After years of cultivating a barrel racing community, Llano is seeking statewide recognition as the Barrel Racing Capital of Texas. A bill granting the title is currently being reviewed by the Culture, Recreation, and Tourism Committee in the Texas House of Representatives.
In December, the Llano City Council signed a resolution formally requesting the designation be considered by the Texas Legislature. Since then, District 53 Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction) has written and sponsored a bill, which was introduced to the Legislature on Jan. 15. District 53 covers 12 counties, including Llano County.
If approved, the city would hold the title for the next 10 years.
Llano barrel races are held at the John L. Kuykendall Event Center and Arena, known as the safest barrel racing arena in Texas, according to arena and event center manager Ray Craig. In 2016, the center was awarded the Justin Boots Best Footing Award from the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.
“Most barrel racers here have become family,” Craig said. “It’s a competition, but it’s more than that.”
Craig said the designation would help draw more racers, event producers, and tourists from across the state, and even the country, to Llano. So far, the arena has 150 racing events scheduled for 2021.
According to Briley Mitchell, executive director of the Llano Chamber of Commerce, races are lucrative for the local economy. Each year, the city receives over $1 million in revenue from barrel racers and tourists drawn to the events.
“They come in and spend money on groceries, food, staying overnight,” Mitchell said.
In a recent Facebook post, Craig asked members of the community to support the bill by providing testimonials outlining how Llano barrel racing has impacted the city. Local sponsors, racers, merchants, and event producers can email letters of support to email@example.com.
“(The Texas House) is going to ask for them,” Craig said. “It helps support our case.”
In addition to hosting races, the event center offers barrel racers membership opportunities, allowing them to practice at the arena when it is not booked.