For the first time in its 81 year history, the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show will end the festivities early, officially closing its doors to the public at 12 a.m. Tuesday after Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez announced the county would be issuing a seven-day disaster declaration Tuesday.

The declaration effectively prohibits gatherings of 50 or more people in an attempt to mitigate the potential spread of the coronavirus.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr. has scheduled a press conference for Tuesday at 2 p.m. to discuss the county’s response to the coronavirus.

The stock show is one of many Valley institutions likely to be affected by the declaration, which applies to everything except for school, institutes of higher education and businesses, which “are exempt unless you’re in the business of mass gatherings,” said Hidalgo County Public Affairs Director Carlos Sanchez.

After Cortez announced the declaration, the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show Board of Directors met and determined how best to comply with the declaration.

They agreed to comply and to shut down the show to the public at midnight, ending it for showers and judges on Wednesday.

Secretaries at the show began fielding calls from people asking whether the show was still on.

“Just for tonight,” the secretaries said Monday.

Word quickly began spreading from stall to stall.

“Did you hear?” showers told one another.

Stock show Board President Mike Risica said the board expected to receive an official letter from the county Tuesday morning.

“We’ve agreed with them on how we’ll evacuate. Bottom line is, as of tonight at midnight, we’re closing the carnival, everything. So tonight is the last night for the public. Starting Tuesday, they’ve allowed us to show the market animals, so we’re going to show all our goats and lambs, poultry and rabbits, and then we’re going to have our steers and hogs on Wednesday. It’ll be through on Wednesday,” he said.

Risica said that some showers in the breeding cattle category will not show and that the amount of people on grounds Tuesday and Wednesday will be minimal.

“They helped us with an extra day on Wednesday,” he said. “We’ll bring as few as people as possible.”

Risica said he regrets seeing the show close early, but supported the county’s decision on public health grounds.

“We totally agree. They’re the officials that make the decisions, and that’s their rules and we will abide by them,” he said.

According to Risica, ticket holders will not be eligible for refunds and showers will not be able to show their animals online.

“At this point we weren’t prepared for that and it’s just too short of a notice,” he said.

Risica said the cancellation will be the first in the show’s 81-year history.

“All we can do is regroup and get ready for next year, but it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s a tough deal.”