ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Crews with Carnival Americana are hard at work at the Taylor County Expo Center planning out and setting up the midway in preparation for the West Texas Fair and Rodeo 2023 ‘Sneak-a-peek’ night. Gates open Thursday, September 7, at 4:00 p.m. for an early look at the rides and foods that will be available.

“What you see as an empty parking lot right now is going to be an amusement park here in about a week,” said Carnival Americana Carnival Manager Alan Cockerham.

The fair has grown in popularity each year, and Expo Center Executive Vice President and General Manager Rochelle Johnson said they are on track to meet, if not exceed, previous years’ attendance, which topped out at 130,739 visitors.

“I hope that we beat last year’s attendance, and last year’s attendance was the largest fair that we’ve had since I’ve been here, which has been for 40 years… Our livestock shows are on par with what they have been in previous years… So I would think that would translate to the rest of the fair in the attendance,” Johnson said.

While previous years provide a good measuring stick, Johnson shared that this year won’t exactly be like fairs past. With a new ride called ‘The Kraken,’ new entertainment like viral star Mason Ramsey, and a new downtown hotel for lodging, it’s the perfect year to bring the West Texas Fair to a national stage.

“This will be the first time that it’s televised,” Johnson shared.

Crews from the Cowboy Channel will be in Abilene to televise the PRCA rodeo on the airwaves and on their app. It’s a level of notoriety that Johnson said will no doubt bring in the kind of economic impact they’ve come to expect.

“Lots of people think the fair comes to town and takes away the money. But actually, the money is here with the expo center because this is our fundraiser,” Johnson explained.

Aside from the increased foot traffic and money changing hands at the fairgrounds, Johnson said the folks that come to town for the fair also contribute a good cashflow to local hotels and businesses while they’re here.

The fair officially opens on Friday, September 8.