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***3/11/2020 UPDATE***In an unprecedented move, the city of Houston has made the decision to cancel the remainder of the 2020 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo out of caution due to concerns related to the coronavirus.
Dust off your boots! It’s Rodeo time!
The Rodeo comes to Houston this time every year. If you’ve never been, you are missing out on a ton of fun! We’ve been going forEVER, and there is so much to do. There are animals, concerts, carnival rides, petting zoos, food galore, and the actual rodeo.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the largest livestock exhibition and rodeo in the world. Attendance over the three weeks the rodeo is in town numbers in the MILLIONS. In 2017, attendance exceeded 2.1 million visitors.
The rodeo had a small beginning in 1932, running for one week and attracting 2,000 visitors. The Grand Champion Steer was purchased for $504. Compare that to last year, when the winning steer went for $410,000!! All the money goes toward scholarships for local students.
In the 1960’s once the Houston Astrodome was built, the rodeo moved to that location. I remember going to the rodeo and seeing many concerts in the Astrodome. Once the newer NRG Stadium was built, everything moved over there. We’ve seen everyone from Gladys Knight to George Strait to Rascal Flatts to Enrique Iglesius to Maroon 5 in concert.
The Rodeo has attracted top performers over the years like Cardi B, Elvis Presley, KISS, Bon Jovi, and Taylor Swift. Every year it’s exciting waiting to see who the lineup will include. This year’s performers include everyone from Lizzo to Willie Nelson to Keith Urban.
Everything kicks off each year with the Bar-b-que Cookoff, a three day event where hundreds of teams compete to see who has the best bar-b-que. This is the hottest ticket in town every year, and you can join thousands of other bar-b-que lovers eating to your heart’s content. Every team has their own secret recipe and method to making their signature dishes.
Another amazing thing that happens to signal the start of the rodeo is the Trail Rides. These are groups of riders who number in the thousands who begin making their way to Houston from all over Texas several weeks before the start of the rodeo. They come in groups, on horses and in wagons, traveling each day to make their way here. They camp out along the way, and they all converge in Memorial Park on Go Texan Day, which is the Friday the rodeo begins.
Traffic can get a little challenging when the trail riders are making their way into town, but they all look so awesome it’s kind of fun to just relax and watch them all come in. We live in a fairly rural area, and there are several trail rider groups who pass our way.
The Rodeo runs every day for nearly three weeks, and you can buy a ticket to the exhibits that gets you into everything but the rodeo and concert. You can visit all the animals, the carnival, and the food booths all for $15 for adults and $5 for children.
We used to take our daughter every year when she was little. She loved going to see all the animals and especially loved the petting zoo.
There are lambs, goats, tiny horses, and even an occasional wallaby. 🙂 It’s so fun to watch little kids just having a ball petting these endlessly patient animals.
Another popular stop for kids is the chicken hatchery. They have eggs under warming lights, and you can see the various stages of hatching. Some of the eggs are rolling around a little, some have a tiny beak trying to peck through, others have an exhausted chick who has just made his way out, and then there are the dry fluffy ones who have hatched and are having a good time. It’s so fascinating to see the different stages of the process.
Then there’s the food. Oh the food. Giant turkey legs. Bar-b-que. Cotton Candy. Kettle Corn. Burgers. Onion Rings. Food on a Stick. And fried EVERYTHING. Fried Oreos are just so extra you can’t even imagine. They are so gross in the best kind of way. 🙂
My favorite is the funnel cake.
Swirls of fried dough covered in powdered sugar. I allow myself one funnel cake a year and am never happier than when my face is covered in powdered sugar. One year I ate two because I also went to a county fair in the fall and couldn’t resist. 🙂
Here’s a list of all the decadent food you can gorge yourself on at the rodeo.
There are rides for every age on the Carnival Midway. I love whatever this ride is called because you go up so high and you can get a great view of everything.
