Houston Rodeo closes early in light of coronavirus pandemic


Photo courtesy of Flickr

Rodeo Houston, hosted at NRG stadium, empty with no visitors

Aivry Zamora, Entertainment Editor

The Houston Rodeo has become one of the most essential components of Houston culture and its sudden cancellation brought disappointment to the many performing artists, vendors and tourists who were planning to attend the event this year. Closing early for the first time since its debut in 1932, the rodeo was brought to an early end due to concerns for the rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus. After news emerged of a current coronavirus patient having attended the barbecue cookoff in late February, the staff and attendees of the cookoff event had to be quarantined as to not infect others attending the rodeo.

“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,” Houston Rodeo officials, said.

An 11-day early closure let down loyal fans who were heavily anticipating concerts by artists such as Lizzo, Gwen Stefani and Kane Brown. Though some artists were not able to perform, others such as popular Kpop group NCT127 took the stage to give their audiences a memorable performance, distracting them from the turmoil being faced across the globe. NCT127 is the first Kpop group to ever perform at the Rodeo and their nearly sold out show generated immense excitement from Houston Kpop fans. The wide-spread popularity of Korean artists and groups is allowing the genre to expand into more mainstream concert events.

“Today was honestly the best night ever, it is for sure one that will always be remembered. I’m so happy my first Kpop concert was my favorite group @NCTsmtown_127. I’m so so happy that I FINALLY got to see them tonight and the glow stick party before the show was so much fun! I cannot wait till Kpop returns to Houston because we have the biggest Kpop fan base in the states!!” Kate (@katelynsanchezz), twitter user and Kpop fan, said.

One of the largest money generators for the Houston Rodeo is the large livestock show, art showcase and commercial floor expo that is held within NRG stadium every year. The vendors who travel to Houston from across the country were refunded for the money spent to reserve a space at the expo and were given the opportunity to sell their goods online at the Houston Rodeo store. Those who were to participate in the art exhibits had their pieces posted online with the addition of an online auction for the items which were to be auctioned off during the event.

“Though public health is paramount, we are heartbroken for the thousands of hardworking junior exhibitors who were unable to participate in the 2020 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo These online auctions will allow these exhibitors to receive the support and recognition they deserve,” Joel Cowley, rodeo president and CEO, said.

Ticket buyers had the option to have their ticket refunded or to opt for a “rollover” for next year’s Rodeo. The ticket rollover allows those who purchased a ticket the opportunity to use their purchase for the next rodeo season. Sponsors were also given the same guidelines for their sponsorships allowing them to use their funds for the next Rodeo or to donate their money to scholarship committees.

“Despite the early closing, the rodeo has been dedicated to fulfilling scholarships. In the fall, the nonprofit committed to awarding $14.2 million in scholarships, $3.7 million in educational program grants, and $662,000 in graduate assistantships in 2020,” Sara Samora, Houston Business Journal reporter, said.

The rodeo’s cancellation dented the profits made by the organization and gave question to how strong the event will be the following year. With already shrinking attendance numbers, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo will have to pull itself up from the unfortunate turn of events this year’s cancellation brought.