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Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

April 3, 2010

As you probably know by now, I spent a long weekend back in Texas 2 weeks ago. I’ve been asked several times about the reason for my visit (as if I need one!), so I’m starting my backlogged posts with a post on what we were doing in Texas.

Rodeo 2010

Well, folks, I tell you this: it was for the last weekend of the 2010 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo dates back to 1932, and is now the world’s largest livestock exhibition. It serves as both an awareness tool, for promoting improved livestock and farm technologies, and as a scholarship program. The Rodeo has, over its long history, contributed $250 million to the youth of Texas, through a wide variety of competitive and educational programs.

Reliant Park

The Rodeo is held at Reliant Park, and as you can tell from the picture above, it’s MASSIVE. My family has been involved for years – Dad was a volunteer at the BBQ Cookoff for as long as I can remember, and we’ve always attended the Rodeo’s main events, both to watch the competitions (bullriding and the like) and to see the livestock show participants’ animals, lined up, clean, and ready to show off!

Grand Champion Goat (for Rob, clearly)

The day I arrived in Houston was St. Patrick’s Day, so clearly I had to have my green getup on:

Dad kept walking 15 feet away from me, pretending he didn't know the girl with the shamrock bobbles on her head. Silly Dad, of course I'm with you!

And of course I also had to wear my cowboy boots:

See Valerie? I do own cowboy boots. And to the rest of you, those are my hot Mom's legs in the leather pants, I would like to point out.

And here are my adorable parents in the “wine garden” portion of the Rodeo. (Yes, they have a wine competition. It’s agriculture too, people.)

Clearly I was destined for greatness, coming from these two.

Of note: the hat my father is wearing is called a “silverbelly.” Clearly they are popular among cowboys:

Rodeo Boys.

These are my dad’s friends. They are goofy, redneck, and HILARIOUS. Half of the fun of going to the Rodeo is hanging out with them and watching the madness unfold. The other half of the fun of the Rodeo are the events, including the ubiquitous bullriding (which I have no pictures of, unfortunately), saddle bronc riding:

Saddle Bronc Riding (think bullriding, on a horse, with a saddle)

Steer wrestling:

AKA Bulldogging, Colm's Favorite

and Barrel Racing:

Colm's actual favorite.

But my all-time favorite event has got to be the Calf Scramble. For this event, a number of kids (say, 30) are lined up around a white box in the dirt.

Calf Scramble setup

Then, half as many calves as kids are released into the box in the middle. At the drop of the hat, which signals the beginning of the Scramble, the kids converge on the calves, trying to catch one with their bare hands.

Former President George H.W. Bush dropped the hat for the last night!

This leads to a mass quantity of mayhem, as kids and calves are flying EVERYWHERE. The kids have to get the calf to stop running long enough to tie a rope halter on it, then they must drag the calf back to the middle of the field, crossing back into the box the calf ran out of. (Don’t judge my folkways, and I won’t judge yours.)

Sometimes kids get a particularly stubborn calf, so that good ol’ Texas hospitality comes through and they have to help each other out.

Push, kids! Push!

At the end of the event, those kids who have successfully rope-halter-tied a calf and gotten said calf back into the ring are awarded a scholarship with which they may purchase their own calf, to raise for competition in the next year’s Livestock Show (where they will compete, win, and auction the calf off for money to go to college on).

TexBob (aka the guy on the left) won the calf scramble when HE was in high school...and look where it took him! (Ahem, he was a fighter pilot and now lives the cushy life as an American Airlines pilot who flies intercontinental flights to places like Paris and Buenos Aires...)

Aside from the Rodeo, one of the things my dad has recently gotten involved with is something called the Ag Mechanics Committee.

This committee is in charge of orchestrating two main events for the Livestock Show – the Ag Mechanics Project Show, and the Job Fair for graduating seniors. The Project Show is held in a GIGANTIC hall:

Everything's bigger in Texas

where high school students from across the state present their handiwork. The gist of the project show is that these high schoolers, in teams, groups, or as individuals, build some sort of farm implement. They must keep track of the materials used, costs, safety equipment, and follow certain guidelines to ensure a certain level of quality control.

