Rodeo Austin canceled amid coronavirus concerns

Rodeo Austin
UPDATE: The Travis County Commissioners Court has voted to cancel Rodeo Austin.

A second special voting session was held today where the decision was made. The session began at 1:30 p.m. and continued for almost five hours.

"At the direction of City of Austin and Travis Co officials, Rodeo Austin is heartbroken that 2020 events have been canceled. Rodeo Austin will respectfully comply with the public officials' orders in an effort to keep the safety and well-being of our community at the forefront," Rodeo Austin said.

ORIGINAL POST: Rodeo Austin is a tradition going back to 1938.

“Last year we had just over 300,000 people attending through the month of March,” said CEO Rob Golding.

But this year there are concerns over COVID-19, that's why the commissioners' court had a detailed discussion with public health officials Tuesday, trying to decide if the two-week event, just like SXSW, should be canceled. The show will go on for now.

Golding said he takes public health very seriously and has already made many accommodations.

“We've taken steps to increase our public sanitation opportunities. We have hand washing stations, porta-potties, signage and graphics to really deal with what we think is the best process currently in place to keep the public attending Rodeo Austin healthy,” he said.

Judge Sarah Eckhardt said canceling SXSW was a proper move because it could have brought COVID-19 to Austin sooner.  In addition, commissioners extended the local disaster declaration and will be deciding on future events on a case by case basis.

“What we are looking at this point is an elevated risk for events that draw nationwide and internationally from areas that have had person to person transmission and that those people will be together in a sustained close location over a period of days. We will experience COVID-19. This disaster declaration is to better prepare when we do. It is not Ebola. It's not even H1N1 but it is a serious threat,” said Eckhardt.

The Willie Nelson festival "Luck Reunion" will also go on as planned, for now.

“This was a really important meeting for us to start to assess and understand how the community is working together,” said co-founder Matt Bizer.

A virulent threat is lingering during a busy time of year for Austin, but city and county officials continue to monitor the fluid situation.

“If we were to stop our festival economy cold and just cancel everything, we would then have an economic epidemic which would make us less resilient when we face COVID-19,” said Eckhardt.

Rodeo Austin starts on Saturday. The Austin Community Foundation started a campaign called "Stand With Austin" that allows anyone to donate to nonprofits helping industries and individuals hardest hit by the cancelation of SXSW. For more information, visit ACF's website.

Rodeo Austin issued a statement on the event, which says in part that the Rodeo Austin management team is working closely with city and county officials to monitor the situation.

READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW:

Rodeo Austin's mission is extremely important to the organization, but public health and safety remains our top priority, Based on the information we have today and with direction from local officials, Rodeo Austin will be open for business!

The Rodeo Austin management team is working closely with City and County officials to monitor the COVID-19 situation. During our events, Rodeo Austin has a Chief of EMS, Chief of Security and Chief of Safety onsite 24/7, along with their teams of professionals. These leaders, along with the Rodeo Austin management team, are working together with public officials to ensure mitigation plans are in place, Rodeo Austin has taken additional steps to increase public information, health awareness and sanitation measures throughout the event. We encourage all attendees to follow the recommended Health Authority guidelines. We look forward to crowds coming out to Rodeo Austin and helping us grow the next generation!

Rodeo Austin is a year-round non-profit funded by the annual 15-day Fair & Rodeo, which will kick off this Saturday, March 14th and run through Saturday, March 28 at the Travis County Expo Center, with a preview party to be held Friday night. Last year, Rodeo Austin awarded $2.3 million to Texas kids.

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