a time when the Expo Center is expecting its largest crowds since 2019.

The Street Rods Nationals event by the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) drew half its normal crowd in 2020 because of COVID. The 2020 Kentucky State Fair was held with no crowds at all.

The rapidly spreading Delta variant brings new restrictions to 2021 events and a return of uncertainty to visitors anxious to leave COVID behind.

“I know they talk about the variant and all those kinds of things but the reality is I don’t know,” Jim Rowlett, NSRA Marketing Director said. “And you don’t know, nobody knows. All we can do is give us an opportunity to do what we do.”

In 2020, Street Rod Nationals had 74 hundred cars participating, thousands less than normal.

“We still had a big crowd but we’re looking for a big one this year,” Rowlett said. “I’m talking 10 to eleven thousand cars, maybe more.”

A post on the NSRA Facebook page asks for indoor mask cooperation, suggesting there could be repercussions.

“We ask that you work with NSRA as much as possible,” the post reads, “as we do not want/need the show to be shut down because of non-compliance.”

Responses to the post were almost evenly split on Monday.

“Wearing a mask at the (Street Rod Nationals) is nothing to me,” said one positive response. “I’m going to have fun and show off my ride that I built and cruise like I’ve always done.”

One negative response said, “I’m not wearing a mask regardless. It’s all political. I’m still going but protesting the mask.”

The 70 thousand people expected to attend the Street Rod Nationals could be just the warm up for the main event. The Kentucky State Fair and it’s potential half million visitors starts August 19.

When asked Monday what happens if people defy the indoor mask requirement, Kentucky Venues President David Beck stopped short of taking a hard line.

“We’ll be making announcements,” Beck said. “We ask the show managers to help spread the word, keep informing people, to remind people. So we’ll try to encourage compliance with everybody that comes on property.”

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