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In those binders, Shafer and his staff have determined that entertainment is the top reason someone elects to buy a rodeo ticket roughly 55 to 70 percent of the time, though superstars like Strait or Miley Cyrus can push that figure as high as 80. This makes the talent Kane books a critical part of the rodeo's success. (Season-ticket holders and committee volunteers account for 72 percent of an average night's crowd, the rodeo says, leaving around 20,000 seats to the general public per show.)
One of the main questions the rodeo asks its audience is which entertainers they would like to see the next year. Even still, that leaves Kane with a relatively small talent pool to work with. This day and age, few entertainers in country music or any other genre can draw the kind of mass crowds the rodeo needs for even an almost-full house.
So he starts early, usually in early summer when the survey results start coming back, and works from a list of about 40 names he hopes to have narrowed down to the final lineup by Thanksgiving. (It's 22 performers this year, minus the Strait show.) And, unfortunately, the budget precludes making an offer to a Madonna or a Rolling Stones.
Kane also has to walk a fine line between who's available and who's appropriate. Even something like Spring Break, which became a factor when the rodeo moved into Reliant Stadium and a week or two further into the year, can complicate artists' availability. The rodeo has had great success recently with crossover acts such as KISS, Kid Rock and the Black Eyed Peas, but Kane has to make absolutely sure they agree to give their G-rated, "state fair or festival" presentations.
Still other artists test through the roof with rodeo audiences, but other factors come in.
"Carrie Underwood is the hottest country star that we've never had at our show; it drives our people crazy," Shafer says. "All those little cute animals that those kids show are market animals. They're going to slaughter. She's got an issue with that. She's a vegan.
"We all know that," he adds. "That's her preference, that's fine, but that's a star you'll never see on this stage that we would love to have."
But other than that, the rodeo has learned to never say never. Except about one thing.
"Not performing a show is not acceptable," says Shafer. "It's just not acceptable."
February 25: Toby Keith
February 26: Gary Allan
February 27: Alan Jackson
February 28: Zac Brown Band
March 1: Mary J. Blige
March 2: Brantley Gilbert
March 4: Styx
March 5: Lady Antebellum
March 6: Dierks Bentley
March 7: Bruno Mars
March 8: Tim McGraw
March 9: The Band Perry
March 10: Julion Alvarez/Los Invasores de Nuevo Leon
March 11: Jason Aldean
March 12: Kenny Chesney
March 13: Jake Owen
March 14: Pitbull
March 15: Blake Shelton
March 16: Luke Bryan
I have seen 4 of George's 20 shows at the Rodeo but my first George Strait concert was the last day of the Illinois State Fair in 1983 (Free day) and he OPENED for the Bellemy Brothers. I took my Grandma with me to the fair that day and we had a BLAST. She loved George Strait.
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