Closures, cancellations announced as area’s Coronavirus cases spike

by Cristin Parker

As the numbers of cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to soar across Cherokee County and the state, many entities are opting to cancel events and close up shop, rather than tempt fate.


Organizers of Jacksonville’s annual Tomato Fest and the Tops In Texas Rodeo announced Wednesday, July 15, both events have been canceled for 2020, as officials with each event reported they have watched the progress of this pandemic and reached the conclusion to cancel this year’s festivities to keep the community and region safe.

“After meeting with Chamber leaders and city officials, due to the uncertainty of our ongoing and daily changes, it was determined to wait and celebrate Tomato Fest in June 2021,” Tomato Fest Chair Robin Butt stated. “Thanks to everyone that has put their many hours, money and volunteering into Tomato Fest as we look forward to Tomato Fest 2021!”

Both events – traditionally held in June -- had initially been rescheduled to September.

“It’s with much regret and sadness that the Jacksonville Rodeo Association has voted to cancel this year’s Tops in Texas rodeo,” Jacksonville Rodeo Association President Byron Underwood said. “We feel at this time, for the safety of all our volunteers and workers, our spectators, our professional contestants and officials, sponsors and other people involved we must cancel this year’s event.

“We will begin planning stages for next year’s rodeo soon and hope we all come through this situation stronger and better than before.

“Thanks for all the years that this city and community has supported our rodeo and we look forward to bringing you many more years of professional rodeo to Jacksonville.”

Event organizers said they’re looking forward to bringing both trademark events back when it is safe to do so.

The 2021 Tomato Fest is scheduled for Saturday, June 12, 2021.

“We are as heartbroken as you are but look forward to having an even better event in 2021,” Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce President Peggy Renfro said. “We would like to thank you for your continued support of our events and allowing us to continue these traditions for many years.”

Tops in Texas Rodeo will be held in summer of 2021.

The East Texas State Fair has also been canceled, despite Fair officials report, the Fair’s staff, volunteers and Board of Directors working tirelessly to put a plan into place to host the 2020 Fair.

“Frankly, we have a great plan,” Fair President and CEO John E. Sykes said Wednesday, July 15. “What has not cooperated are the current circumstances related to COVID-19.

“The trend needed to improve by now. As a result, in the interest of safety and health of all our partners, guests and staff, the 2020 East Texas State Fair will not happen.

“The extremely difficult decision was made by the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors because we care about our people and because we can no longer efficiently get all the moving parts into position by September. The East Texas State Fair is a mammoth event requiring extensive planning, contracting and reservations. Borrowing a quote from our friends at the Minnesota State Fair, we are out of runway.”

The Fair has been at its current location in Tyler since 1912, making this year the 105th official event. This will be the second time the Fair has been formally canceled and the first time since WW II.
“Please know we intend to remain true to our mission regarding youth and education,” Sykes said. “Our scholarship pledges will continue. We expect to have another tremendous Academic Rodeo.

“So, hang on until Sept. 24, 2021, and we will be back with a well-deserved celebration. Stay safe. Stay healthy.”

Other local events that have been canceled include Jacksonville Maiden Athletics’ volleyball and softball summer camps; and the Summer Fun Hilltop Jamboree concert at the KOA in Rusk.


Alto City Hall re-closed to the public on Monday, July 13.

“We are sorry for the inconvenience this may cause but the safety of our citizens and staff are our top priority,” the city’s website states. “The city of Alto will post updates as the are available. Thank you for your cooperation.”

The drive-through, phone lines and the city’s website,, remain open.

Wells City Hall and Municipal Court closed to the public on Tuesday, July 14.

“This closure is due to the COVID-19 cases rising in our county,” Wells officials posted on the city’s Facebook page. “Employees will still be in the office to help with anything that you may need. Bill payment due dates will not change. Please do your part to social distance.”

Residents are urged to call Wells City Hall, (936) 867-4615, with questions.

Water payments can be made by using the drop box or the city’s online payment system, printed at the bottom of the city’s water bills.

Both cities’ law enforcement departments continue to be on call. Dial 9-1-1 if you need emergency assistance.

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s office closed to the public on Tuesday, July 21, until further notice as well.

Chamber staff are still available telephonically at (903) 586-2217.