The North Texas Fair Association will cut crowds in half — but the bulls and broncos will still buck, and the music will go on as scheduled.
After Mayor Chris Watts greenlighted the 2020 North Texas Fair and Rodeo, officials said they’re preparing to stage the city’s biggest event as safely as possible. Organizers announced the local event was planned but postponed about the same time the State Fair of Texas announced the 2020 event had been canceled.
The local fair and rodeo will open Oct. 16 and run through Oct. 24. The popular annual North Texas Fair and Rodeo Parade will take to the streets at 10 a.m. Oct. 17.
“Basically, whatever local COVID-19 mandates require us to do, we will do,” said Glenn Carlton, the executive director of the fair association. “We are under a mask mandate, and we ask our patrons to comply with it. If the [pandemic] improves, we might relax it, but for now, we will ask patrons to wear a mask.”
The bulk of the fair and rodeo takes place outdoors, and Carlton said officials will halve attendance so that attendees can practice social distancing.
“In the rodeo arena, the [seating capacity] is 4,000,” Carlton said. “So we’re going to keep everything to 50% of that capacity, and on a first-come, first-served basis. That really should only be a problem on Friday and Saturday. People might not be able to get tickets for those days, but during the week, the attendance is less.”
The fair has a contingency plan for both weekends. Rodeo events and concerts will be broadcast on a screen set up in the grassy area of the fairgrounds.
“People can bring their lawn chairs and set up on the grass and see the events. Same thing with the concerts,” Carlton said.
During the concerts, fair staff will set up barricades around the main stage, and capacity in that area will be reduced to accommodate 877 people.
“Overflow for the concerts will be in the rodeo arena, and we’ll run our concerts on the Fun Zone screen, too, on the lawn,” Carlton said. “Normally, our concert area is about 7,000 square feet. With the addition of the screens, our concerts have 90,000 square feet.”
Mayor Chris Watts said he decided to give the rodeo a green light because the association provided a sound plan.
“I think it was pretty simple. No. 1, they presented a very comprehensive safety plan,” he said. “No. 2, the issue, it seemed, with the council body, was: Do we want to add additional restrictions above and beyond the declaration? We didn’t need to do that because the safety plan was comprehensive.”
Watts said Gov. Greg Abbott’s declaration already exempts part of the fair, permitting rodeos to continue. The council could regulate some of the event’s features, but Watts said the association took pains to enlarge common areas and add spaces for people to gather.
“They created a plan with public safety in mind, so we didn’t need to add any requirements,” Watts said.
J.C. Kieffer, a coordinator for the livestock contests, said competitions have been going on throughout the pandemic. At the North Texas Fair and Rodeo, livestock competitors will have to wear masks, practice social distancing and observe spacing guidelines in the bleachers when watching the shows. Handlers will march their cattle, lambs, goats and pigs in front of judges and onlookers to see which competitor has reared an animal that meets breed standards.
“It’s actually fairly easy to control the animals’ spacing,” she said. “The competitions are already divided into smaller groups for judging, too.”
Carlton said volunteers will ask people to wear masks and follow the rules, should they see someone shirking them. For food, games and rides, the event again will use a payment system that requires patrons to load money onto a wristband — known as Magic Money — at kiosks or through a smartphone app.
“We’ll have volunteers stationed at all those kiosks to disinfect them, but you can just load money onto it using our app and not have to touch anything,” he said.
Admission costs $15 for adults Monday through Wednesday and before 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, and $20 on Thursday through Sunday nights. A four-day ticket costs $60, and a season pass costs $120. Senior and military admission costs $14 at the gate with proper identification or military documentation. Teachers can get in at $5 off at the gate with valid school ID. Children ages 7 to 12 get in for $5, and admission is free for ages 6 and younger.