RGVLS Pushes Forward in 2021 with Revised Plans
The Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show is persevering through the challenges of a pandemic and the recent deep freeze of February in making revised plans to put on its 82nd edition.
The iconic event, which was started in Mercedes in 1940 and has never called another city home, will hold its spring 2021 edition in two parts. The first is the foundation of every show – the livestock and live animal exhibitions that are the projects of high school students from throughout South Texas.
The FFA and 4-H exhibitors from area high schools will be on the livestock grounds from March 11-21. The livestock show’s rodeo and carnival, for now, is scheduled to take place May 7-16, but that could change depending on progress made with vaccinations for COVID-19, and getting more area residents protected from contracting and transmitting the coronavirus.
The student exhibitors, along with their instructors and family members, must follow COVID-19 protocols to include mandatory masking to make the March portion of the livestock show safe. Attendance will be limited during the live animal exhibitions while that part of RGVLS meets its goals of students seeing their projects through to completion and earning revenues from the sales of their livestock.
“That’s our core mission, which is to educate youths in agricultural education,’’ said Mike Risica, the president of the RGVLS board. “The kids bring animals that are ready for market, so it’s important to move forward to get those animals shown and sold. It teaches the kids the responsibility and pride in producing a project while earning them money that can be used for their college educations.’’
A key in planning the two-part livestock show at different times of the year has been the livestock show’s partnership with the city of Mercedes. Communication with the city has been a must, Risica said, in adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols while pursuing the goal of making another edition of the RGVLS happen.
“I can’t say enough about how helpful they’ve been,’’ Risica said of city officials and staff in Mercedes. “The new Mayor Oscar (Montoya) has done a heck of a job for us and helped us get a game plan down. The city has been great advocates on our behalf.’’
The city and RGVLS have worked together to host a number of smaller events on livestock grounds during fall 2020 and early winter months of this year. The city has helped to guide livestock show staff through CDC safety guidelines regarding COVID, all of which has laid down a good foundation for the bigger events to follow.
Risica and his board and staff are committed to the March dates for the live animal exhibits. The rodeo and carnival portion is subject to change. The fallback position for RGVLS is move its rodeo and carnival to October if need be should vaccinations for COVID take longer than is expected.
“We’re going to follow the (CDC) guidelines and keep everyone safe,’’ Risica said. “We’re hoping things will be under control (with COVID), so we can have the carnival and rodeo in May, but if not, we’ll move it into October.’’
Risica, an Edinburg native, who grew up in FFA and had his children do the same, knows how important the Mercedes-based livestock show is to the Valley and the importance of keeping it going through current challenges.
“I’ve always said the livestock show is like the Disneyworld of the Valley,’’ he said. “Families save up the whole year to go to the livestock show in Mercedes. It’s a big deal to keep it going, following all the guidelines, which we will.’’
-Ricardo D. Cavazos