A decision to cancel the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo had youth leaders frustrated and their students devastated.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo committee announced it was complying with the city of Houston’s and Harris County’s order to cancel all events “in the interest of public health” due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, event organizers said in a release on the website.
“The rodeo will respectfully and dutifully comply with the city’s order,” it said. “The rodeo is deeply saddened; however, the safety and well-being of our guests and our community is our top priority. Out of precaution, the city has decided that this is the best course of action for our community.”
The 4H and FFA exhibitors who were already in the process of showing lambs and goats had to finish out the show on Wednesday, but after that, all the contests ended, Seguin FFA advisor Krysta Canham said.
“There’s a lot of heartache,” she said. “It is so heartbreaking. They spent a lot of time and money on their projects and their entry fees. It is very devastating for us. It is very crazy, very unfortunate and I feel sorry for my kids.”
Texas AgriLife Extension Agent Travis Franke said the decision to cancel the entire event came from city of Houston and Harris County officials.
“Houston Health Department pretty much ordered all events in Houston be canceled because of a specific case in one county over that they think is community spread,” he said.
The decision to cancel the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has a significant impact on the children in Guadalupe County, Franke said.
“We have a lot of kids in our county — through 4H and FFA programs that participate every year,” he said. “They work hard, and they have a lot of dollars invested in their projects. It is frustrating to them and to us as well when they don’t get the opportunity to showcase their hard work.”
Steer, some poultry and market swine were among the contests scrapped due to the cancelation, leaving a lot of children with projects that can’t move on to other contests, Canham said.
“You can’t hold poultry back or steers back if they try to postpone or reschedule,” she said. “The only other stock show we can show at is Austin, and they’ve already canceled South by Southwest.”
Franke is hopeful that the Austin Livestock Show and Rodeo, set for March 14 to March 28, will continue as scheduled.
“We’re just hoping and praying that something doesn’t happen there that will have the same effect Houston had,” he said. “We know everybody’s frustrations; we’re frustrated as well when something like this happens because this affects our programs, and it affects our kids that we work with.”
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo committee intends to continue the scholarship program; however, the exhibitors will still miss out on the funds they could have received from the auction, Franke said.
“The big thing is for the kids not to have the opportunity to show their animals there and have the chance to make the sale with those projects and get some of that money for college and/or future projects,” he said. “It’s really heartbreaking for the seniors.”
While Canham understood the health department’s reasoning, she felt that there were alternative ways of letting the students still show.
“If you had an exhibitor pass, you can come in and out, if you don’t have one, then you can’t,” she said. “I think there are other ways they could have gotten around this. People think it’s not a big deal because they’re shutting down the rodeo and the concerts, but it is definitely more than that. They should have thought twice before they acted. The mayor should have thought before he made the decision. A lot of people don’t realize the impact that this decision has on our youth.”