SAN ANTONIO — Day One of the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo was all about preparation.
With the rodeo itself and entertainment kickoff off Friday, cleaning crews spend much of Thursday sanitizing the thousands of seats that will be filled during the 17-day event. However, this year's rodeo at the Freeman Coliseum is scaled back on every level. According to Lauren Sides, communications and public relations manager for the event, they haven't been at the Freeman since 2002.
"We are doing all we can to have a safe event," she said. "At the Freeman, it is roughly 3,800 (seats). We are under that 3,800 as of right now."
About that many people will be seated pretty much every night of the rodeo, beginning Friday. The seating will be spaced out; temperatures checks are mandatory, as are masks; and hand sanitizer will be available.
"We won't have any fair grounds, attractions, carnival," Sides said. "No shopping or food for the general public."
The only way to attend this year's rodeo is via a ticket or approved credential. She said most of the tickets are already sold out, because they were designated to season ticket holders.
There are usually 250 vendors ready to make money at the rodeo, but this year only 50 will be in attendance. That includes Sam Abweh, who owns Samsville Gallery.
"We are lucky," he said. "Very blessed for that."
He sells handmade jewelry and has been coming to the San Antonio Rodeo for nearly 30 years. However, due to the pandemic, his business has been hurting. He heavily depends on events like the rodeo.
But there are a couple of challenges this year for exposure, including a much smaller crowd and shorter operating hours.
"But again, we are here," he said. "And that means a lot."
The stock show portion of the event started on Thursday. According to Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez, a few verbal warnings were given to visitors—mostly reminders to those eating and drinking to slip their mask back on after finishing up.
Also, due to the inclement winter weather in San Antonio and the surrounding area, rodeo officials are keeping a close eye on conditions. They said the schedule could be shuffled around, if needed.