Houston rodeo brings neighborhoods together with livestock, music, fairgrounds


Emma Sutton / Hilltop Views

The NRG Stadium hosted this year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, opening it’s doors to many festivities and attractions for all ages.

A little cowgirl dressed in pink boots and a black hat sits atop her father’s shoulders as she licks away at an ice cream cone. She peers over the crowds of people; springtime is in the air as the tradition continues at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

 Running from Feb. 28 to March 19 at NRG Stadium, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo grants Houstonians and its neighbors the chance to bask in all things Texas. Watching show cows being blow-dried to perfection, looking at the most miniature pigs you’ve ever seen, or perusing the many stalls of friendly food vendors are just some of the things to do on the vast 1.3 million square-foot grounds.

Since 1932, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has focused on preserving the livestock industry and its practices. The rodeo promotes agriculture by hosting a fun-filled, family-friendly event that educates attendees by showcasing Western heritage and supporting Texas youths.

A considerable part of the rodeo is education. The rodeo works with the Houston community to foster education-minded events through the Future Farmers of America program. Over the past 91 years, the rodeo has committed over $500 million to education for young Texans. Each year, over 800 scholarships are awarded to Texas students. Many of the events at the rodeo raise money for students, particularly students participating in FFA and Texas 4-H programs. 

The FFA and Texas 4-H programs allow students to raise animals for the livestock show. The junior show exhibitors compete for the “Houston Champion” title, which is no small feat around these parts. Show exhibitions are highly competitive, and winners can be rewarded with considerable prizes. Rodeo goers can take a look at the prize-winning animals and bet on them; some show cattle can go for up to $1 million.

If the show is not your thing, there is plenty to do outside of the arena. One of the biggest draws of the rodeo is the food. RodeoHouston hosts its annual barbeque cook-off where more than 250 teams compete in the contest. Most team tents are invite-only, but the rodeo does its best to include everyone. Their array of food tents around the grounds entices the crowds with brisket plates, corndogs and powdered sugar-coated funnel cakes. 

 “I love the Rodeo because it feels like quintessential Houston,” rodeo-goer and St. Edward’s sophomore Julia Klein said. “My Rodeo snack has always been and will always be corn in a cup. It’s just like corn kernels with a scoop of butter, and then you get to season it how you like. So, I just load it up with Tony’s Chachere’s and salt.”

As a family-friendly event, the rodeo has many attractions for children. A fairground fully-equipped with a Ferris wheel and carnival games leaves no room for the boring. There are interactive stages featuring educational demonstrations like milking dairy cows and the birthing center, where people can watch newborn animals take their first steps. 

While most of the festivities — like the carnival and the livestock show — bring in a lot of visitors, the real kicker is the live concerts hosted inside of the stadium.

The rodeo has had a long-running relationship with the entertainment industry since 1942 when they welcomed “The Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry. Over the years, the acts have only gotten bigger and bigger.

The 2023 Rodeo lineup features various acts spanning different music genres. Country music stars like Chris Stapleton, Brad Paisley, and Luke Bryan are the biggest draws of this year’s rodeo. But for the non-country fans, The Chainsmokers, Machine Gun Kelly, and Bun B also performed. 

“What I love most about the rodeo is how diverse it is.,” Houstonian Isabella Scott said. “From the people to the food and the performers, there’s always something for everyone. It is the best time of year for Houston.”