Rodeo Austin canceled in response to coronavirus caution

Travis County officials discussed the cancellation of the 2020 Rodeo Austin and Luck Reunion on March 12. Community Impact Newspaper Staff
Travis County officials discussed the cancellation of the 2020 Rodeo Austin and Luck Reunion on March 12. Community Impact Newspaper Staff

Travis County officials discussed the cancellation of the 2020 Rodeo Austin and Luck Reunion on March 12. Community Impact Newspaper Staff

As local government leaders and health experts continued discussions with event organizers March 12 in efforts to mitigate the potential effects of coronavirus, a number of major events announced their cancellations throughout the day, including all events at the Frank Erwin Center and concert South by San Jose. On the evening of March 12, Rodeo Austin announced it would not hold its two-week event from March 14-28.

According to acting Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, officials from Rodeo Austin reached out to the county to discuss concerns related to novel coronavirus transmission and ultimately decided to cancel due to the risk of person-to-person transmission.

"At the direction of Austin and Travis County officials, Rodeo Austin is heartbroken that 2020 events have been cancelled," a release from Rodeo Austin reads. "Canceling our event is extremely difficult for fans, volunteers, exhibitors, rodeo athletes, donors, contractors and everyone involved."

The announcement came about 24 hours after the cancellation of the Houston Rodeo, which called off remaining events March 11.

Luck Reunion, a music festival at Willie Nelson's ranch in Spicewood, is also called off, Eckhardt said. An co-founder of Luck Reunion said at a March 10 meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court that such a cancellation would be a "fatal blow" to the organization that runs the festival.

Last week’s declaration of a local state of disaster in Austin and Travis County triggered a mandatory official review by Austin Public Health for all mass gatherings of 2,500 people or more, many of which have since been cancelled. Rodeo Austin and Luck Reunion officials had worked with the city and county to create adequate social distancing and preventive health measures for the rodeo and related events, but ultimately officials decided to err on the side of caution.

In a March 10 presentation to the court, Don Hastings, Assistant Director of Austin Public Health’s Environmental Health Services Division, said county health officials were considering crowd density, origin of attendees, age of attendees and event duration when assessing risk. Eckhardt echoed the same considerations when speaking to press March 12, saying that mass gatherings would continue to be classified as events of 2,500 or more.

While no cases of COVID-19 have yet be confirmed in the Greater Austin Area, Eckhardt said that city and county officials expected cases of person-to-person transmission to emerge soon.

"That's inevitable," Eckhart said.

In light of the likelihood of community spread of the virus, organizers for events scheduled in Austin and Travis County have been notified by officials of "likely cancellation," per a joint statement from Eckhart and Mayor Steve Adler issued in a press release.

According to Rodeo Austin's 2019 annual report, a record 255,000 attendees walked through the gates last year over the course of two weeks, generating $2.94 million in rodeo and concert ticket sales.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


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