Taylor County Expo Center to keep hosting events despite COVID-19 surge

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC)- This week the Taylor County Expo Center is hosting the annual Western Horseman Stock Horse World Show.

“I will refuse to close down, unless the governor mandates it,” said Taylor County Expo Center Executive Vice President and General Manager Rochelle Johnson.

For over a decade people from across the country have traveled to Abilene for this event.

“I actually have four different competitions going on simultaneously right now, and there are not that many places in the state where we can do that, that it’s all under cover,” said Stock Horse of Texas Executive Director Jill Dunkel.

During the pandemic like most rodeo events, Stock Horse of Texas has had to make some changes to their schedule.

“We had to hold off and not do events back in March and April, and then in May when Governor Abbott came out with his pen Texas plan, we started finding ways to have events within his recommendations,” said Dunkel.

Dunkel says she is expecting around 250 competitors and their families to be in Abilene for this year’s event.

As the number of coronavirus cases continue to climb throughout Taylor County, health professionals are discouraging major events. Johnson says she owes it to the people of Abilene to keep hosting events.

“We’re going to continue to hold events, because I feel very committed to that on behalf of not only Expo Center, but on behalf of our community. I think that it is a dereliction of duty to reduce the economic impact on our community,” said Johnson.

If large public events are held, health officials say masks should be required upon entry, and the mask mandate should be enforced while people attend the event.

“We will continue to ask people in these arenas to social distance, and wear a mask if they don’t. I am not a mask police,” said Johnson.

The Stock Horse World Championship is one of four major events scheduled in Abilene this week. All four of those events are expected to put around $200,000 combined into the Abilene economy.

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