Organizers of the venerable Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo hope that more than 200,000 visitors make their way through the gates for the 66th annual event Oct. 4-13.
Last year’s fair drew about 193,000 to the rodeo, concerts, carnival rides and games, and exhibits.
New admission prices with perks for kids are being introduced this year to help boost attendance, said Charva Ingram, the center’s vice president for marketing and sponsorship development. Children ages 8 and under receive general admission free of charge. Those ages 9 and up can sign up for admission online before Oct. 4 at a cost of $10 or pay $15 at the gate. Last year, general admission for adults cost $10 with tickets for those 3 to 12 years old at $5. Children 2 and under were admitted free.
A Funpass for all the days of the carnival but no other activities is available for $65 at CEFCO Convenience Stores or the Extraco Events Center box office. A 10-day season pass excluding the carnival is available for $50 at the box office.
The rodeo starts at 7 p.m. daily Saturday to Saturday, Oct. 6-13, taking a break Monday. Admission price to the fair includes admission to the rodeo except for the two Saturday performances, when reserved balcony and reserved mezzanine seating costs $20 per person, and reserved box seating costs $30. Rodeo admission those days covers fair admission.
Ingram said H-E-B has been the presenting sponsor for the fair since 2006. The company’s associates make up a big percentage of the 500 volunteers who help with everything from rodeo animal management to parking assistance and shuttle rides.
“We couldn’t do all we do without our volunteers,” said Ingram, who has supervised planning for six years. “They really make it all happen.”
The fair is themed “Fun for the Whole Herd” to celebrate its beginnings as a livestock show and growth into widely diverse shows and activities for information and education.
“For the past 65 years, the (HOT) Fair & Rodeo has brought together families, friends, co-workers, classmates and complete strangers to listen to music, watch the rodeo, enjoy carnival rides, eat delicious foods and learn more about agriculture,” Ingram said. “With new attractions, exciting musical acts and new events, there is something for every member of your ‘herd.’”
The All-American Pro Rodeo Finals, presented by Pendleton Whisky, begin on Oct. 6 with contestants competing for shares of $500,000 in prize money to be awarded.
Young people can boost their post-high school education with scholarships from the Continuing Education Fund for each of seven categories in the Junior Livestock Show. With few exceptions, scholarships are $2,000 for grand champions, $1,000 for reserve grand champions, $500 for breed champions and $250 for reserve breed champions.
The Bud Light Music Stage, with performances beginning at 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and 8:30 p.m. on weekends, hosts performances by Kevin Fowler Oct. 5, Koe Wetzel Oct. 6, Mike Ryan Oct. 10, Flatland Cavalry Oct. 11, Dylan Scott Oct. 12 and Whiskey Myers Oct. 13 Local talent also is featured on the Wells Fargo Hometown Stage.
The H-E-Buddy Barnyard features a Magic Bean Agricultural Magic Show, Noah’s Way Exotic Petting Zoo and Edzoocation and a nursery and birthing center with exhibits of baby fowl and mammals and live births of sheep, goats and other animals, and baby chickens hatching from eggs.
The Extraco Banks Kids Zone features the perennial favorite Mutton Bustin’ Rally sponsored by Central National Bank, with helmeted youngsters clinging to the backs of sheep running at full speed as long as possible. Also in the zone are Pony Hop Races, Texas Farm Bureau's Ag-Ventureland, a Stunt Dogs Show, Swifty Swine Pig Races, Robocars presented by Pineco Tractor & Equipment, a Stick Horse Rodeo, and the Sweethearts’ face-painting booth presented by the Waco Tribune-Herald, and Noah’s Way Pony Rides.
Lorena High School junior Macy Kunze, daughter of Jeff and Amy Kunze, heads a group of 64 Sweethearts as Miss Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo. She is a member of the varsity soccer and cheerleading teams, National Honor Society, Spanish Club and peer tutoring program. She is involved in a number of church and civic activities outside of school.
Miss Heart O’ Texas must have been a Sweetheart previously and has to face a panel of judges and make a short speech. Sweethearts have to be sophomores, juniors or seniors in McLennan or any of six surrounding counties, and must be unmarried without children, have at least an 85 cumulative grade point average, be willing and able to serve at least 100 volunteer hours through the year, including 30 hours during the fair and.
Ingram said past years’ design to maximize traffic flow and pedestrian safety will be followed again. Vehicles will enter the public parking lot by heading northwest on New Road, turning west on Colcord Avenue and turning left on North 42nd Street to the parking lot. Signs offering directions will be placed along Bosque Boulevard.
Ingram said the Extraco Events Center’s mission “is to produce events for education, entertainment and agricultural experiences while giving back through youth scholarships. The facilities host over 225 events with an attendance of 420,000 and a $67 million impact annually.”
HOT Fair & Rodeo
When: Oct. 4-13
Where: Extraco Events Center, 4601 Bosque Blvd.
Info: Prices, activities and more at hotfair.com.