ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Two of Abilene’s largest attractions, the West Texas Fair & Rodeo and Boo at the Zoo, netted the city more than $1.5 million in economic impact for the 2022 fiscal year.

If you had the chance to go to the West Texas Fair & Rodeo this year, you might have noticed considerably longer lines waiting to get a corn dog and waiting to hop on any of the carnival rides.

The rainy weather stayed away, which helped a considerable amount, but more importantly, those large crowds shattered last year’s record. There were more vendors, more food options and definitely more people – leading the Expo Center to double its profits in all aspects.

“That first Saturday night, there were so many people here that there was no cell service at all,” Taylor County Expo Center Executive Vice President Rochelle Johnson said. “The carnival alone went over a million dollars this year, and I think about that in Abilene, Texas and I’m astounded.” 

The expo center said it was able to double its profits from the 2021 fair without raising ticket prices.

Johnson said the Expo Center’s contract with the carnival allowed them to split the profits, which netted half-a-million dollars to go back to Fair and Rodeo.

In total, 857 vendors set up shop at the fair grounds, which equaled to roughly 2,300 hotel nights stayed in Abilene – as according to Robert Lopez of the Abilene Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (ACVB).

Lopez said the West Texas Fair & Rodeo brought in a total of $852,000 in economic impact, meaning visitors spent their money at Abilene’s shops, restaurants and hotels.

In what the ACVB predicted to be two potentially down years in 2021-22 post-pandemic, both broke 2019’s records and blew it out of the water for 2022.

Across the street from the Expo Center, the Abilene Zoo’s four-day Boo at the Zoo event helped bring the collective total to more than $1.5 million, Lopez said.

“Our data shows that over 45% of Abilene Zoo visitors come to us from outside of 50-mile range,” explained Supervisor of Conservation at the Abilene Zoo, Clay Carabajal.

The importance of that number, according to the ACVB, is the 50-mile marker. That’s when most visitors decide whether or not to stay in Abilene overnight, or make it a full day trip while seeing some of Abilene’s other attractions, shops and food venues.

“This zoo is not only for the City of Abilene, but the entire Big Country and we are so happy to share it with Taylor County and all the surrounding counties,” Carabajal elated.

Carabajal told KTAB/KRBC the Abilene Zoo saw 20,000 people come through its gates over the course of the four-day weekend only event – a 7,000 person increase from last year.

The Abilene Zoo said it hopes to continue that success heading into its Christmas events, but also looks ahead to 2023’s Boo at the Zoo with the potential for more days and even longer hours of operation.