Heart O’ Texas Fair returns this weekend

Waco's Heart O' Texas fair returns this weekend, though scaled down due to COVID-19 concerns. Lariat File Photo.

By Lucy Ruscitto | Staff Writer

This year, the annual fall tradition of the Heart O’ Texas (HOT) Fair & Rodeo held at the Extraco Events Center will carry on with its festivities throughout the month of October on its 67th anniversary.

Charva Ingram is the HOT Fair & Rodeo vice president of marketing & sponsorship development. She said that this year, in order to accommodate guests due to COVID-19, the fair will consist of three parts: the livestock shows, the rodeo and Fair Food Drive-in.

Unfortunately, this year, the typical concert series held at the fair will not happen, but Ingram said the HOT Fair & Rodeo team have adjusted their plans accordingly so that there is still plenty for fairgoers to enjoy.

“We extended the livestock show so that we could reduce overlap with moving animals in and out, and make sure we can socially distance,” Ingram said.

She said the heifer shows started on September 30 and will continue to be presented until October 18.

On July 31, HOT Fair & Rodeo made the decision to continue with original plans to hold the fair but under modified, COVID-19 compliant conditions.

“We waited as long as we could, hoping the numbers would take a turn and we’d be able to continue with our planning for a full fair and rodeo, but when considering how to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible, we recognized the need to adjust what we offer our community this year,” \ Wes Allison, president and CEO of HOT Fair & Rodeo said, in a press release.

The mitigation of costs includes the extended livestock shows, the Fair Food Drive-in, as well as the rodeo now being held at 50% capacity.

“We’re asking them to wear a mask if they’re not eating or drinking as well as we’ve got extra hand washing and hand sanitizing on our grounds in order just to help promote being socially responsible with regards to handling the situation,” Ingram said.

Ingram also said that her and her coworkers opted for a “pod-seating method” in order to spread out attendees. According to The Stadium Business, pod seating is enacted when “tickets [are] distributed in seat blocks or ‘pods’ to maintain distance between groups who are not known to one another,” and those in attendance “are required to maintain pod integrity by only transferring tickets to family or friends within their trusted group.”

Ingram said the HOT Fair would “love” to have Baylor students in attendance at all three components on the scaled-down event, and if students want to buy tickets they should visit hotfair.com. Tickets are sold on a first-come first-serve basis for $25 at the door, but attendees can save $5 dollars by purchasing their tickets prior to the event.

“Rodeo is a great sport, and it’s a lot of entertainment. I myself was not a rodeo person until I got the job. My first rodeo was literally my first rodeo on the job, and I fell in love with it,” Ingram said. “These here contestants are true athletes. It’s just a whole different lifestyle, It’s a very hard working, admirable lifestyle.”

Ingram said she’d recommend Baylor student to attend, even if they were not from parts of the country that typically hosted rodeos.

“Even if you don’t really know what’s going on or you’ve never experienced it, I promise you you’ll have a good time,” she said.

Waco senior Victoria Osborne said she has grown up with the HOT Fair & Rodeo, and looks forward to the event every year.

“The HOT Fair & Rodeo is so fun. They do a great job of letting local groups perform and getting super fun artists to come and give concerts. It really has everything you could ever want with the rodeo, music, rides, games and so much more,” Osborne said.

Despite the element of the pandemic, Osborne said she would encourage her fellow Baylor students and Wacoans to come out and attend safely anyway, as she plans on going this year as well.

“Even though it will be a little different this year, everyone should still try to go to support the community and to have some normal fun with friends,” Osborne said.