Lockhart Chamber of Commerce cancels CTR
By Wesley Gardner
The Lockhart Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors announced on Monday that Chisholm Trail Roundup Rodeo and Music Festival (CTR) will be cancelled this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
CTR, held every year in June, is one of Lockhart’s most popular events, bringing in nearly 10,000 attendees to enjoy a full weekend of rodeo action, the homecoming parade, live music, food and business vendors and more.
According to Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Chairman Linda Haden, the decision to cancel the event was not made lightly.
“This is one of the toughest decisions the board has ever had to make,” said Haden. “We realized that fundraising was way less than it was last year because COVID-19 is impacting the finances of our community and our members.
“It’s respectful for [the chamber] to step back and say we’ve got a bigger issue in our community, so we want to focus more on what our mission statement is, which is to support them. By taking money from them, that’s not supporting them at all.”
Haden noted another issue the board discussed was planning.
“We can’t put on a festival in three weeks,” said Haden, noting the uncertainty regarding how long emergency measures could be place meant there was no guaranteeing things would be back to normal by June. “We had already spent almost $20,000 on deposits for bands, stages and tents, so we couldn’t wait until the 23rd hour to call and say, ‘OK, COVID won. We’re cancelling everything.’”
Haden said the chamber would recover most of that $20,000 by having the deposits roll over to next year but a few thousand dollars of that money is still tied up.
“We have a couple of wonderful people who have sponsored us, who said, ‘You know what, you keep that money and roll it into operations,’” said Haden. “We need to realize we’ve got some pretty amazing people out in our community who care about each other, which is nice.”
According to Haden, the cost of organizing an event like CTR is upward of $160,000. In recent years, the chamber has broken even financially on the event from money brought in, but last year, the chamber was able to make roughly $20,000 in profits.
The chamber should receive additional funding this year through Lockhart’s hotel occupancy tax funds (HOT funds) by acting as the city’s visitor center, but city officials say currently limited travel and hotel stays will take a chunk out of that funding.
Lockhart Mayor Lew White said that while it was unclear how much HOT funds would be affected, the decrease in hotel stays would have an impact.
“I won’t say drastic, but it’s going to be noticeable when you shut down the hotels for at least probably three months and you don’t know how long it’s going to take for people to start getting out to travel again and using those hotels,” said White. “We could see an effect through the end of the year, but hopefully not that long.”
Stephanie Riggin, who owns Wilson and Riggin Lumber and Building Headquarters with her husband Mark, said that while the cancellation of CTR was disappointing, the chamber made the right call.
“It’s a tradition that we all love, but we have to think of the greater good right now,” said Riggin. “I think it’s very courteous of the chamber because they do ask for financial help on this event, but they are not coming to the merchants right now.
“They know we’re already facing enough challenges that they’re not coming and asking [for funding], and I respect them very much for that.”
The Riggins have become famous in recent years for the extravagant floats they make for the CTR parade that are often based on movies or television shows. One year, they made an Indiana Jones themed float fully equipped with a rolling boulder. Another year, they made a giant Monopoly board and dressed everyone up as pieces.
“Will we all miss it?” Riggin asked. “Sure, but there is a greater good here.
“I’m so proud of our town and our leadership. They’re thinking of us — thinking of their citizens. It’s not easy to make those decision and I’m sure they’re getting raked over the coals for some of them, but they’re doing their best and I respect them.”
Mayor White echoed Riggin’s sentiment.
“I think the leadership of the chamber did the right thing,” said White. “They’re going to concentrate on keeping a presence in town the best they can and we’re certainly going to try and help them any way we can.”
Despite the setbacks, Haden said the chamber is still poised to carry out its mission of improving and strengthening the business environment in Lockhart.
Haden said she’s currently in the process of contacting each member to get a better sense of how the chamber can assist them in these unprecedented times.
“It’s an unknown beast we’ve got right now,” said Haden. “If anybody has something that we as the chamber can do to help, please reach out to me at the office.
“If I can get some kind of consensus, I’ll at least know where the focus is.”