Past Glories

Hailey Peters, a member of the El Campo FFA Chapter, and her steer earned Overall Champion Steer during the Wharton County Youth Fair’s Steer Show last year. Like Peters did last year, students from across the area were raising animal projects in hopes of making it to the big shows in Houston and San Antonio as well as the WCYF.  The closure of the Houston show quashed many students hopes, now they await whether the 2020 fair will be held.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo generated almost $400 million in 2019, but the economic behemoth didn’t outlast the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, closing March 11, after being open about one week due to growing public health concerns.

About a 70-mile trek from El Campo, the Houston rodeo draws attendees across the state. Many local youth in Future Farmers of America or 4-H programs attend to earn scholarships and compete in various agriculture-related events.

“We’ve had several kids with animals that were supposed to have gone that didn’t get to go,” Louise ISD ag teacher Ronny Wilson said. “It’s more of a disappointment than anything else.”

AgriLife Extension Agent Laura Reyna works with 4-H kids across Wharton County. A few members were able to compete in events before the rodeo was canceled, but a majority were not. She estimated about 52 students in the organization were impacted.

“That was the big thing was missing out on this opportunity to experience the Houston Livestock show and Rodeo,” Reyna said.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner ordered the rodeo’s shutdown, signing an emergency health declaration for the city.

“It’s impacting kids in every county in Texas,” AgriLife Extension Agent Corrie Bowen said.

Annually, the rodeo awards about 800 scholarships. Officials from the rodeo stated scholarships and graduation assistance will be honored. For livestock and horse show exhibitors who were unable to participate because of the closure, entry fees will be refunded.

However, some families have invested money into animals that they won’t likely be able to sell after the rodeo’s closure, Wilson said.

“If you’re showing a market show, those animals are only really in prime condition for a certain amount of time and that hurts immensely, because there’s no other place to go with them,” Wilson said.

To assist exhibitors further, officials are considering holding an online auction, according to a press release.

“Additionally, the rodeo is working on a plan to further support our junior exhibitors, including heifer exhibitors,” according to a press release.

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