ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – With Western Heritage Classic and graduation ceremonies for Hardin-Simmons and McMurry Universities coming up, Abilene is preparing to have upwards of 36,000 visitors over the May 14 weekend. 

Rochelle Johnson, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Taylor County Expo Center said Western Heritage weekend is “always really busy.”

Since 1985, the Western Heritage Classic has been tradition in the Big Country. It’s a weekend event consisting of a rodeo, horse races, cook offs and more. It’s one of Abilene’s biggest visiting attractions every year- not including 2020 when the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s always hotel rooms that are the biggest conflict,” Johnson said.

Some local hotels told KTAB/KRBC that their rooms have been booked for these events for the last six months. Local novelty restaurants, like Lytle Land and Cattle, is also expected to be largely impacted. 

“It’s good economic impact for the city,” Johnson explained. “Because these people are here for so many days and they are eating out.”

General Manager at Lytle, Lindsay Flores, said the restaurant is expecting double the amount of numbers that they had during this weekend last year. 

“Especially after everything that has happened over the past couple of years,” Flores said. “It just feels really good just to get back into that sense of normalcy for all local businesses.”

Flores said Lytle Land & Cattle will have between 36 and 45 servers prepared, and they are even keeping a food truck behind the restaurant to be sure they have enough inventory. 

“I mean the stress is there, but it’s more like an excited stress,” Flores explained. “Like we’re back in business now.”

Johnson said the Abilene community is often complimented for how welcoming they are to these visitors. 

“I encourage our citizens to do what they have always done and welcome these people to our community,” Johnson added. 

For more information about Western Heritage Classic, click here