Though COVID-19 continues to spread in the county, the Osage County Cattlemen’s Association last Saturday went ahead with an element of its annual convention that has always involved plenty of social distancing — the ranch tour.


The tour is a vehicle caravan that visits a selection of Osage County cattle-raising operations on Saturday morning of Cattlemen’s Week, which is the third week in June. The tour left the Osage County Fairgrounds about 9 a.m. the morning of June 20 and visited eight ranches in the northwestern portion of the county. The procession reached the last ranch — that of Shane and Jenna Stierwalt — around noon and stopped for a barbecue lunch.


Taylor Reed, president of the OCCA, noted the 2020 ranch tour caravan eventually reached a length of 5 miles.


“That’s quite a long line of cars,” he said, adding that tickets for the barbecue lunch sold out.


“The ranches did a wonderful job of displaying their cattle and cowboys and cowgirls,” Reed said.


He explained that the normal practice is for tour vehicles to enter pastures at participating ranches for purposes of viewing cattle. The 2020 tour took place the day after a rain, however, and rather than risk rutting up grassland the tour did drive-by ranch visits. The ranchers herded their cattle up to fences so tour participants could see them.


Reed also said the tour was the first time in a while that he had been able to see some OCCA members, due to the novel coronavirus crisis. In addition to familiar faces, Reed said he saw numerous visitors from outside Osage County participating Saturday in the ranch tour.


The OCCA’s convention for 2020 had an abbreviated schedule because of the coronavirus. Popular events, such as the trade show and the Cattlemen’s Luncheon, were canceled to avoid possible transmission of COVID-19. The OCCA did go ahead, though, with the ranch tour and the ranch rodeo, both of which took place Saturday. The annual Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping, which is held on Father’s Day, right after the events of Cattlemen’s Week, was canceled this year.


The OCCA’s effort to salvage at least some of its schedule comes in context of similar efforts by other organizations in Osage County. Pawhuska Public Schools, which postponed the high school graduation that had been scheduled for May 15, is scheduled to have an outdoor graduation ceremony this Friday, June 26, with social distancing measures built into it. Weather permitting, the ceremony will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Ormond Beach Memorial Stadium.


As of Monday, June 22, the overall number of positive tests for COVID-19 in Osage County had grown to 142, with eight deaths and 103 persons having recovered from the illness. The last time a COVID-19 death was reported for Osage County was more than two months ago, on April 14, but the overall number of positive tests in the county has grown from 102 on June 8.