Hawkins High School 4G Honey Team members stand for a photo with NBC correspondent Kerry Sanders, center, Cheryl Conaway, quality assurance officer at Nestle Waters, left, and agriculture teacher Matt Byrd, front, after their live appearance on the “Today” show during a remote broadcast from the school gym on Dec. 6. Pictured, from left, are Conaway, Rachel Parish, Brook Goddard, Sanders, Mackenzie Rutherford, Byrd and Jessica Henneous.

Senior Jessica Henneous said she and her fellow Hawkins 4G Honey beekeeping teammates just completed their project when they heard the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was canceled.

Houston officials called off the rodeo and livestock show Wednesday due to concerns of the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Texas Tribune.

“I’m really bummed out that it’s canceled, but I understand because they don’t want any potential cases to spread around,” Henneous said.

Henneous and her beekeeping teammates Brook Goddard and Rachel Parish, both juniors, and senior Mackenzie Rutherford were featured on the “Today” show in December for their large honey-making operation, which began from a bee infestation at the Ozarka Spring Water factory in Hawkins.

In 2019, they won overall reserve champion in showmanship award at the Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show. The team was seeking to compete again for grand champion.

During spring break, the beekeeping team was working 14 hours a day. When school was in session, they spent four to five hours after the school day, Henneous said.

“It really sucks knowing that I don’t get to go,” Henneous said. “I hope they continue to go and put Hawkins on the award screen.”

Rutherford said it’s sad to not have the opportunity to compete again at Houston. She was working on the project every day for the past few months, including before and after school and during school holidays. She does understand the need for safety.

“Our spring break has pretty much been at the ag shop,” Rutherford said. “I understand you don’t want people getting a virus.”

Hawkins ISD agriculture teacher and FFA adviser Matt Byrd said the agriculture students are hurting but intend to move forward for Houston next year.

He and some of the agriculture students were preparing to leave for the show later this week.

There were 40 Hawkins students, including eight seniors, who were set to compete in the livestock show, Byrd said.

“They won’t get to experience it during their senior year,” he said. “It was a shock to say the least. They put so much time into it for it to be canceled without warning.”

Byrd said he and students are trying to regroup and decide where to go next. They haven’t heard any plans of rescheduling yet.

Byrd and the students had no idea that the show would be cancelled until Tuesday, and they watched the live announcement from the Houston mayor.

While he respects their decision to cancel, Byrd wishes it could have happened sooner because the team already made hotel and restaurant reservations.

“We hate it for our kids, but it’s their way of keeping it safe,” he said.

The FFA’s next stop will be the Wood County Junior Livestock Show from April 2 to 4 at the Golden Sweet Potato Festival Grounds in Golden.


I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.

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