There are ferris wheels and roller coasters and log rides and a tamer section for the little ones. You buy tickets for the rides separately from your entrance fee, and each ticket is 50 cents each. Each ride requires between 4 and 20 tickets, so it’s best to just buy a whole book of ride tickets.
When our daughter was little, she wanted to go on the same rides year after year. And go through the different haunted mansions and the Flying Dutchman house that ended with the children being covered head to toe in bubbles.
Then there are the typical carnival games, the kinds you hardly ever win, but still have to play anyway to try to win that giant stuffed animal. 🙂
Like the ring toss or picking the rubber ducky with the winning number.
There’s also abundant shopping at the rodeo. You should already have your rodeo gear on when you go, but if you happen to need a new cowboy hat, or a huge belt buckle, or new spurs, 🙂 you will have no trouble finding what you need.
Then there’s the main attraction–the rodeo and concert.
The rodeo comes first in the evening, with everything from roping to barrel racing to bull riding. I have always wondered why all the cowboys seem to have names like Cody and Colton and Ty and Dakota. Seriously. ALL of them have cool cowboy names. Do their parents name them that hoping they’ll grow up to be cowboys? Or because they have cool names they have to become cowboys? I just don’t know. 🙂
The bull riding is very exciting, with each competitor trying to stay on a very angry bull for 8 seconds. Sounds easy but it’s clearly not. Those bulls are MAD and not having it. On the news every night during the rodeo they have the Rough Ride of the Night, and feature the guy who had the roughest time with the bull. It usually involves getting thrown and/or stomped on.
I’ll tell you who earns their money and probably can’t get insurance. It’s the Rodeo Clowns. These are the guys in the arena who work to distract the bull if he is trying to injure the rider after he falls. They direct the bull’s attention to themselves. I admire those guys and wouldn’t want that job. 🙂
There was one legendary bull named Bodacious that was known as the most dangerous bull in the world. I saw him in person and he was spectacular. He was 1,896 pounds of full on rage in the arena and terrified every rider who attempted to ride him. He passed away in 2000 and there’s never been another like him.
Two of the more fun events during the rodeo event are the Calf Scramble and Mutton Bustin.’ The Calf Scramble can best be described as utter chaos. A bunch of calves are released into the arena, and twice as many kids from 4-H and FFA clubs each try to catch one. The calves are very spirited and are not interested in being caught. Watching these kids wear themselves out trying to catch one of these calves is so fun.
If the student catches one, they are given a $1,750 certificate to purchase a registered heifer or steer to raise and show at the Livestock Show the following year. In the years since its inception, over 21,000 students have participated and over $41 million has been awarded to them.
Mutton Bustin’ is maybe something you’ve never seen or heard of before. It’s an event where 5 and 6 year old children ride sheep and try to stay on similar to a bull rider. They wear full protective gear and helmets.
The sheep aren’t angry the way bulls are, and they don’t buck the children. They just basically run around the arena and the child tries to stay on. There is a little controversy around it every year, but I’ve not heard of a child or a sheep being injured, and the determination of these little kids is something to see.
After the rodeo event ends, then the concert starts. There are usually huge crowds for the concerts. We saw Maroon 5 a few years ago and there were nearly 80,000 people in attendance. Tickets for Lizzo’s upcoming concert this year sold out in 20 minutes. My husband and I saw George Strait many times in the 80s and 90s, but my daughter had never seen him in concert. He came back to the rodeo last year after many years away and we had to do some serious networking to get tickets.
So these are just some of the many wonderful things you can do at The Rodeo. The purpose of the event is good family fun, and great food and drink, and raising money for scholarships for students.
Everything you want to know about The Rodeo is available at rodeohouston.com.
It can get a bit pricey before it’s all said and done, with parking, tickets, food, carnival rides and shopping, but it’s for a good cause and like nothing else you’ll get to do elsewhere. So if you’ve never been, come rodeo with us. We think you’ll love it!
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