Culture / Entertainment

Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo’s Cancellation is a Historic Blow to City, Major Events

Massive Crowds and COVID-19 Left Little Choice But to Call Off 2021 Cowboy Extravaganza

BY // 10.09.20

The executive committee of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo (FWSSR) voted unanimously  to cancel the 2021 Show, which was scheduled for January 15 through February 6. It would have only been the rodeo’s second year in its new home ― Dickies Arena.

The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is the oldest continuously running livestock show and rodeo anywhere. Fort Worth’s signature event has been held annually since 1896, when it was known as The Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show. Until now.

The cancellation is a historic one. The only other time a Fort Worth Stock Show was canceled was in 1943, near the height of World War II.

Dickies – exterior
Exterior of the new home of the FWSSR.

“Today we’re in another war with an enemy that’s invisible and quite deadly,” Stock Show president and general manager Brad Barnes says. “We feel a responsibility to be proactive, in order that COVID-19 is brought under control sooner rather than later. For fans of Fort Worth’s oldest and largest public event, our common goal is to help bring the pandemic to an end so future Stock Shows won’t be in jeopardy.”

The FWSSR is typically a huge draw, gathering ranchers and visitors from all over Texas, and rodeo competitors come from many other states and countries. Each year exhibitors typically travel from approximately 235 of Texas’ 254 counties and 40 other states filling the various barns where they work in close proximity preparing their animals for exhibition.

The cancellation statement notes that daily Stock Show attendance can exceed 140,000 people. Those people crowd into buildings at the Will Rogers Memorial Center to see livestock, shop, eat, enjoy the carnival-midway and petting zoo — and watch the many shows and competitions.

Let's Rodeo Houston!

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  • Bering's Gift's Rodeo 2024

The sheer numbers of attendees was one of the main factors leading to the cancellation.

The livestock and cattle barns will be empty this year. (Photo by Courtney Dabney.)

“This is a heartbreaking decision for our leadership and was not made lightly,” Barnes says in a statement. “We wanted to find a way to safely hold a Show for our 1.2 million guests, exhibitors and competitors. Unfortunately, the challenges we face to create practical and enforceable protocols and procedures to comply with COVID-19 guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are extremely daunting.

“The uncertainty of the virus potential spread across Texas and the nation during the upcoming flu season was another major factor weighing on our decision.”

Consultations with infectious disease professionals and public health professionals indicate the Fort Worth rodeo would rank as “very high risk” for the spread of COVID-19, potentially impacting populations and health care systems, show officials detail.

“The health and safety of our community is of the utmost importance,” says Tarrant County public health director Vinny Taneja. “We support the Stock Show’s executive committee in making this difficult decision.”

The decision was made to cancel the entire event rather than pair it down because more than 30,000 animals are typically exhibited in 3,770 classes for horses, livestock, poultry, rabbits and ag mechanics in addition to approximately 2,300 participants in the art contest, judging contests, rodeos and many other competitions and exhibitions. Each event and competition – from the FWSSR PRORODEO Tournament to the Youth Poultry Show, Carnival Midway and all others – is something unique and important. Every event carries special meaning for some participants and show visitors.

“Consequently, the decision was made to cancel all FWSSR events and features as opposed to allowing some to be held at the expense of others,” rodeo officials note.

This won’t be anyone’s first Rodeo in 2021.

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