DALLAS — A day after thousands of seasonal employees, concessionaires, and vendors learned the State Fair of Texas will not happen this year, organizers say they are still considering salvaging as much of the Texas tradition as they can.
Among those waiting for any update is Rose Landin, a constant presence in a State Fair information booth for the last two decades. She also turns 102 years old next Wednesday.
"I'm doing real well," she said.
"If they say the gates are open, I'd be the first one there," she joked in a video conference call arranged by her daughter.
"But it has to be," she said of the decision to cancel the fair this year due to the threat of COVID-19. "I think it's for the good of everybody."
She is among the more than 7,000 seasonal employees losing fair jobs this year and a chance to serve more than 2.5 million people over the course of 24 days.
"Canceling of the state fair for 2020 is a tremendous impact on our family," said Jerome Garza, who has run concessions like Ranchero Norteno and Ranchero Deep Fried Love for the past 36 years.
But even though it means his more than 100 employees will not get the added state fair income this year and that he will lose out on more than six-figures, he says he understands why he won't get to operate year 37 at the fair.
"What we're looking at is number one, has the fair made the right decision? Yes, they have," Garza said. "I think for the safety of everyone for the safety of our employees and the customers coming in, they have made the right decision."
But there is a slight glimmer of hope.
While a spokesperson for the state fair says they remain committed to their scholarship programs and their support of more than 60 organizations throughout south Dallas, including their urban farms program, they say discussions are still underway about potential food vendor events. They are considering safe, socially-distanced and even drive-thru food-tasting type events that other fair organizations have tried throughout the United States.
And they are studying possible adaptations to the the livestock auctions and shows, a popular source of income and achievement for FFA students across Texas, that might allow the events to happen in some way.
"Our goal is to figure out some form of auction or live show and a way to do the competitions for the kids," said Karissa Condoianis with the State Fair of Texas. "The piece that comes along with this that is also an aspect of the fair is what will we be allowed to do? How can we safely do this? So, we're investigating and researching all potential options there."
As for Landin, she says don't worry about her. She'll be ready for next year if she can. It's the vendors and the kids she worries about most.
"And I feel for them. I wish I could help them," the nearly 102-year-old state fair institution said. "I feel for everybody. But I hope that next year will be better."
Better, hopefully with COVID a distant state fair memory too.