By Erianne Lewis | Arts and Life Editor
The Heart O’ Texas Fair and Rodeo concluded its 11-day event on Sunday, marking its 70th anniversary. The annual event, which is the largest fair and rodeo in Central Texas, was held at the Extraco Events Center in Waco.
This year’s theme was Raising the Standard, said Melinda Adams, senior division manager for marketing and sponsorships.
“There are certain little things that maybe you won’t notice just walking in, but overall, it starts to add up,” Melinda said.
The Fair instituted smaller changes into its appearance to ensure a better fair and rodeo experience. All the tents in the fair were upgraded to structure tents, which allowed for better stability, and updated signage was displayed on the ground to instruct attendees where to go.
Heart O’ Texas also encouraged visitors to use the new app format. QR codes throughout the property led attendees to download the app for easier access of the fairgrounds, attraction lists and tickets.
Other additions to the fair and rodeo this year included a wine and beer garden, a pirate comedy show, as well as a new sea lion attraction, which has been seven years in the making.
Melinda said the size of the outdoor stage was also increased this year to accommodate the larger performers such as Clay Walker, Gary Allan and Midland. Target Solutions was a new sponsor this year and created a VIP lounge at the fair.
Melinda said this year’s indoor vendor list was the largest the fair and rodeo has ever seen.
“They have all kinds of boutique shopping in there,” Melinda said. “That’s been raised up as well, because we didn’t have as many vendors last year and there wasn’t as much variety, whereas this year, you can find pretty much anything in there.”
Melissa Adams, co-owner of Big Top Entertainment, a third- party group that coordinated exhibitors at Heart O’ Texas, said Big Top had over 100 vendors that were offered. This was their second year bringing the Heart O’ Texas Shops Marketplace to the Fair and Rodeo.
“You’re going to find a little bit of everything here at the rodeo,” Melissa said. “Whether you’re looking for western wear or you want a custom-shaped hat, you want some 100% covered-in- rhinestone boots, we’re going to have that. Also, we are talking about salsas and homemade chocolates and home décor, even furniture made out of whiskey barrels.”
Melissa started out as an exhibitor herself six years ago and said she wasn’t sure exactly what she was doing, but she knew there was a need for this type of company.
“It was a smashing success and all of the exhibitors wanted more and more and so we started booking with two events a year and now we do about 30 events a year,” Melissa said.
Melissa said she values the connections she makes with vendors.
“The most enjoyable part is really getting to work with the exhibitors one-on-one and seeing people start their business,” Melissa said. “Maybe they started with a hobby, and they want to start selling some products. Really getting to mentor them from the experiences I’ve had and what I’ve learned along the way. We’ve had so many great success stories with people who’ve started with a table and one product and now they have a full-fledged business.”