Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo announced on Tuesday that the 2021 rodeo will be held in May, two months later than usual, as long as the pandemic is in a manageable state at that point.
Originally scheduled for March 2 - 21, next year’s slate of concerts, carnival amusements and rodeo competitions will take place from May 4 - 23, coronavirus permitting. The only part of the festivities that will still be held in March as previously scheduled are the youth rodeo events.
“With the evolving health situation, we have made the decision to move the 2021 Rodeo from March to May, with the exception of our Junior Livestock and Horse Show competitions, to be held as planned in March. We remain dedicated to fulfilling our mission to support Texas youth and hosting a long-time Houston Tradition,” Rodeo president and CEO Chris Boleman said in a press release.
In his own statement Tuesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner thanked Rodeo officials “for working closely with the City of Houston and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Persse about moving the show to May 2021,” and said that he’s hopeful that by that time coronavirus vaccines will be widely available enough to be able to hold such a large public event safely.
“While no one can predict the future of the coronavirus pandemic,” Turner wrote, “I am optimistic that the multiple vaccines that are being developed and manufactured in the United States will improve our chances of returning to normal activities by the middle of next year.”
Turner shut down the Rodeo several weeks ahead of schedule this past March in the early days of the pandemic, one of the first major local event cancellations that foreshadowed just how dire the coronavirus situation would ultimately become.
“When the Rodeo was canceled earlier this year because of COVID-19 community spread, the decision was based on data and science,” Turner wrote. “As we move forward, the City of Houston will continue to monitor the positivity rate, hospital capacity, wastewater virus load, and reproduction rate. If we work together, we can create a safe environment for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo wrote in a statement that she wasn't nearly as optimistic as Turner and Rodeo organizers that it would be safe to go through with the massive event as re-scheduled next year, even given the two-month postponement.
"Over the past several months we have remained in close touch with rodeo officials to provide them with the latest guidance from public health officials and have had very productive conversations. We will continue to do so. We still do not know if hosting a mass gathering like the Rodeo in May will be feasible, safe or advisable, and it may well not be," Hidalgo wrote.
"Even with the potential of a vaccine on the horizon," Hidalgo continued, "we need folks to channel that optimism and take action now to prevent the spread by cancelling gatherings, getting tested, and following public health guidance."
"Right now, we're far from the finish line, but there is a finish line in sight," she concluded.