By Russ and Tiña De Maris
The big Quartzsite RV Show is slated to open in just a few days. Scheduled dates are set for January 16th through the 24th. Look – the big tent is up, guards are already posted to keep away the questionable. Show promoters, the King family, have posted on their site, “IT’S A GO!” The question is: Will you go?
Predictions are fuzzy
If we believed in crystal ball readings, ours could at best appear fuzzy. Based on vacant businesses, and folks that “should have been here by now,” Quartzsite is a little frayed around the edges. Highway 95 in downtown Quartzsite normally is plenty busy. This year, you’ll find one laundromat empty, one propane parlor not passing gas, and a once-popular take-out BBQ joint completely smokeless.
On the corner of 95 and Main Street, a big RV dealer whose come-on to get folks to come in and kick tires was a free pancake breakfast? Zero flapjacks. No RVs. Absent dealer. Just a vacant lot. Across the street where folks curb-stoned their used rigs, or flocked in to get their cracked windshields replaced – nada. Another empty lot.
The RV parks in town, too, are looking a bit befuddled – with the possible exception of the polar ends of the economic scale. There are few open spaces at the higher-priced Quail Run RV Park on the north end of 95. And over by Rice Ranch on the frontage road, many, shall we say, “unique” RVs are shoehorned in, all within easy earshot of Interstate 10. But the middle-of-the-road price range RV parks seem to have spaces open. Who knows, maybe these, too, will fill up at the last minute. But like a herd of zebras by the water hole, there’s what we perceive as a prevailing sense of nervousness. If the big Quartzsite RV Show is the watering hole, is there a lion in the bush?
Elephant in the room
Lion in the bush, maybe, but certainly the elephant in the room is spelled COVID-19. We called in to Quartzsite’s town hall to inquire about local officials’ view of visitor numbers. Assistant town manager Cliff O’Neill put on a cheery face. “Events are all ongoing!” he told us. Yeah, but how about the number of visitors? O’Neill pointed out there appeared to be plenty of folks out on the desert.
And in town? Usually we get a feel for how many folks are in town by the “flush-o-meter” scale. Never heard of it? It’s just how much sewage is processed by the local wastewater plant. We’d been calling O’Neill’s boss, town manager Jim Ferguson, leaving repeated voice mails requesting the information. O’Neill apologized, but couldn’t give us any information about “sewage flow rates.” In the end, he did say, “There’s a sense the numbers are down.”
Some numbers are up – the wrong ones
Could this be because other numbers are decidedly UP? Those numbers are the staggering statistics on COVID-19. Earlier today (Jan. 8), the local health department, La Paz County, reported 69 new cases of the virus, and one additional death. It may not sound like much, but put it into perspective. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people stands at 173. Measure that against those figures for the entire state of Arizona: 127. As of today, La Paz County has the HIGHEST RATE of infection, per capita, in the ENTIRE STATE. Now note that Arizona, the Grand Canyon State, has the dubious ranking of Number 1 on the list of all states in the country with the highest COVID numbers.
A couple of months ago we reported that while the Quartzsite RV Show was “tentatively” a go, Show promoters noted that the town would have a final say as the time got closer. So we pressed Quartzsite’s O’Neill on the matter. In light of these huge infection numbers, the town was officially behind the Show? All he would tell us was that town officials had looked over the Show’s “health protocols,” and that the event “is ongoing.”
Taxes trump health concerns?
Interestingly enough, one “event” that is definitely off is the town’s library. Visitors looking for books or a place to get close to an internet Wi-Fi hookup will need to look elsewhere. A person who answered the phone at the library today told us the place is closed down, indefinitely, due to worries about COVID-19. One person this writer spoke with made the suggestion that perhaps the tax-generating aspects of the RV Show outweighed those same health concerns shown library employees and patrons.
Health officials keep telling us that mask wearing is one of the principal ways to avoid spreading COVID. But the laissez-faire attitude toward such protection – unfortunately shown by many, locals and visitors alike – isn’t helping too much. And while many are putting stock and hopes in the administration of COVID vaccines, don’t look for much advancement in the Quartzsite sphere. A few days ago, the county health department indicated older folks with underlying health conditions may have to wait as long as late spring to get the jab.
The big show’s promoters feel they’re doing their part to keep you safe. Face masks will be mandatory for everyone, vendors and guests alike. Aisles will be wider, hopefully promoting physical distancing. And managers are asking folks to NOT come on opening day, if they can avoid it.
Still, we wonder – will the Quartzsite RV Show be memorable this year? One way or another, it certainly will be. Let’s hope that it isn’t remembered as a major Super Spreader event.