Texas Cancels State Fair for First Time Since World War II, GOP Convention Still On

State Fair of Texas organizers on Tuesday canceled the annual event for the first time since World War II over COVID-19 concerns, but state Republicans say their July convention is still on.

The nearly month-long Texas State Fair celebrations, which were set to take place from September 24 through October 17 in Dallas' Fair Park, have been officially called off for 2020. Organizers cited a "recent surge in positive [coronavirus] cases" across North Texas and the "difficult decision" was commended by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, a Democrat. But in Houston, the Republican Party of Texas rebuked city officials and announced Monday it will be move forward with its in-person convention next week.

The State Fair of Texas, which drew more than 2.5 million people last year, has not been canceled since World War II.

"It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the #StateFairofTX will not open for the 2020 season. We can't wait to welcome you back in 2021, in Texas-style of course, with the biggest and the best, 'Howdy, Folks!'" organizers wrote on the State Fair's official Twitter account Tuesday.

"This was an extremely tough decision," said Gina Norris, chairwoman of the State Fair of Texas, in a statement. "One of the greatest aspects of the Fair is welcoming each and every person who passes through our gates with smiles and open arms. 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."

Norris responded to the state surpassing 200,000 total COVID-19 cases Monday, only 17 days after hitting the 100,000 mark. "The recent surge in positive cases is trouble for all of North Texas," Norris added.

Johnson issued a statement Tuesday saying he supports the decision made by the State Fair organizers: "COVID-19's spread is rampant in our community, and public health must come first," he said. "We all have to do what it takes to slow this virus so we can save lives and livelihoods and get back to doing what we enjoy."

But in Houston, fellow Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner's pleas with state GOP officials to call off its July 16 to 18 convention have been ignored. The event is expected to attract around 6,000 people into the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.

"The local convention of a political party is a fundamental exercise of the freedom to assemble peacefully," Republican Party of Texas President James Dickey said in a statement issued Monday. "That need to assemble is important, and we are taking every precaution to ensure it is done safely. Mayor Turner must not have had the information about the measures being voluntarily implemented."

Newsweek reached out to the Republican Party of Texas for additional comments Tuesday afternoon.

Turner urged Dickey and other state GOP leaders to hold a virtual convention and has repeatedly threatened to shut down the event entirely.

"All of our conferences, all of our conventions that were scheduled to be in the city of Houston at the George R. Brown have canceled or have been rescheduled until next year, with the exception of one and that's the state republican convention," Turner said in a Monday statement.

Newsweek reached out to Turner's office for additional remarks Tuesday afternoon.

University of Texas athletic officials expressed optimism that the annual Red River Showdown football game between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners will still take place at the State Fair's Cotton Bowl.

texas state fair cancelled 2020
State Fair of Texas organizers on Tuesday canceled the annual event for the first time since World War II over COVID-19 concerns, but state Republicans say their July convention is still on. DONOVAN REESE PHOTOGRAPHY / Contributor/Getty Images