This year's State Fair of Texas is canceled due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, organizers announced Tuesday morning.
This year marks the first time since World War II that the fair has been canceled. The fair was canceled once during World War I, for three years in the 1930s during planning for 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition and 1937 Pan American Exposition at Fair Park and four years during World War II.
In a statement, Gina Norris, the fair's board chairwoman, said the decision was a difficult one.
“One of the greatest aspects of the Fair is welcoming each and every person who passes through our gates with smiles and open arms," she said. "In the current climate of COVID-19, there is no feasible way for the Fair to put proper precautions in place while maintaining the Fair environment you know and love. While we cannot predict what the COVID-19 pandemic will look like in September, the recent surge in positive cases is troubling for all of North Texas. The safest and most responsible decision we could make for all involved at this point in our 134-year history is to take a hiatus for the 2020 season.”
Fair organizers said they plan to issue automatic refunds to anyone who has already bought tickets and season passes. Fairgoers with leftover tickets for food, beverages and rides may use those tickets at next year's fair.
Decisions regarding college football games scheduled to be played at the Cotton Bowl during the fair will be made by the NCAA, the universities involved and their athletic conferences. The Texas Longhorns' annual matchup against the Oklahoma Sooners is scheduled to take place at the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 10. Grambling State is scheduled to play Prairie View A&M on Sept. 26.
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In a statement, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said the university hopes the game will go on.
"We understand and respect the decision made by the State Fair of Texas and acknowledge that it was an extremely difficult one," Castiglione said. "Our hope remains that we can play the OU-Texas game at the Cotton Bowl, but obviously every aspect of our season requires constant monitoring and planning. The best thing all of us can do at this time is closely follow CDC guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus."
UT athletic director Chris Del Conte issued a similar statement, saying the university "fully anticipate(s) that our annual Red River Showdown with Oklahoma will be played in the Cotton Bowl and are continuing to prepare for that."
"We know the decision to cancel the fair was an extremely difficult one for everyone involved and that we are dealing with a very fluid situation during these unprecedented times," he said. "But, as we're doing with all of our fall season planning, we will continue to monitor the situation closely, work through contingencies and make the best possible decisions we can with the health, safety and well-being of everyone involved as our number one priority."