The 92nd annual North Texas Fair and Rodeo wrapped up a much different opening weekend Sunday as it hosted about a quarter of its typical attendance in accordance with state COVID-19 guidelines.
North Texas State Fair Association executive director Glenn Carlton said Sunday afternoon that the fair totaled 13,648 attendees between Friday and Saturday, about a quarter of last year’s 54,652 over the first two days. Given the circumstances, he said attendance has been roughly in line with expectations, and that the event projects to be cash positive if the numbers continue.
“We haven’t been surprised, it’s a different time,” Carlton said. “We knew we would be down, but that if we weren’t down too much, we would make money on it.”
As for the fair’s pandemic safety measures, Carlton said staff have been pleased with the response from guests, who are required to wear masks indoors and, when unable to socially distance, outdoors as well. Because the rodeo arena is operating at 50% capacity, he said the fair has had to turn some visitors away, but other attractions have gone similarly to normal years.
Vendor Judy Krueger, who owns Fresh Brewed Sweet Tea, a beverage business based in Geronimo, Texas, said she depends on events for nearly all of her revenue and that the fair is the first one of this scale she’s been able to participate in since the pandemic began. She said she’s enjoyed seeing people out at the fair over its first weekend.
“People are ready to get out,” Krueger said. “They’re tired of not being able to go anywhere.”
Koots Jerky owner Tim Kutas said his Krum-based meat business has attended the fair for nearly 20 years, and that he thinks staff have done a good job in making the event happen.
“They’re doing the best they can to make this work,” Kutas said. “It’s a tradition for a lot of families that come out.”
Guests who chose not to wear masks said they felt comfortable without them. Andrea Paul has attended the fair with her family for seven years, and her daughter has a steer in this year’s show. Paul said that while she did bring a mask and thinks attending has inherent risk, she doesn’t think enforcing stricter policies on distancing and mask-wearing would be feasible.
“They’re letting people have free agency because enforcing it would be too difficult and cause problems,” Paul said. “It’s risky — it’s a risk no matter where you go and what you do.”