By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hundreds, if not thousands, packed in to watch an annual rodeo in Itasca County last weekend. Now, the Minnesota Attorney General is suing the organizers as the State Health Department says someone at that rodeo had COVID-19 and could have spread it to others.

Despite the governor’s order limiting crowd size at events, the 65th annual North Star Stampede Rodeo in Effie, Minnesota went off without a hitch.

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The organizer shared online he would not welcome spectators — but would allow protestors.

But the Minnesota Attorney General’s office says the organizers did not have the right to host that many people without proper precautions like limiting to 250 people and selling tickets in advance. And now the state is suing.

“The state had an investigator there over the weekend to observe, which is how we know the guidelines were not followed,” said Minnesota Deputy Attorney General James Canaday.

We now know someone in that crowd had COVID-19. MDH says they were infectious during the rodeo.

“We want to encourage anyone who as that North County rodeo event to be vigilant, watch for symptoms,” said Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

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Itasca County Health Officials say area hospitals are prepared for an influx of testing.

“I wanted them to be aware in case they started receiving calls and inquiries tonight or tomorrow,” said Itasca County Public Health Division Manager Kelly Chandler.

Penalties for the owner could be up to 25,000 per person who attended. But officials say the public health cost could be greater.

“Nobody is above the law, this has gone from being a theoretical concern to a very real concern for everybody who was at that event now and that’s what we’re trying to prevent,” Canaday said.

The Attorney General’s office said it tried to work out a solution with the rodeo organizer before the event, but he hung up on them and refused to talk to officials after that.

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WCCO has reached out to the organizer, but have not heard back.

Erin Hassanzadeh