Students, businesses feel the loss of Montgomery County Fair

Grace and Hutton Hoegemeyer care for their steers in the Willis High School barn. (Courtesy Grace Hoegemeyer)
Grace and Hutton Hoegemeyer care for their steers in the Willis High School barn. (Courtesy Grace Hoegemeyer)

Grace and Hutton Hoegemeyer care for their steers in the Willis High School barn. (Courtesy Grace Hoegemeyer)

Willis High School senior Grace Hoegemeyer has been involved in showing livestock at the Houston Rodeo and Montgomery County Fair since she was 9 years old. The 2020 season was meant to be a final kickoff before she went to Texas A&M University.



“[When the rodeo was canceled] I was devastated because it is my senior year; I was so excited to finish off my rodeo time,” Hoegemeyer said. “But I had hope still because I was like, ‘At least I still have [the county fair]. ... But once I got the news the next day that county was canceled as well, I was pretty heartbroken. There’s nothing left for me to do anymore.”



Amanda Traylor, the head agriculture teacher at WHS, said students prepare for shows such as the fair and rodeo for the whole school year, caring for and training the animals themselves or writing essays, reports and business plans.



Traylor said she was at the rodeo with students when they received word of its cancellation.



“It was pretty heartbreaking to have to tell them,” Traylor said. “We have a bunch of very heartbroken, distraught children.”



Like Hoegemeyer, many other students and businesses are left in the lurch with both the fair and rodeo canceled. Cody Bartlett, the president of the Montgomery County Fair, said although the exact amount of lost revenue is hard to calculate, the cancellation will have a significant effect on local restaurants and businesses.



“Anytime you bring 50,000-plus people to an area, business sees benefits. Restaurants have full tables; hotel rooms are filled; retailers move product,” Bartlett said. “With this cancellation and the COVID-19 pandemic, the opposite is taking place."



The fair planned to have about 20 vendors on-site, according to Bartlett, not including countless other vendors and businesses that help put together the fair itself. Bartlett said the fair traditionally sees an average of 50,000 guests during its 10-day season.



Bartlett said the fair was originally going to increase hand-washing stations and signage, but conversations with county officials “quickly escalated” to a full cancellation. Hoegemeyer and Traylor said there are community movements to put on makeup shows and auctions to help mitigate the losses of the fair and rodeo. Traylor said many students wanted to sell their animals right away, but she advised them not to because she knew there would be a community push to help the students.



The Houston Rodeo also held an online auction for junior exhibitioners March 21, according to a press release.



Bartlett said the fair is still planing to give out 50 $2,500 scholarships and has created a Junior Exhibitor Stipend, which will go to children who were supposed to exhibit livestock at the fair. The stipend is funded by $150,000 from the fair’s general fund and by public donations.



“As a former exhibitor myself, I know the work, time and money that goes into these projects and to not get your day in the ring is devastating for all involved,” Bartlett said. “What we are going through is unprecedented and beyond any of our control, but we will remain committed to supporting our mission of youth and education and can’t wait to welcome everyone back to the fair April 9-18, 2021.”



Traylor said her son earned scholarships from both the rodeo and the fair in 2019, and these events can contribute a great deal to a student’s education.



“Depending on where they’re going to college and what they’re going on doing, it can be a big chunk,” Traylor said.



Although Hoegemeyer applied for scholarships at both the Houston Rodeo and fair, she said the majority of her college fund was meant to come from auctioning off the animals she was meant to show.



“Without the ability to sell these animals, it kind of puts me in more of a dire need of these scholarships,” Hoegemeyer said.

By Andy Li
Originally from Boone, North Carolina, Andy Li is a graduate of East Carolina University with degrees in Communication with a concentration in Journalism and Political Science. While in school, he worked as a performing arts reporter, news, arts and copy editor and a columnist at the campus newspaper, The East Carolinian. He also had the privilege to work with NPR’s Next Generation Radio, a project for student journalists exploring radio news. Moving to Houston in May 2019, he now works as the reporter for the Conroe/Montgomery edition of Community Impact Newspaper.


MOST RECENT

Oak Ridge High School held graduation for an audience of family members in two ceremonies with social distancing measures in place. (Courtesy Conroe ISD)
Teachers, parents express concern about what 2020-21 could hold for Houston-area schools

As school districts throughout the Greater Houston area begin to release details about what in-person and virtual learning options will look like in the fall, questions remain for local parents and educators.

online
Gov. Abbott: Texas Education Agency to extend online learning option for school districts in 2020-21 school year

Texas school districts may be able to continue online learning for longer than three weeks, according to Gov. Greg Abbott.

Conroe ISD released its guidelines for on-campus instruction for the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
What we know about Conroe ISD's on-campus instruction

How will students arrive on campus? Will they have to wear masks during instruction? How will lunchtime work? Here is Conroe ISD's guideline for what school on campuses will be like in the fall.

Walmart and Sam's Club leaders announced in a press release July 15 all stores nationwide will require shoppers to wear a face covering beginning July 20. (Courtesy Walmart)
Walmart, Sam's Club to require face coverings in all stores beginning July 20

Additionally, all Walmart stores will have a single entrance beginning July 20.

The Texas Renaissance Festival returns to Todd Mission for its 46th season Oct. 3. (Courtesy Texas Renaissance Festival)
Texas Renaissance Festival to offer limited number of date-specific tickets July 18; face masks encouraged during 46th season

Should the festival season be canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic, all tickets will be honored for the 2021 festival season, or guests may request a refund, according to festival information.

Eric Yollick and Vince Santini were the two Republican candidates vying for the Montgomery County's 457th Judicial District judge. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATE: Vince Santini wins Republican runoff for Montgomery County's 457th district court judge

With all election day precincts reporting, Santini has garnered 78% of total votes.

Gov. Greg Abbott ordered Texans to wear face masks in public beginning July 3. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Montgomery County commissioners: Voluntary compliance best way to reduce COVID-19 spread

However, the county reported its largest daily increases in active and total COVID-19 cases July 14, along with two additional deaths related to the disease.

New research shows the coronavirus can survive for much longer in the air than previously determined. (Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)
UTMB experts say COVID-19 airborne transmission is responsible for rapid spread; virus lasts more than 12 hours in air

Two infectious disease experts from the Bay Area gave an update on the coronavirus and current research efforts July 14.

The county experienced its largest-yet single-day active and total case increases July 14. (Community Impact staff)
Montgomery County sees highest daily active, total COVID-19 case count increases July 14

A total of 359 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths were reported July 14.

Montgomery County Food Bank volunteers welcome and serve residents at a mobile food distribution site in east Montgomery County. (Courtesy Liz Grimm/Montgomery County Food Bank)
Montgomery County Food Bank distribution up 163% from last year

The Montgomery County Food Bank has distributed nearly 3.5 million pounds of food in around four months.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, giving claimants $600 per week, will end July 25. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Federal unemployment payments of $600 per week end July 25

While the added $600 federal unemployment benefits will end, Texans are still eligible for other forms of relief.