The 2021 Open Show, which focuses on adult exhibitors, has been canceled in order to focus on the Junior Show and other youth events, Rodeo officials said in a statement Thursday.
"Our Open Show exhibitors are an integral part of our Show every year, and this decision was not made lightly, but with the health and safety of all our exhibitors and guests at the forefront of our decision," said Rodeo president and CEO Chris Boleman.
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The move reduces the number of people involved and allows more space for youth to participate in the dozens of competitions planned.
Junior show competitions will include breeding beef heifers, breeding gilts, breeding sheep, dairy cattle, market barrows, market broilers, market goats, market lambs, market steers and market turkeys. In addition, various judging competitions and contests will be held, including ag mechanics, archery, industrial craft, and young guns shooting sports and some virtual events like the ag science fair and public speaking contests. Youth competitions that will take place include youth meat pen rabbits, youth breeding rabbit/cavy, and llama & alpaca shows.
There's no word yet on other events like concerts and rodeo competitions that are usually part of the Rodeo.
The 2021 Rodeo is set to begin March 2 and wrap up on March 21.
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The rodeo, which is one of the largest in the world, shut down March 11, along with its entertainment division RodeoHouston. The closure came after Judge Lina Hidalgo and Mayor Sylvester Turner declared a health emergency, impacting events.
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Caroline Rogers, owner of BCR Ventures, was excited to hear the new plans for Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
"First of all, you know, thank you to Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for making the necessary changes and making a lot of hard decisions on how we can host this event for the junior kids," Rogers said. "Yes, it is very sad that one of the changes that has been made is that the open breeding cattle show will not be held. But at the end of the day, it's not about that. It's about the kids and the projects that they have put so much time and effort into."
Local health authorities weighed in on the announcement Thursday as COVID-19 cases increased across the area, state and nationwide.
Dr. Peter Hotez with Baylor College of Medicine said postponing the event to later in the summer could give more flexibility to the event.
Hotez believes the worst part of this third spike in COVID-19 cases will continue through January, possibly into February.
"I think doing it later in the year, going into May and June, instead of March, increases the probability of opening the rodeo when people are getting vaccinated," Hotez said.
Currently, Harris County's positivity rate stands at 8.1%.
Dr. Umair Shah, executive director and local health authority for Harris County Public Health, said the increase is concerning, but there is still time for the community to get it under control by taking their own precautions and helping decrease the spread of COVID-19.
"I call them the four W's: wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance, but that fourth W cannot be forgotten, which is the will of all of us to remember that we may be tired of this virus, but it's not tired of us," Shah said.
Doctor David Persse, with the Houston Health Department, said there are ways to have events and be safe, but the COVID-19 cases and community spread will dictate how those events will be impacted.
"So, I've been fortunate enough to work with the committees in the rodeo as they are putting these together, and I got to tell you, they are doing a really diligent job of trying to consider every factor," Persse said. "As long as we have minimal spread in our community at that time, I think it will work quite well. Now, if we got a positivity rate of 15%, 20%, 25% like we did a couple months ago, then I don't know if they are going to even be able to have an event.
Harris County and the city of Houston offer free testing across the area for those who want to get tested before or after exposure. You can even call 832-927-7575 to get more information through Harris County Public Health.
Check this page on the rodeo's website for ongoing updates.
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