As a ten-year-old Yankee transplant to Houston in the mid-70s, the strangest cultural tradition I encountered (outside of the delicacy called Frito pie) was the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Parade of cowboys, Stetsons and Dolly Parton lookalikes that signaled the kickoff of the rodeo. For two weeks, I would give my goombahs back home reports of record-size pigs from the local nightly news. Since then Ive learned that rodeo time is an integral part of Houstons cultural fabric, even if these days, more people are interested in seeing Hannah Montana than the steer-wrestling semifinals. The 2008 celebration kicks off with the annual parade, marking the marchs 70th anniversary. Original parade organizers envisioned something with the pomp and ceremony of a Roman holiday presumably without the Christian-eating lions. Today the parade is made up of thousands of cowboys and cowgirls on horseback, marching bands, decorated floats and giant balloons (oh, and the occasional hay bale hottie). Baseball legend Craig Biggio is this years grand marshal. Hey, its the rodeo everyone wants in on the act. 10 a.m. The parade route begins at Smith and Texas, and ends at Walker and Bagby. For information, call 832-667-1000 or visit www.rodeohouston.com. Free.
Sat., March 1, 10 a.m., 2008