So everything you see here, from this hydraulic tilt table:

Built by the girl in white, along with one other girl and a guy

to this hot pink deer stand:

Built by 5 girls, being auctioned off for Susan G. Komen for the Cure

to this enormous machine for dipping cattle into an anti-tick solution (nowhere near close to the technical name, but give me a break, I’m a city gal):

Designed and put together by students, patented and paid for by the US Department of Agriculture

was built by high school kids.

Let that sink in for a minute.

This ridiculously long trailer that meets state requirements to make it highway-safe?

Built by some teenaged kids.

This entire room full of stuff? Including that tack room you see which had hand-braided rope accents (on the inside), fully wired with A/C and 12 million outlets?

Built. By. KIDS!

By the way, that tack room? Yeah. It was built by a bunch of freshmen.

What was I doing when I was a freshmen?! TRYING TO MAKE FRIENDS AND PASS BIOLOGY. These kids are amazing.

Aside from the novelty aspect, these projects are actually (in the pictures) being judged by various ag mechanics experts, who look at things like construction (meaning how things were constructed), materials, safety standards, and other bits and pieces to form a rubric for judging. Who are these expert judges, you ask?

People like my Grandpa, who have spent their lives working with their hands.


People like my Uncle Steve. He may look like he's taking a break, but check out that tape measure on his belt. He means business.

While the boys were all working hard (Dad’s Vice Chairman of the committee, so we kept hearing his voice over the loudspeaker, saying things like “Graduating seniors…The Ag Mechanics Job Fair will be closing in fifteen minutes. [So get your lazy butts over there].”), Grandma, Mom, and I wandered around looking at all the wonderful handmade projects, in awe of the talent and dedication these kids brought.

Me and Grandma

Also, maybe, we goofed off a little…

To find the Cupcake counter, clearly.

And then, yes, maybe we took a tour of the food court in search of funnel cake…

The Astrodome, the first fully enclosed baseball field!

But mostly we were paying attention. I promise.

After the competition wrapped up, the fam and I headed to a private box (ooooooh fancy) inside the Reliant Stadium to watch the rest of the Rodeo, and see Brooks & Dunn’s last performance.

I've always wondered something...

Which one’s Brooks…

...and which one's Dunn??

They played a great set, and my parents even got up and danced!

So precious.

Great times, Rodeo Houston, great times.
If you’re planning a trip to Houston in the next year, consider planning it around the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo! It’s well worth the trip, and I haven’t even begun to tell you about the food! But don’t worry…it’s coming.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2010 8:29 pm

    We love this post!!!!

  2. April 3, 2010 8:32 pm

    P.S. this is Mom 🙂

    • Cupcake permalink
      April 4, 2010 8:57 am

      Haha- ok – I was going to say – I promise I do not speak about myself in the third person and comment like that on my own post. I must have been logged in on your computer! Glad you guys enjoyed it!!! 🙂

  3. hthomson permalink
    April 4, 2010 2:11 pm

    The Rodeo is fun. But nothing proved to me that I’m not country more than watching the heifer judging. They were all parading by with the announcer saying things like, “Watch how well that one walks” and “Look at her *something*, see how it’s too big/small” I have never felt more lost.

    Hopefully I can get back there again. Maybe I’ll see you there!

  4. Lisa's Dad permalink
    April 15, 2010 10:45 am

    Lisa didn’t know that her Dad’s maternal grandfather supplied some of the bucking stock for the rodeo back in the early years. I wish he had kept that up.

  5. Anna Hollier permalink
    June 4, 2010 10:33 pm

    You forgot to talk about the mutton busting!!

    • Cupcake permalink
      June 5, 2010 8:04 am

      TRUE!! I think I ran out of picture space. That and I found out recently that Tice lied to me about having been a muttonbuster, so I was a little disheartened. 🙂

  6. filozima permalink
    August 17, 2010 9:01 am

    The Rodeo is fun. But nothing proved to me that I’m not country more than watching the heifer judging. They were all parading by with the announcer saying things like, “Watch how well that one walks” and “Look at her *something*, see how it’s too big/small” I have never felt more lost.
    Hopefully I can get back there again. Maybe I’ll see you there!
    Box Trailers

  7. Duane W. Farthing permalink
    November 1, 2012 11:49 am

    I am on the Rodeo’s Western Art Committee. We are developing new displays for next year’s show and one of them highlights Ag Mechanics. I would like to get in touch with your father if possible about obtaining some items to display. Have him contact me at if he is interested.


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