The first-ever Williamson County Fair and Rodeo opens its gates this week to festivalgoers and livestock enthusiasts—nearly two years after Williamson County officials partnered with a local fair association to fund the event.

Fair officials postponed the inaugural event due to health and safety concerns posed by the coronavirus. Now, local officials are keen to welcome guests into the agricultural celebration with three days of live, family-friendly programming.

"For the first time in the 173-year history of the county, we're having a county fair," said Russ Boles. "It's kind of great to see people from the different parts of Williamson County come together. I think we can all celebrate and appreciate a good county fair."

Events for the public kick off Oct. 21 at 4 p.m. out at the Williamson County Expo Center, located at 5350 Bill Pickett Trail, Taylor. The first night of programming features the Patriot Pro Mustang Showdown, which is produced in partnership with the Round Rock Community Foundation, the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the Ride on Center for Kids. The event will match experienced horsemen with veterans and a previously wild mustang in grooming and riding competitions.

"I think [the Mustang Showdown] is going to be the hidden gem of the whole fair," Boles said.

As part of the celebrations, veterans can attend the fair and rodeo for free on Oct. 21.

Programming continues on Friday and Saturday with a full slate of traditional county fair attractions. The fair includes rides and games for all ages alongside carnival food stands, food trucks and a petting zoo.

“There is going to be a whole lot to do out there,” said Scott Heselmeyer, Williamson County treasurer and president of the Williamson County Fair Association Executive Committee. “Food vendors, a petting zoo and pig races—you’ve got to have those at a fair.”

Both Friday and Saturday night are capped off with rodeo competitions at the main stage. The rodeo, which is sanctioned by the Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association and the United Professional Rodeo Association, will feature traditional events, such as barrel racing and rodeo bareback riding. Mutton busting and calf scramble events are also included for participation for kids.

Beginning Oct. 21, the fair will stage several live musicians on two stages. The fair and rodeo will host featured musicians Roger Creager and Tracy Byrd at the main stage on Oct. 22 and Oct. 23, respectively.

In addition to the featured performers, the Williamson County Fair and Rodeo is showcasing Austin-area musicians, such as Memphis Kee and Shaker Hymns, on its Local Talent Stage.

“We’re going to have live music the whole time,” Heselmeyer said.

This is the first year the Williamson County Fair and Rodeo is being held after the coronavirus pandemic forced the event to be postponed in summer 2020.

The fair and rodeo was officially established as a countywide event after Williamson County commissioners in late 2019 voted to provide $100,000 in funding to the nonprofit Williamson County Fair Association. According to county records, the association will reimburse the county within four years. Commissioners also hold the right to forgive that debt.

The vote came after the county broke ground on an expansion of Williamson County Expo Center back in 2015. The county held a grand opening of the new space in late 2016. Before the expo center and fairgrounds site was built, Heselmeyer said there was not a space to hold a true countywide fair.

“For many years, we’ve had great rodeos with the Taylor Rodeo and Sheriff’s Posse Rodeo. We have a great county livestock show. All of those events are still going on, but what we haven’t had is that true county fair atmosphere where you can come enjoy a carnival and food vendors and a rodeo and see livestock all at one place,” Heselmeyer said. “We are a large and growing county. ... We have an opportunity here to combine a lot of elements to celebrate our agricultural heritage.”

Note from the writer: This article has been updated to include quotes from Williamson County Commissioner Russ Boles.