No doubt about it -- if you live in Houston, you must see the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo at least once. If you've seen rodeos elsewhere, then you're in for an eye-opening extravaganza, as this is definitely one of the world's largest. If you've never seen a rodeo before, be prepared to pick your jaw up from the floor.
A good time for all
The rodeo is one of the reasons that I think February is the best time to have your visitors in from out of town. Not only will many of them be in love with our winter weather (or lack thereof), you'll have a great time watching them watch people at this annual gathering of folks who call Texas home.
Even I, having lived here all of my life, have never seen so many cowboy hats in one place at one time.
Lest you think, however, that this rodeo is all about getting sawdust kicked in your face while surrounded by the smell of livestock, think again. How many can say they saw Sonny & Cher live in-concert in the Astrodome? OK, so I'm aging myself there, but the point is that Houston's Rodeo brings in the biggest stars, and not all are country singers. See the current list of performers here, and prepare to be impressed. (Heck, even Elvis performed here!)
In addition to hearing the stars come out at night -- or during family-friendly matinees -- you'll be treated to the frankly awesome talents of cowfolk as they exert more energy in a few minutes than most of us do in a week. After you've watched one of those athletes ride a bull, go and see the critters up-close and personal in the judging pens -- you'll gain a new perspective on the cowboy's mind.
The whole point to this event is not just to impress the visitors. The HSLR is a non-profit organization that contributes literally millions of dollars annually to scholarships and research. In 2011, there were scholarships awarded totaling more than one million dollars.
A variety of events
The Livestock (or Fat Stock, as it used to be called) Show is where you'll see youngsters leading gargantuan animals through the halls in hopes of receiving coveted ribbons and prizes. If your kids like looking at bunnies, chickens, goats, cows and more, they'll be delighted in the Livestock Show. Don't miss the Pig Races!
Other features of the event are shows by jugglers, magicians and demonstrations of crafts such as spinning and weaving. The carnival is a lot like the ones that most folks have seen set up in grocery store parking lots, but of course, on a much grander scale.
One big difference this year that all event goers must know -- because of nearby construction on Reliant Stadium (which can in itself be a thrill for youngsters to watch) -- everyone will have to be bussed in via Metro. Metro has been providing shuttle service from various outlying parking lots for years. This year, everyone's got to bus it.
As always, kicking off the three-week long event is the Rodeo Parade. Trailriders from as far as 400 miles and more came sauntering through the streets of downtown Houston, with a few spirited marching bands thrown in for good measure. Every year, the parade is such a treat. Kids used to get the day off from school to attend, as the trailriders arrived on a Friday that was aptly named "Go Texan Day."
To enjoy the festivities to the fullest, consider springing for some western wear -- this may be the one time that you'll feel left out if there' s not a hat on your head and boots on your feet!
Find out more
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Address: Reliant Center, 8334 Fannin Street, Houston Texas 77054