Alabama sorority nixes 600-person ‘Farm Party’ after national story shined spotlight on virus worries related to event

Published 9:09 am Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A University of Alabama sorority canceled plans for a city-approved party for as many as 600 people following complaints that the huge outdoor bash could spread the new coronavirus as the pandemic worsens nationwide.

The Kappa Delta sorority called off its “Farm Party” on Tuesday, hours before the six-hour event was scheduled to begin at a 14-acre site with buses ferrying students to the gathering. The cancellation came soon after The Daily Beast published a story about the gathering.

Lizzie Bonhaus, the president of Kappa Delta at Alabama, announced the cancellation after days of complaints, The Tuscaloosa News reported.

“While we followed all local guidelines and protocols in getting the event approved by the University of Alabama Office of Student Involvement and the City Council,” Bonhaus said, “we made the decision to cancel it to protect the health and safety of our campus community, guests and our members.”

More than 2,000 new cases of the coronavirus have been added daily over the last week across Alabama as hospitals treat more and more people suffering from COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

Despite the increase, the Tuscaloosa City Council voted 4-2 on Nov. 10 to approve a license that would have allowed for alcohol to be served at the party. Partygoers would be expected to comply with health requirements including masks, and precautions including social distancing recommendations, temperature checks and frequent cleaning would be employed, organizers said.

Casey Johnson of Special Events Management, the company planning the event for the sorority, told the council the party would have an attendance cap of 600 people who would be bused to and from the outdoor venue in three 200-person shifts, a video of the meeting showed. University officials approved the event, set up to comply with school rules, Johnson said.
The city of Tuscaloosa grappled with an outbreak of COVID-19 soon after students returned for the fall and shut down bars. Council members wore masks and sat apart in the chamber as they voted to allow the party.

Council member Sonya McKinstry said she decided to support the license despite reservations, video of the meeting showed.

“Kids are going to be kids,” McKinstry said. “I’m going to vote yes for it, I don’t feel happy about it.”

Council President Cynthia Almond joined another member in opposing the license. With the party planned right before the Thanksgiving break, students could get infected and then go home and spread the illness, she said.

“I know a lot of hard work and preparation, apparently, has gone into this, and I know kids want to have a good time and I want to support that,” she said. “But, we have recently shut down businesses to not allow this kind of activity … and I have a real concern about the ability that these young adults, whether they’ll social distance properly. I don’t think they will.”

University spokeswoman Deidre Stalnaker said school requirements for the party included the limit of 200 people at a time; sanitizing; limited capacity on shuttle buses; and compliance with state rules requiring face masks in public and distancing.