The Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo kicks off this week, after a year off due to the COVID pandemic. Fair organizers said they are back bigger and brighter than ever.
One long-time attendee, Dawn Dulus, said she has always loved the Heart O’ Texas Fair for its educational value because you can learn things here that you can't learn anywhere else.
"We go each year for our kids to enjoy and just to get the experience but as they've gotten older, they're involved with stuff at the fair," Dulus said.
This helps keep the Dulus family coming back.
"That's the point," said Charva Ingram with the fair, she said involving the community in the fair makes it fun for everyone.
The COVID outbreak last year forced the fair to space out the livestock show which everyone milked for a more relaxed time.
"It just makes for an overall more enjoyable successful livestock show, so that's something we're going to continue to move forward with," said Ingram.
So they "moo"-ved the start of the livestock showing to Friday, Oct. 1.
It will still end when the fair ends on Sunday, Oct. 17.
Meantime the fair calls this year's extravaganza "Big and Bright" upping the entertainment ante with some death-defying acts.
"The Flores Family Thrill Show, which is the globe of death, and the motorcycle racing inside of it and a lot of 'oohs' and 'ahhs' there, we have the circus man who's on a unicycle, juggling knives, and fire.
How did we find him? Now ... it's a crazy world, the fair & rodeo, they're all out there. There's a lot of crazy acts," said Ingram.
Musically, you'll find acts like Jameson Rodgers, Tracey Lawrence, Joe Nichols, and Walker Hays among many other acts featuring different styles.
Speaking of new things, the mysterious building "The Base" will make its debut. The new addition will add on a shopping experience, in fact, somebody described it as "magnolia-like." Add to that, your favorite carnival rides and fair food.
The Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo returns after a year off due to COVID, so organizers said they've worked extra hard to make their comeback year, special for all of us.
"One hot rodeo... we love the rodeo," said Ingram.
Ingram said the fair will be doing its part in making sure all the fun is safe as well.
"We basically are putting as many protocols in place as we can to help create a safe environment we want everyone to feel safe and welcomed," said Ingram. "So we have extra hand sanitizer stations, we have handwashing stations. We encourage social distancing as much as possible. If you feel like you need to wear masks, we want you to feel safe and to wear masks, we're going to expect people to self-regulate and to make good decisions."
If cost is a barrier keeping you from the fair, the Heart O' Texas Fair & Rodeo has deals to fit any form of family finance.
"If you're just wanting to have one good family day, there is a one-day 'Family Fun Pack' that gives you more admission tickets and two carnival armbands for a 20 to 30 percent discount of what you would pay at the gate," said Ingram.
Ingram said anyone interested will want to get those tickets online ahead of time, to save the most.
"If you have a student 18 or younger, then on Monday and Thursday I would recommend getting on property ... and downloading that coupon because you're going to get their gate admission and their unlimited rides carnival armband for just $25, versus if you wait till the gate that would cost you $50. So it's like half price that way," said Ingram.
Just don't forget your five bucks for parking. And if you can hang on for a certain day, we can let you in on a little "fair secret".
If you're looking for a real deal, meaning free admission, you can come on Sunday. That's the day they have Running with the Bulls Fun Run and 5K Race and more morning events that end at 11:30 a.m. So if you're already inside from those other events, you get to stay for free.
Fair organizers previewed this year's 11-day event, with a special focus on the ropin' and ridin'.
"Oh, it's PRCA, it's all the same events that you've come to know and love from bareback riding saddle bronc, to bull riding, and there will be calf scramble and mutton busting happening in the middle of all of that," said Ingram.
Honoring a memory
Dulus said there's something at the fair for all ages.
"My son [was] Mutton Bustin' when he was younger, and now my daughter is doing dances at the fair and then ... just continuing on watching the rodeo [by] the end of the night is the best ending, I guess, to the atmosphere," Dulus said.
In fact, the Rodeo will always hold special significance for Dulus' family.
Not just because it's the Texan thing to do ... no her reasons are more personal. Those who knew Dulus' father, Wayne Hammermeister, call him "a cowboy in the truest sense of the word".
Hammermeister made sure his children and grandchildren learned about horses and the ways of the West.
Dulus said that growing up her Dad would take the family every year to the Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo for the thrills and the history that only this event can provide.
This year, she and her family will return to the rodeo, as a tribute to her Dad.
"My parents would take my brother and I. We enjoy going as a family [and] watching the rodeo. My dad was very fond of horses. My dad recently passed from COVID. Six weeks ago, and he loved going and watching everything about it," Dulus said.
COVID caused her family and the rest of us to miss last year's fair and rodeo, making this year even more important to her family.
This year the lineup also showcases influences of Tex-Mex culture.
"The Mexican rodeo spectacular, which we are very, very excited to introduce that, it's going to be in our Coliseum on Sunday, Oct. 10. It's a two-hour show. It's all things of Mexican rodeo culture and heritage to include mariachi, and dancing, and trick riding, and we think it's going to be a beautiful show," said Ingram.
So to Dawn Dulus and her family, this year's fair will represent a homecoming of sorts ... one where they'll share remembrances, with a community, of her father. A family friend who works at the rodeo will be joining them as well.
"He's a pickup man. So, when the fair comes once a year, the rodeo, we get to see him do his thing. It's another reason why we love to go because my dad enjoyed going to watch," said Dulus.
She hopes maybe her Dad, a former pilot, will look down from above in a different way, at the arena and the rodeo he loved so much... enjoying the new additions and appreciating his traditional favorites.
"It helps remember our dad, the way that we want to remember," Dulus said.