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The Big Show Is Back: In the Saddle

Joel Cowley is ready to take charge of Houston institution.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is back in town, and this year there's a new pair of hands on the reins.

Joel Cowley, who joined the Livestock Show in 2005 as the executive director of agricultural competitions and exhibits, was named president and CEO of the entire operation in August 2013, and he has decided to kick off his term with a moment of retrospection.

"I'm a history buff. I really like to know how things came to be," says Cowley. "The Rodeo started off as a way to help the cattle industry...there wasn't a whole lot of organized entertainment. Now it's become a truly diversified event."

To celebrate the long and storied past of the Livestock Show and Rodeo, Reliant Center will host an exhibit that traces the event all the way from its origins at the Democratic Convention center in 1932 to its current location, more than 80 years later, in Reliant Park.

"The exhibit is about all aspects of the show, including artifacts from when it was founded and the way the types of livestock have changed since it began," says Cowley.

Among the new events that will be joining the show's lineup are an addition to the Breed Row Barn called the We're Small Y'all Barn, a Tour of Texas exhibit, a demonstration of rain-harvesting techniques and a fishing exhibit.

"The We're Small Y'all Barn is pretty much the same as the Breed Row Barn, only miniaturized," says Cowley of the feature, which will house miniature breeds of everyday farm animals.

At the Tour of Texas, visitors will be able to walk through a museum-style representation of all the geographic regions of the state and learn how each area and its wildlife and flora play a role in Texas agriculture.

"When you think about how large Texas is, there's so much diversity from one part of the state to another. I don't think people comprehend it until they actually see it," Cowley says.

The rainwater-harvesting exhibit will include a fully functioning scale model of a rain-catch system, as well as an explanation of how rainwater is put to use after it has been collected. The fishing exhibit will teach visitors about the important role fishing plays in agriculture and how it affects the Texas economy.

The most exciting attraction, however, is the musical performances, Cowley says.

"Our entertainment lineup is amazing this year. There is a lot of country and western music, because we are here to celebrate western heritage, but I really think that we have something for everyone."

All that stands in the way of record-breaking ticket sales is the unpredictable weather that has been seen in most areas of the United States the past few months.

"The weather hasn't impaired us so far," Cowley says, "but it is the one unknown. If we get good weather, it's shaping up to be a truly outstanding show this year."

 
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