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HOT Fair game plan: No rides or bands, but livestock show and rodeo go on

HOT Fair game plan: No rides or bands, but livestock show and rodeo go on

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The Heart O’ Texas Fair and Rodeo will continue this October, but with the emphasis on rodeo and no concerts, carnival rides, games, interactive displays, demonstrations, mutton busting or wiener dog races.

The fair will feature an extended youth livestock show, with a component “The United” show added from the State Fair of Texas, Sept. 30-Oct. 18 and the One HOT rodeo on Oct. 10-11 and 15-17, fair officials announced Friday. The livestock show will be limited to youth exhibitors and their guests, while the rodeo is open to the public. Fair food vendors also will operate on the Extraco Events Center grounds during the rodeo.

Fair President and CEO Wes Allison said the smaller, largely rodeo-only fair was designed with an eye to preventing possible COVID-19 spread while allowing the youth livestock show to continue.

“I was ecstatic and sad in the same breath,” Allison said of the announcement of this year’s limited fair. “We’ll do the best we can with what we have to provide some entertainment and an opportunity for youth to win some scholarship money.”

The announcement of the fair comes after last month’s announcement of the State Fair of Texas’ cancellation this year due to COVID-19 concerns.

The regional fair and rodeo, in its 68th year, usually draws up to 200,000 visitors over its 10-day run.

Allison said fair organizers had met with city and county health officials to discuss what could be done safely during a time when COVID-19 remains active and transmissible in the community.

What remained was what the fair could better control: the rodeo with reserved seating, masking and social distancing; a livestock show stretched to 19 days to allow sanitation between showing; and a small number of food concessions.

The One HOT Rodeo will be held over two weekends, Oct. 10-11 and 15-17 in an Extraco Coliseum at 50% capacity, with a One HOT Bullfight event on Oct. 18.

Social distancing and spacing considerations will limit rodeo attendance to 2,588 persons a night. Spectators will need to wear masks and tickets will be sold electronically, either online or via cellphone, with spacing between groups. Tickets are expected to go on sale Sept. 8.

Allison said the cancellation of rodeos and fairs across the country due to COVID-19 will put the HOT rodeo on many calendars. “Because of the situation, we expect to see some of the top contestants coming in October,” he said.

Food concessions will be held much like the Fair Food Drive-In event held on the Extraco Events Center west parking lot in May. There will be no admission charged to visit the food concessions.

The fair’s annual youth livestock exhibition, which draws around 5,000 entries will be held, but spaced out over a longer period to allow sufficient time for cleaning between showings and to limit crowd sizes.

New this year is The United, three showings from the State Fair of Texas youth livestock competition. The state fair will hold its youth market showings in Dallas, but three divisions — youth breeding heifers, youth prospect steers and youth purebred breeding gilts — will shift to Waco and the Extraco Events Center grounds.

Allison said the move will give some local youth the chance to show in the state fair competition, normally held during the same time as the HOT fair. The collaboration will allow young people who’ve raised stock animals for months, if not years, to show those animals in competition for prize money and scholarships.

Organizers are planning a special award or buckle for The United, which may attract several hundred young exhibitors. Though the HOT fair was more than willing to work with the State Fair of Texas to create the joint show, Allison hopes 2021 won’t see a similar need for one.

“This is a one of a kind show — and I pray it is just one of a kind,” he said.

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