After a two year break, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo came back in full force with all of the events that Houstonians know and love. I traveled a bit during rodeo season and of course shared with others on my trips about the events going on back at home. Folks were so confused about this concept that lasts about a month and what it entails. Back home, my followers had questions about joining committees and navigating the rodeo. So I decided to break it all down here with a Rodeo Houston Recap sharing all of the fun things from this year.
Who Goes to Rodeo
In a word, everyone. As someone who grew up here, I try to push away the common Texas stereotypes about us all being cowboys and riding horses everywhere. However, t here are moments where these stereotypes are actual factual and the rodeo is that moment. We all embrace it and enjoy the rodeo because it has a little something for everyone. You will see folks of all races, ages, urbanites, suburbanites and even tourists in town for the rodeo.
During the pandemic I joined the Black Heritage Committee, so this year was my first full year experiencing what it is like to be a rodeo volunteer/committeeperson (they call it committeemen, but I’ll use the gender neutral term here). There are over 100 committees within the rodeo each taking on different duties and having different requirements for their members. Some require members to volunteer a certain number of shifts during the rodeo, while others have a donation requirement and some require a certain number of sales.
Once you have met that requirement though, you receive a gold badge which gives you additional access. For one, gold badge holders are able to attend all of the rodeo concerts for free with a plus one. You don’t have a guaranteed seat and have to give up your seat if a ticketed patron arrives, but it’s still a pretty cool perk. The badge will also let you skip lines throughout the rodeo grounds. Badge holders can also gain access to the corral clubs for an additional cost. These clubs are basically a private lounge to grab discounted drinks away from the rodeo crowds.
To join the committees, you will need to become a rodeo member, create an account and then apply to the committees that you are interested in. The new rodeo season starts May 1st, so the closer to that date the better. Some of the committees my friends and followers recommended were the art auction, transportation, wine committees (there are five). You do have to apply for the committees and keep in mind that each committee may not be open to new members every year.
What to Do
Let me break down what the rodeo entails, cause it’s a lot. The rodeo usually kicks off the last week of February with the barbecue cook-off followed by weeks of rodeo concerts. Mixed in there is a lot of other cool stuff that makes it a popular attraction for all.
This is one of the biggest barbecue cook offs in the country with people traveling from all over to compete. It’s generally hosted on Thursday-Saturday. Guests pay a fee to get on the grounds (gold badges are free). With your entry you can go to the main tents to grab a BBQ sandwich, BUT the real fun is the private tents where they cater meals by the competing chefs. It is very difficult to get into these private tents though. Sometimes you can buy passes, but generally they are hosted by Houston’s big corporations and they make space for their employees. Within those tents though, you’ll eat some AMAZING food.
For the newbies, that bridge to nowhere over 610 hwy used to lead to our beloved Astroworld theme park. Since it’s closure over ten years ago the lot is used for rodeo parking. I’ve assumed that this is part of why people get so excited about the rodeo carnival because it is the rare opportunity to ride roller coasters and ferris wheels in Houston. During spring break, the carnival is crawling with every little kid (and teen) out on break. Keep that mind as you plan your trips.
Also, find someone on the carnival committee so you can get the half off passes before the rodeo starts. Helps you avoid the lines while you are there and also helps them meet their rodeo requirements.
This is the main event! With each concert ticket you get access to the actual rodeo which lasts for about two hours. This includes favorites like bull riding, barrel racing, the calf scramble, mutton busting and so much more. If you have never experienced the rodeo, I recommend coming early at least one time so you can see all of it.
For the concerts, no matter what your music tastes are, the lineup will include something for you. It generally leans heavy on country music, no surprise there, but the Go Tejano Day often features a Latinx artist (the scene in Selena with the maroon outfit is from the Houston rodeo) plus Black Heritage Night will also feature a Black artist. Outside of those days there are generally a couple of pop artists with wide appeal.
This year I went to see Khalid and the Bun B H-Town Takeover. Both were good, but that Bun B show was made for little ole me as someone who grew up in Houston. Watching so many great Houston artists get their flowers by performing on the rodeo stage was awesome andddd I got to do the Southside with 70k other Houstonians. A moment I’ll never forget!
As you can imagine rodeo food is a highlight for me! Rodeo is the time to get the good fired items and turkey legs. The carnival area has the most food vendors, but one year I got some fried oreos that were still frozen SO I stick to the ones that are closest to the NRG Center in the tents. These may cost a little bit more, but to me are the best. I always get fried oreos from Sills Funnel Cakes and also grabbed a Trill Burger from Bun B’s pop up. So dang good.
Other highlight this year is local favorite B&B Butchers opened a temporary restaurant on the rodeo grounds called the Ranch. The food was pretty similar to what you get at B&B Butchers but it was nice to be waited on while seated before attending a concert. During my visits it seemed to be packed so I would be shocked if they do not bring it back next year.
The Exhibition Hall
I made my way over to the Exhibition Hall for the first time in years to see the farm animals up close. Walking through the NRG Center you will get a chance to see the cows and other animals that are heading to compete for top honors. You can also enjoy the petting zoo with goats and llamas. They bring tons of pregnant animals to the facility for the rodeo so guests will get to see babies too. My fave animal experience this year was reliving my childhood watching the chicken eggs hatch and petting the sheep. I imagine some may wonder about putting animals on display in this manner, but if you are a meat eater this type of ag education ensures that the products we eat are safe.
Each year the rodeo gives out millions in scholarships to high school students. Some of this comes through the competitions. There is a art competition with local students. I also learned this year that there is a horticulture competition! On the animal side, the student that takes top honors for raising their animal often receives over 250k in scholarship money. Enough money for undergrad, masters AND a phd. If you arrive to the NRG Center at the right time you can see some of these animals shown to the judges. They also display the art work and horticulture in the NRG Center too.
The other big thing this year was rodeo fashions! Folks called it fashion week for Houston, so keep that in mind as well. Overall rodeo is family friendly fun that everyone can enjoy. If you live in Houston this is a must attend event every year and for those out of state, it is a great time to visit the city.
Hope this helps explain the rodeo and committees more, but if you have any additional questions please drop them in the comments.