An estimated 500-600 people attended a family fair at a church in Walnut despite COVID-19 concerns from Los Angeles County health officials.
On a Mission Church's Walnut Family Fair 2020 ran from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, with a petting zoo, a blessing of the animals, a puppet show, food and other entertainment.
"The event was a major success and social distancing was strictly enforced," said organizer Edwin Duterte. "There was security at the entrance who were there taking temperatures and providing sanitary information to guests. The LA County Sheriff's Department monitored compliance. In my opinion, the social distancing was more enforced than a Costco warehouse store," he said.
While a total of 500-600 people were believed to have attended the fair, there were only about 200 at any one time, Duterte said. "At each booth, there was chalk lines of approximately six feet to separate the vendors from the attendees."
Organizers said earlier that they received phone messages from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health telling them that large in-person gatherings are not permitted under current public health orders and they could be subject to fines and even arrests if they proceeded.
At least two representatives from the health department were believed to have shown up at the event but were told to stay off the private property, Duterte said.
A watch commander with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Walnut station told City News Service on Saturday morning that he was not aware of any attempt to shut down the event.
County health officials could not be reached for comment.
"It's a church event on private property. This will be a community service talking about Christian education, home schooling," Pastor Carlos Robles told CNS.
"We'll be exercising our First Amendment rights, and obeying (public health guidelines) to the best of our ability,'' Robles said.
The pastor said an attempt to prohibit the church event "seems puzzling" in light of "large swap meets in Orange County" and other events drawing large crowds, including political demonstrations such as last weekend's march in support of Armenia that drew thousands of people to the streets of Los Angeles.
"The so-called peaceful protesting is going on, but it's often not accompanied by mask-wearing or social distancing, and the cities and counties don't seem too concerned about that,'' he said. ``We feel that we are obeying the ordinances.''