Despite Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s directive that outdoor events in the state limit capacity to 250 people, a pro-Second Amendment festival is expected to bring in as many as 10,000 people to the small town of Greeley this weekend. The Rod of Iron Freedom Festival drew 4,000 attendees last year, and organizers expect that number to double thanks to the impending election and the surge in interest in the right to keep and bear arms.
The festival itself will be held on the grounds of Kahr Arms, which offers plenty of space for people to roam, and festival spokesman Regis Hanna says they’re taking steps to ensure that attendees are safe.
Organizers tout the open-carry event as a family-friendly gathering featuring patriotic displays, food and merchandise vendors and various activities, including educational seminars, self defense demonstrations, live music and a fireworks display. The American Veterans Traveling Tribute wall will also be on display.
Hanna acknowledged the festival likely will exceed crowd size limits Wolf instituted to guard against the spread of COVID-19.
In a statement, Justin Moon, chief executive officer of Kahr Arms, said the festival will follow safety regulations and encourage people to practice social distancing and avoid congregating in one area. Moon did not say whether masks will be required.
Hanna thinks masks will be optional. He said he does not believe there is any health threat because the gun shop is very large, allowing for spacing among attendees and many of the events are located outside. The crowd also will be spread out throughout the day.
“It’s not like 2,000 people are going to march in on Saturday and stay all day,” he said. “There is a constant flow of people coming and going.”
As for enforcing the governor’s directive on outdoor crowds, local authorities say it’s not up to them.
Pike County Commissioner Ron Schmalze said the county is aware of the festival, but has no authority to regulate it.
“We try to do everything in the county to comply with the governor’s orders,” he said. “I wish we could do something but I don’t believe we have any authority.”
If Schmalze really wanted to force the issue he could always ask the Pike County sheriff to police the festival and issue citations if the crowd grows larger than 250 people, but I suspect that would create a fierce pushback from locals. It’s also possible that Gov. Wolf could ask the state police to take a ride over to Greeley this weekend to enforce his directive, but that too comes with a political risk in the battleground state.
Of course Wolf, who’s no friend to gun owners, may decide that it’s worth the risk in order to look tough on enforcing his own directives. Given the fact that the governor has allowed thousands of demonstrators and protesters, some of them violent, to take to crowded city streets in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Lancaster over the past few months, organizers of the Rod of Iron festival could plausibly argue that they’re being targeted and singled out for their support for the Second Amendment.
I think we’re more likely to see Wolf issue some sort of statement criticizing the decision to hold the festival, but I doubt that the governor will do much more than that. Whether the festival will actually draw 10,000 people to the eastern Pennsylvania town remains to be seen as well, but it looks like the weather will be perfect in Greeley this weekend, and I expect a big turnout. For more information on the festival itself, you can check out the Rod of Iron Freedom Festival website here, which includes a list of speakers and seminars that will be taking place throughout the weekend.