DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused those in the land of Big Tex to cancel the 2020 State Fair of Texas, and that raises questions about the annual football showdown between the University of Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns.
After announcing the cancellation of the the fair, for the first time since 1944, officials said the conferences and universities that have events during the fair will be in charge of making decisions regarding the football games that occur at Cotton Bowl Stadium.
It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the #StateFairofTX will not open for the 2020 season. We can’t wait to welcome you back in 2021, in Texas-style of course, with the biggest and the best, “Howdy, Folks!” #BigTex For more info., please visit https://t.co/MUcfN1JeeF pic.twitter.com/OwCRTF3wmg
— State Fair of Texas (@StateFairOfTX) July 7, 2020
In addition to the ‘Red River Showdown’ between Oklahoma and Texas — which has been played at the Cotton Bowl since 1932 — the annual HBCU ‘State Fair Classic’ between Prairie View A&M University and Grambling State University also takes place during the State Fair of Texas.
The State Fair Classic began in 1925 between Texas’ Wiley College Wildcats and Oklahoma’s Langston University Lions. The game has been between Grambing and Prairie View since the schools moved their annual rivalry game to the Cotton Bowl stadium in 1985.
But officials with the State Fair still offered that prime real estate inside Fair Park should the schools choose to take the field in 2020.
Their statement said, in part —
“Should football be played this fall, the schools will be playing in the Cotton Bowl as scheduled, despite the cancellation of the 2020 State Fair. We will share those details as soon as we know more.”
It didn’t take long for Oklahoma and Texas to respond. Shortly after the announcement athletic directors Chris Del Conte of Texas and Joe Castiglione of Oklahoma both told CBS Sports that their annual rivalry game will not be impacted.
“We understand and respect the decision made by the State Fair of Texas and acknowledge that it was an extremely difficult one,” Castiglione later said in a statement. “Our hope remains that we can play the OU-Texas game at the Cotton Bowl, but obviously every aspect of our season requires constant monitoring and planning. The best thing all of us can do at this time is closely follow CDC guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus.”
In a release Del Conte said, “Though we certainly respect and understand the decision of the folks in Dallas on their cancellation of this year’s State Fair of Texas, we fully anticipate that our annual Red River Showdown with Oklahoma will be played in the Cotton Bowl and are continuing to prepare for that.”
Barring any changes to the 2020 college football season, which are certainly possible amid COVID-19, the Red River Showdown is still scheduled for Saturday, October 10 in Fair Park.
The Red River Showdown has been played in Dallas since 1912.
Last year the Golden Hat — the trophy given to the winner of the game — went to the No. 6 Sooners who dominated No. 11 Texas and left the field with a 34-27 win. But the Longhorns lead the all-time series 62-48-5.
As far as cancelling the fair, officials said they went through a “thoughtful and extensive” decision making process that included getting input from fairgoers, concessionaires, exhibitors, midway operators, and auto manufacturers to name a few.
Before and after the games, football fans always took to the midway and enjoyed their share of state fair food.
In response to the closing, Fletcher’s Original Corny Dogs — which debuted at the State Fair of Texas in 1942 — issued a statement that said, in part, “For 78 years, the Fletcher’s family has served their original corny dogs to attendees of the State Fair of Texas. While they are heartbroken that the State Fair of Texas will not take place this year, they take the health of their employees and customers seriously and understand the decision that was made to protect the public at large from COVID-19.”
More than 2.5 million visitors were expected at the 2020 State Fair of Texas.