When out-of-towners (especially those from up North) land in Houston in the month of March, the traditional Texas stereotype comes to life. Many Texans sport their Cowboy hats and boots year round, but even more so this month, because this is the time that we celebrate Texas history. March 2nd is Texas Independence Day and on March 6th, we remember the Alamo. March is also the month of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. There is something special about all the pomp and circumstance that takes place on the streets of downtown Houston. It starts out with the trial riders and parade through downtown Houston. This year was a little different than years past and did not take place on Texas Avenue, but to me the old route will always symbolize the rich history of the rodeo. Texas Avenue is wider than other streets downtown. This was to accommodate the early longhorn cattle drives coming into town headed to the rail station.
There’s a long history behind the Houston rodeo. It started in 1931 when a handful of men had an idea to get together and have a “Fat Stock Show.” Each year after, the show got a little bit bigger. While the show was originally held in the modest confines of the Sam Houston Coliseum, it has since had several distinguished homes. I remember the first year it moved to the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Astrodome before finding home at Reliant Park, and when the king of country music, George Strait, thanked the Astrodome for hosting so many amazing years of Houston Rodeo by singing a “Cowboy Rides Away.” It is amazing to think that in 1931, a few men just wanted to show off their livestock and help educate people about agriculture in Texas. Today, their simple idea has turned into the world’s largest livestock exhibition, the world’s largest regular-season rodeo, top musical performers, and one of Houston’s most popular and profitable events. As a kid, I remember seeing Roy Rogers and Elvis at the Rodeo Spectacular.
The Houston Livestock Show provides an impressive economic boost. Last year, over 2 million people came to the Houston Rodeo. Aside from having a great time at the show, this pilgrimage to the rodeo draws people to our great city and boosts the boosts the Houston economy. The show alone brings in over $320 million and create over 7,000 full time jobs. That is something to be proud of.
The Houston Rodeo’s “founding fathers” in 1931 also wanted to establish a charitable event that provided for the educational and scientific advancement of Texas agriculture. They succeeded. Today, over its history, the Rodeo has given $330 million to Texas’ youth through scholarships, research, endowments, calf scramble participants, junior show exhibitors, school art participants and other educational youth programs. All the work behind the scenes is done by hundreds of volunteers.
A Texas-sized thank you to all of those who make the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo what it is today. The Show is the world’s largest livestock exhibition, world’s largest barbecue cook-off, world’s richest regular-season rodeo and the entertainment lineup is nothing to sneeze at either. This year, some music greats like Tim McGraw, Toby Keith and Dierks Bentley just to name a few, performed. Whether one is a volunteer, local Go Texan member, youth livestock participant, employee, organizer, sponsor or attendee – those contributions go well beyond the three weeks of the Rodeo. It’s a Western celebration for us in Houston, Texas. It’s almost like our Mardi Gras, just with boots cowboy hats. The rodeo is truly something for everyone. After all, it’s our cultural duty “to Rodeo Texas.” For there is no place like Texas.
And that’s just the way it is.