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Bridgeville rodeo organizers face fines, charges for possible 'superspreader' event

Jeff Neiburg
Delaware News Journal

The organizer of a Bridgeville rodeo event last weekend that Delaware Gov. John Carney said could be a "superspreader" of COVID-19 has been hit with three administrative charges and fines, the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security announced Friday.

The Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement charged Alex Garcia, director of the nonprofit organization Mexican Folkloric Dance Society of New York, with violating Delaware's state of emergency order.

Garcia will appear before the Office of Alcohol Beverage Control Commissioner John Cordrey at a later date for the three charges, which also include violations at two other outdoor events on Aug. 28 and Sept. 4 at an indoor venue on Kirkwood Highway.

The OABCC denied a separate application for a gathering license for two additional Wilmington events scheduled for this weekend due to the public safety risk.

The violations cite people dancing, not wearing facial coverings and not social distancing. The events also exceeded the maximum number of people allowed, a press release said.

COVID COMPLAINTS: Despite more than 1,500 COVID-19 complaints, only 3 Delaware businesses have been penalized

The Sept. 6 rodeo was held at Rancho El 24, a farm on Redden Road west of Route 113. Video posted on social media showed hundreds of people tightly packed together near rodeo events and a concert stage throughout the day and into the evening.

Under Delaware's coronavirus state of emergency, outdoor gatherings can have no more than 250 people. Larger gatherings must get special permission from the state. 

State police said about 2,000 people were there.

"A lot of people came because they don't have a place to go," the owner of the farm, Jose Campos, said this week.

The state's Division of Public Health is urging those in attendance to get tested for the coronavirus. You can find a testing location here.

DPH, which reviewed photo and video documentation of the event, also issued an administrative penalty to the Bridgeville event organizers, Rancho El 24 and Garcia's nonprofit. Each will be fined $10,000 for face covering and social distancing violations and $1,000 for failure to secure proper approval.

DPH confirmed with the Delaware Division of Small Business that a permit for a gathering with more than 250 people was not secured for the event as is required by the emergency order.

Event organizers were told by DPH that the penalties issued may be reduced if they assist with contact tracing efforts within seven days of receipt of the enforcement notice. That includes providing contact information for all performers, spectators, staff and others that attended the event.

Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay speaks during the Governor's bi-weekly press conference on the state of the coronavirus in Delaware Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Wilmington.

“We want to ensure accountability for those acting in an irresponsible manner,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health. “Delawareans and Delaware businesses have made tremendous sacrifices over the months and an event like this counters all of the efforts that have taken place.”

Rattay earlier this week called the event "appalling."

State police issued four traffic citations in three car crashes related to the event.

Brandon Holveck contributed to this story.

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Contact Jeff Neiburg at jneiburg@delawareonline.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg.