"As hard as this is to do, it is the right thing to do," said president and CEO Joel Cowley.
On Wednesday, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the event is ending early. A move like this hasn't happened since 1937, according to records.
The shut down comes 11 days ahead of the planned March 22 finale.
In the interest of public health, the City of Houston and the Houston Health Department have ordered the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ to close. The grounds will close at 4 pm More info >> https://t.co/jDO5pQEFhf pic.twitter.com/qL5KgjRnaE— RODEOHOUSTON (@RODEOHOUSTON) March 11, 2020
UNPRECEDENTED CLOSURE: RodeoHouston to end early for first time in more than 80 years
But along with concerns for the vendors, families were also worried about what the closure would mean for scholarships.
Since 1932, the rodeo has been committed to awarding scholarships to students.
In October, the rodeo announced its educational commitment would award more than $14.2 million in scholarships, more than $8.3 million to junior show exhibitors, more than $3.7 million in educational program grants and more than $650,000 toward graduate assistant programs.
According to the rodeo's scholarship page, more than 800 scholarships are expected to be awarded through the events nine scholarship programs, with each recipient receiving a $20,000 scholarship, money that can be used to go toward a four-year undergraduate degree.
One girl ABC13 spoke to was crying as she heard the decision to cancel the rodeo.
"We spent so much time with these animals and thousands of dollars with these animals, and so to get the chance to win back our money, that's devastating, because we're going to be in debt for a long time. That's my college money," the girl said. "So to spend all this time and all this money, it means nothing now."
Another student echoed that comment, saying she spent at least six hours a day with her animal.
The rodeo released a statement on it website regarding the closure:
In the interest of public health, the City of Houston and the Houston Health Department have ordered the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to close. The Rodeo will respectfully and dutifully comply with the City's order.
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 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has been a fabric of this community since 1932. Having to close early is extremely difficult as guests, volunteers, exhibitors, rodeo athletes and entertainers look forward to the 20 days of the Rodeo each year.
We look forward to the 2021 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to continue to promote agriculture, education, entertainment and Western heritage. We will provide additional information as it becomes available. Updates will be posted at rodeohouston.com/2020.
Since the rodeo started in 1932, it has committed more than $500 million to the youth of Texas.
The rodeo is also one of the largest scholarship providers in the country.