Lifestyle

‘This will be hard, very hard.’ Disappointed rodeo vendors pack up to go home, concerned over lost profits

On Tuesday, Dixie Berger was riding high, having just won the Overall Grand Champion Overall for booth presentation for small retail businesses in her booth at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

8炫彩彩票开户By Wednesday afternoon, when officials announced the rodeo would be canceled due to growing concerns about COVID-19, Berger was crushed, left wondering how she’d sell her trailer full of Western-style handbags and belts.

Like dozens of other vendors, Berger expected RodeoHouston — the granddaddy of American rodeos — to be the retail equivalent of Christmas.

The economic impact of the rodeo is estimated at well over $225 million, and generates many full-ride scholarships for Texas college students. In NRG Center, business owners — many of them small, family-owned operations — gather to sell Western clothing and accessories, packaged food products, art and furniture.

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"I'm less in fear of [coronavirus] and more in fear of losing my business." RodeoHouston vendors expect to lose a significant amount of money after the event was cancelled. Here's what they had to say.
Video: Houston Chronicle

8炫彩彩票开户At the booth next to Berger, Tammy Black sells custom, hand-made boots through her company. She brought a trailer full of boots and had more shipped here. Another order is on its way, on a truck somewhere between California and Houston.

8炫彩彩票开户“There were rumors going around (that the rodeo would be closed) and … people were panicking. Then the bad news came. This will bankrupt some of these businesses,” Black said. “We just have to eat it and try to survive.”

This was Black’s first time as a rodeo vendor in Houston.

“I know what the show was capable of and I was counting on it. Will I overcome it? I think I can,” Black added. “I am a farmer’s wife and a farmer’s daughter, so it’s not the first time I had something blow up in my face, but this will be hard, very hard.”

Berger and her husband Kirby launched their business full time just a few years ago in Saratoga, Wyo., where they live with their three young children. She spent two days driving a packed trailer to Houston and three more days setting up.

Now she and her husband are trying to figure out how he will get here to help her and find care for their children. They’ll lose the money they already spent on airfare for Kirby and the kids to fly here next week during their own spring break.

8炫彩彩票开户“I was blown away by how sweet everyone is in Houston and how kind the committee is. We were really excited when we won overall Grand Champion and then today, the news was a pretty big blow,” Berger said.

“We definitely invested to come here. We’ll be all right, but I know some people will not be,” Berger said. “We’ll come up with some sort of marketing. I don’t blame the rodeo. I’ve had an incredible experience so far. Hopefully things will pan out and I can come back next year.”

8炫彩彩票开户The news of the rodeo’s closure was also disappointing for Walter Pye, president and CEO of Pinto Ranch Fine Western Wear.

“We put a lot of effort into buying for the rodeo and getting the booth ready. We bring people from our stores, but safety remains paramount,” he said.

8炫彩彩票开户Pinto Ranch, with locations in Las Vegas, Dallas and two in Houston, has been a vendor at the rodeo for five years. Pye had such high hopes for this year that he asked for a bigger booth to sell his women’s and men’s Western clothes, accessories and boots, hoping to add on to his usual 1,500-square-foot area. No such spaces were available this year.

The company has two weeks to remove all of the merchandise, Pye said.

“This is part of doing business. It’s unusual and disappointing, but this is business.”

diane.cowen@chron.com

8炫彩彩票开户joy.sewing@chron.com

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