The supersized cowboy Big Tex won't be saying "howdy" this year. The State Fair of Texas announced Tuesday that it's canceling the 2020 fair because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This was an extremely tough decision. The health and safety of all involved has remained our top priority throughout the decision-making process,” said Gina Norris, board chair for the State Fair of Texas.
It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the #StateFairofTX will not open for the 2020 season. We can’t wait to welcome you back in 2021, in Texas-style of course, with the biggest and the best, “Howdy, Folks!” #BigTex For more info., please visit https://t.co/MUcfN1JeeF pic.twitter.com/OwCRTF3wmg— State Fair of Texas (@StateFairOfTX) July 7, 2020
The fair has a huge economic impact on Dallas and the Fair Park neighborhood. Last year, Big-Tex attracted 2.5 million people during his three-week-long run, and total revenues were more than $64 million.
"I love the State Fair of Texas, and I am saddened that I will not be able to take my family this year," Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement. "But the State Fair made the safe and responsible decision."
Abel Gonzales owns Vandalay Industries and made his name making outlandish fried food at the Fair. He said the event typically leads him to employ 60 to 70 people.
“It’s part of our livelihood, it’s part of who we are, but at the same time, you know, it’s a head-scratcher. How are we going to keep everybody safe? And you just can’t,” Gonzales said.
“For a number of years, that’s all I did was the State Fair. If it would’ve happened during one of those years, I would have totally been devastated.”
“I had a friend text me and tell me it was canceled and my heart…I was devastated,” said Kenley Carr, 14, of Golden, Texas. Carr shows cattle and the Fair is one of her biggest events of the year. “Hopefully some of the [other] shows for this fall all won’t get canceled and I will still be able to show.”
This is the first time since World War II that the fair has been canceled. It's only been shuttered seven times in its 134 years.
People who have already bought tickets and season passes will automatically receive a refund. And fair organizers say tickets for food, beverages and rides don't expire so you can hold on to those for next year.
The fair's board said the Big Tex Youth Livestock Auction and livestock shows, Big Tex Scholarship Program, Big Tex Urban Farms and other community outreach initiatives will continue to have funding. A spokesperson said the organization’s contract with the City of Dallas mandates it keep a reserve fund, which currently holds $13.1 million.
In a statement today, the fair board said the NCAA, football conferences and universities will be responsible for making decisions about the football games that usually take place during the fair. That includes the two marquee matchups, Texas-Oklahoma and Prairie View-Grambling.