Events

16
May

Division II Women's Golf Championship


View Full Event Info »




16
June

USA Rugby MNT vs Scotland MNT

Saturday, June 16, 2018 BBVA Compass Stadium Emirates Airline Summer Series: USA Men's National Team ...
View Full Event Info »




View More Events

LATEST NEWS

Barbara Bush had unique presence on Houston sports scene

View Full Article »

Patrick Reed puts himself back into PGA Tour contention

View Full Article »
View More News Articles

SPORTS FACILITIES

Rodeo Houston never stops evolving

The huge Ferris Wheel is spinning outside NRG Stadium.

The smoke and aromas are wafting through the air as teams watch over their ribs, chicken and brisket and hope that one last dash of this or dab of that will turn a contender into a winner at the Bar-B-Que Contest.

txsn-logo

Sign up for the Texas Sports Nation Daily Playbook for exclusive sports coverage delivered right to your inbox.

You agree to our Terms of Use. Your information will be used as described in our Privacy Policy

 
 
 

Trail rides will be inching along a freeway frontage road Friday as they wind their way toward Memorial Park to rest before Saturday's parade.

 

And the next three weeks are packed - non-stop roping, barrel racing, bull riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, the carnival and a star-studded entertainment lineup that kicks things off with and closes the run out with a pair of bookend performances by the legendary Garth Brooks.

Yes, it's time once again for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo - aka Rodeo Houston - an event that is as much a fabric of this community as a friendly y'all, a plate of your favorite Tex-Mex enchiladas, well-worn cowboy boots, freeway traffic or our infamous heat and humidity.

It's been around since 1932 and became a tradition in what feels like the blink of an eye. What started as the Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exhibition that year just kept growing as fast as the city.

It outgrew and outlasted three different homes - the Democratic Convention Hall, which was razed in 1937; the long-gone Sam Houston Coliseum and the Astrodome - before landing at NRG Stadium in 2003. And it went from a cozy little event in front of 9,000 a night with celebrities like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in the early 1960s at the Coliseum to a record event attendance total of 2.6-plus million at NRG in 2017.

Notice a pattern here? It never stopped evolving.

Adding new wrinkles

Even now, just days before the Rodeo Parade and Brooks' opening show on a stunning new state-of-the-art Lone Star stage, the people behind the scenes are already making at least mental notes on what they can do next.

"We're continually trying to improve each and every part of the show,'' said Joel Cowley, president and CEO of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

This year's biggest innovation is the stage. The 48-foot diameter rotating performance area is eight feet larger than the previous stage, which lasted 31 years, and those star points extend out 36 feet and can be raised and lowered. There's a 28-foot-high video backdrop and - tip to tip - the stage is 126 feet wide.

"It's over 1,000 lights and it's a totally new presentation,'' Cowley said. "It makes it feel more intimate - even in a space this large. And it allows the artists to create a show that is uniquely theirs and allows them to be presented in a way which they are comfortable being presented. We think it's going to help us going forward in attracting the stars we want to have at Rodeo Houston."

The stage has been the pre-Rodeo buzz. Built by TAIT, which builds all the major touring stages, it gives the artists an immediate comfort factor and gives Crowley one less thing to explain.

TRANSLATOR

To read this article in one of Houston's most-spoken languages, click on the button below.

TSN - TEXANS

 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR PODCAST:
TEXAS SPORTS NATION

 

//www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/texas-sports-nation/texas-sports-nation-podcast//www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/texas-sports-nation/texas-sports-nation-podcast

 

Get insights, lively discussion and debate from Houston Chronicle sports columnists.

 

Podcasts 101: How to find them and how to listen

"With some stars that aren't familiar with us, they hear Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and they think we're going to roll them out on a hay wagon,'' he said chuckling. "I gotta tell you this is one heck of a hay wagon.''

And just the latest step in moving forward.

The first big changes to the event came all the way back in 1938 when organizers added the rodeo, the horse show and the parade. In 1942 they added the calf scramble and an entertainer - The Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry. The first trail ride and the first scholarship - $2,000 - debuted in 1952.

It exploded from there.

They continued to add events and committees and expanded the educational programs and commitment exponentially. This year, the organization has committed to 750 scholarships and a total educational amount of $26.7 million.

Over the years, the organization has added agricultural programs like agricultural robotics competition for students who don't have the resources to raise an animal, the art festival and events for special needs children. The committees constantly tweak menus and tents and parking and have also created events like the Wine Show, the carnival, and specific days like Go Tejano Day, Black Heritage Day, Armed Forces Day and First Responders Day.

Cowley, who has been with the Rodeo since 2005 and in his current position since 2013, applauded the vision of the committees over the years and noted they leaned heavily on research by the Kinder Institute as they evolved.

"I think it was in 2012, they proclaimed Houston as the most culturally and ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the nation and said if you want to see what the United States of America will look like in 20 years, take a look at Houston today,'' he said. "So we try and program what we do so we can attract a diverse audience. There is something out here everyone should enjoy.''

Extra meaning

One special day for 2018 is First Responders Day. "It will never be as meaningful as it is this year in the wake of Hurricane Harvey,'' Cowley said. "And we're going to do something very special with Rascal Flatts' first song that night."

Through the years, Cowley said, the rodeo's biggest constraint has been space. He pointed to a story following the 1938 event that said the air-conditioned Coliseum was a beautiful facility, but not big enough.

The organization out grew the Astrodome complex, too and, now, Cowley said, "we're bursting at the seams again. So, that's our biggest challenge - space. We're just having trouble accommodating everyone who wants to take part in what we do out here.''

He said recent plans announced by the Harris County Commissioners for the Astrodome renovation could provide over 300,000 square feet of column-free exhibition space the Rodeo could use in a few years.

Cowley routinely visits other rodeos around the country and those organizations come to Houston, too. This year, a group from Australia will be in town. They exchange and borrow ideas but one thing that will always be unique to Rodeo Houston are the 33,000 volunteers.

"No other festival has that kind of volunteer support,'' Cowley said. "We'll have shows come in say tell us how you do it. I usually answer that question by saying that we will share everything with you, but I'll be honest. I don't know that you can create this anywhere but Houston, Texas … There's something about this community - and I think other 501 c 3 (charities) in town will make the same observation - those who can't give money, give time.

"There's no place like Houston when it comes to stepping up and helping and working toward a great cause.''

And helping Rodeo Houston evolve.


{