The 2020 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was everything you’d expect from an event that bills itself as the world’s largest of its kind. Well-dressed kids readied well-rehearsed animals for their time before the judges. Broncos bucked, mutton were busted, and more than one calf found itself in a scramble. The scent of deep-fried everything mixed with the sounds of big-name headliners while the carnival dished out thrills.
Then, it all screeched to a halt.
The detection of Covid-19 spreading in the Houston community, and the discovery that a coronavirus patient had attended the annual barbecue cookoff, led officials to take drastic measures. On March 11, a little more than a week after the rodeo’s start, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and other organizers announced the rodeo’s cancellation. NRG Park would close at 4 p.m.
Caught in the shockwaves were young exhibitors who’d put their all into their animals in hopes of garnering scholarship funds. (The program raised and awarded $19.3 million in scholarships and grants in 2020 alone.) Some were newcomers, others were old pros. All had put in months of hard work.
Of course, kids who enjoy the challenge of rearing animals are pretty resilient. In the face of uncertainty, many chalked things up to experience and vowed to try again next year. And this March looks to be their chance. An announcement on February 3 brought about the sudden cancellation of the rodeo itself, but the junior stock show—at least, a Covid-friendly private version of it—is slated to continue as planned.
Houstonia reached out to a few Houston-area exhibitors gearing up to brush off their boots, spruce up their new animals, and, after an unprecedented season, set their sights on the future and step back in the ring in 2021. These are their stories.