Children play in inflatable bubble balls at the park. It costs $3 to play for eight minutes and a sign cautions participants to "play at your own risk." (Kezia Setyawan/The Enterprise)

NYSSA – While events across the county have been canceled due to the pandemic, the 55th annual Thunderegg Days is underway in Nyssa.

The festival, put on by the Nyssa Chamber of Commerce, began Thursday and runs through Sunday at South Park.

The traditional celebration of Oregon’s iconic state rock opened this year with guidance from Malheur County’s Environmental Health Services Department.

Sara Poe, Malheur County Health Department director, noted that under current guidelines, such outdoor gatherings are allowed – but certain conditions must be met.

Among the requirements: Organizers must turn off water fountains, provide hand-washing stations, clearly post physical distancing signs, prohibit people from different parties clustering togethering and stagger groups in the area.

Oregon Health Authority Public Health spokesman Jonathan Modie said the agency has been seeing reports of other events like Thunderegg Days occurring in the state, as it's the usual season for events and festivals.

However, he said, “We’re also in the middle of a pandemic and these are not normal times. People need to take responsibility for themselves, their friends, family, and the community.”

At South Park, organizers set up a table where attendees must sign in so their information is available to contact tracers in case there is an outbreak of Covid. There are 250 popsicle sticks used to track the maximum number of attendees allowed in the area at a given time, and a volunteer pumps out hand sanitizer for people before entering. Masks also are available.

If people have concerns about safety or adherence to government guidelines, they are urged to contact the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division.

For vendors, Thunderegg Days is one of few opportunities to hawk their wares – from corn dogs, burgers and horchata to decor and thundereggs – face to face this year.

For the folks of Earth Brite Rock & Gem Shop, it’s the only event that hasn’t been canceled among the five or six usually on their schedule. Owner Charlene Branham said it was nice to be able to come together with the community. She was hoping business would pick up as the festival goes on.

Friday’s schedule features the Thunderegg Throwdown hosted by the Owyhee Riding Club at the Oregon Trail Arena. Seating capacity at the arena is up to 1,000 people, but the event is restricted to just 100 people.

Organizer Macy Hack said the set-up Thursday included blocking off two rows for every open row, bringing in 20 buckets of hand sanitizer, and gearing up to provide masks and gloves to attendees.

“We understand that we’re in the middle of pandemic and these are very difficult times,” said Huck. “But as you can see, there’s no rodeo this year, and this is the one opportunity for cowboys to make some income.”

She says small towns rely on these events, with every dollar spent going back tenfold into the community.

Nyssa residents Semarah Croghan, Destiny Reyes and Jae Rojas were on hand for the opening, noting it felt good to get out, do something and see friends. They planned to come back the other days as well.

Entrance to the this year's Thunderegg Festival includes a hand washing station, free masks, hand sanitizer and a waiver form for contact travers in case an outbreak occurs from the event. (Kezia Setyawan/The Enterprise)

Volunteers take popsicle sticks from a collection of 250 into a jar to make sure attendance stays within the maximum allowable capacity. (Kezia Setyawan/The Enterprise)

Semarah Croghan, Destiny Reyes, and Jae Rojas said that it's good to get out and get to do something with friends, and they'll be back to enjoy Friday and Saturday at the festival as well. (Kezia Setyawan/The Enterprise)

Songs like Despacito by Lius Fonso and Good as Hello by Lizzo play as kids take mini train rides around. Organizers are keeping it to one child per cabin for the ride. (Kezia Setyawan/The Enterprise)

Kurt Branham of Earth Brite hands over a cracked thunderegg. There are no rock hound tours this year. (Kezia Setyawan/The Enterprise)

The Unity in Action band performs a sound check before the 7 p.m. concert on Thursday. (Kezia Setyawan/The Enterprise)

News tip? Contact reporter Kezia Setyawan at [email protected]

KEEP THE ENTERPRISE GOING AS OTHERS CLOSE.....

Reader support allows the Enterprise to provide in-depth, accurate reporting that otherwise would not get done. Keeping the community well informed is essential. SUBSCRIBE - $5 a month, automatically. DONATE - to provide additional support