Houston Rodeo Guide: Something for Everyone at the Big Show

The Big Show is here again.
The Big Show is here again.
Photo by Nicholas Zalud

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has been an enduring success since it started as the "Fat Stock Show" way back in 1932. It has grown into an enormous collection of shows, auctions, exhibits and activities that has something for everyone. Whether you're a cattle rancher, horse rider, child, parent, wine enthusiast, live-music fan, foodie, thrill seeker, gardener or dog lover, there's something geared specifically to your interests. Here's just a small sampling of what's going on this year.

Recurring Throughout the Rodeo

Champion Wine Garden Champion Wine Garden, an annual attendee favorite, is a great place to hang out and try wines. Admission is included with an NRG Park admission or Rodeo ticket, but you must purchase tickets to exchange for adult beverages. The Champion Wine Garden is open from Monday-Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m.; Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; and Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.

Houston's Up & Comers Over in Kids Country, live bands just breaking into Houston's music scene are performing on The Statoil Stars Over Texas Stage. Check it out and you may find a new favorite. The music starts at 7:30 p.m. Here's the performance schedule: • Wednesday, March 4, Clayton Gardner • Saturday, March 7, Tori McClure • Wednesday, March 11, StarFlightRocks • Thursday, March 12, Abby Gough • Friday, March 13, Blake Anderson Band • Saturday, March 14, Amanda Loving

Upcoming Events

NOV Carnival February 26-28, March 3-22 The huge carnival, sponsored by NOV, is full of rides, games of chance and food on sticks. It runs during the World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest and for the duration of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. During Spring Break Stampede days, the hours are extended. The schedule is as follows: Feb. 26: 6 to 11 p.m. Feb. 27: 3 to 11 p.m. Feb. 28: noon to 11 p.m. March 3-6: 4 p.m. to midnight March 7-8: 10 a.m. to midnight March 9-22 (Spring Break Stampede): 1 p.m. to midnight, Mondays through Fridays; 10 a.m. to midnight, Saturdays and Sundays.

Value Wednesdays March 4, 11, 18 On Wednesdays, a $10 ticket gets you admission to both NRG Park and the upper-level seating for RodeoHouston. Enjoy superstar entertainers and championship rodeo action at a great value. For $5, gain admission to NRG Park only. (No rodeo or concert admission included. Seniors 60 and over and kids 12 and under get into NRG Park free on Value Wednesdays.) Other Value Wednesday deals include: • $5 off a purchase of $25 or more at any official Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo merchandise booth; • Value Wednesday pricing at various food and merchandise vendors. • From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., all rides, games and special food items in Kids Country Carnival are $2.

World Championship Bar-B-Que 
Competition February 26-28 Sure, let's face it. It's best if you manage to land tickets to the private parties in the tents, but even if you don't, it can make for a fun family night to buy carnival tickets, -listen to free live music at the Miller Lite Garden and get a free dinner at the Chuckwagon Tent. Grownups can drop by the Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon, relax on the patio or dance their boots off. (Be sure to buy tickets to redeem for drinks.) It's free to the public once you're on the competition grounds -- no tent pass needed.

NRG Arena Events

Cattle Auctions March 3-10 The series of cattle auctions aimed at professionals in the industry are being held in the NRG Arena Sales Pavilion, including the 48th Annual All Breed Commercial Sale, the South Texas Beefmaster Magic XV Cattle Sale and the International Brangus Associated Cattle Sale. It's a chance for ranchers to fill out herds and make some cash, and an educational experience for city slickers. Start times vary; check the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo schedule for more information.

Youth Meat Pen Rabbit Show March 6 Most people have no idea what a "meat pen" is and what that has to do with cute, fluffy bunnies. Well, some breeds of rabbits are meant to be pets, but other breeds are prized for their food characteristics. The challenge of the meat pen show, however, is not to write recipes but to raise a pen of three rabbits that not only demonstrate good traits such as muscling but are as similar in size and shape as possible. The show provides an opportunity for young people to learn about topics such as genetics and nutrition. At stake is $7,500 for the Grand Champion Meat Pen and $5,000 for the runner-up. The show starts at 10 a.m.

 

Paint Horse Performance, Halter and Showmanship March 11-12 Watch the beautiful animals registered with the American Paint Horse Association be judged on how they respond to their handlers in navigating obstacles, changing gaits and jumping over fences. Premium prize moneys are awarded in many classes, along with prizes for High-Point and Overall Horses and riders in their divisions. Past prizes have included saddles, savings bonds, belt buckles, saddle pads and directors' chairs. These early-morning competitions start at 8 a.m.

Junior Market Auctions March 13-21 Some young people who have worked hard to raise top-tier quality livestock will leave these auctions with a bright future ahead of them. From around the state of Texas, young people bring the lambs, goats, poultry and steers they have raised to vie for the Houston Champion title in each category. Through set totals of guaranteed premium payments, the show ensures a successful future for the exhibitor, while excess money goes toward sending another student on to higher education. The bidding starts at noon.

School Art Auction March 15 Art students Pre-K through 12th grade from more than 135 school districts submit their artwork to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's Art Competition, and winning art by high schoolers is eligible for the auction. Last year, a painting by a Spring Branch student auctioned for $210,000, a world record. The student received $37,000 to fund future college plans, and the remainder went to fund future Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo scholarships. The auction -- and the chance to change a young person's future -- begins at noon.

NRG Center Events

Celebrity Dairy Goat Milking Contest March 3 If you think it's easy to milk a goat by hand, you're either an experienced goat rancher or you've never done it before. It's a slow, messy process. (Even folks in the business use milking machines these days.) Watch Houston celebrities (including -Houston Press Managing Editor Michael Barajas) step completely out of their natural elements and try their hands at getting the most milk they can in a short amount of time. The results are likely to be hilarious. The fun starts in the East arena at 4 p.m.

Open Cattle Shows March 3-11 Ranching is big business in Texas and drives competition in the market. There's a different show for each breed, whether Beefmaster, Angus, Brahman or lesser-known ones such as Maine-Anjou, which originated in France. Shows start at 8 a.m. most mornings and take place in the Main Arena.

Ranching & Wildlife Expo March 3-7 The Ranching & Wildlife Expo educates attendees, including fishermen, hunters and campers, about the coexistence of ranching and wildlife habitats. In addition to wildlife exhibits, some interesting seminars on diverse topics are being held. They range from "Wild Game Preparation -- Venison" by Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse to "Providing Supplemental Shelter to Wildlife: Bluebirds, Bats, Owls and Others" by Diana Foss, an urban biologist with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. A special auction on March 6 at 2 p.m. in the NRG Center Main Corral Club includes hunting and fishing trips as well as outdoor trip opportunities.

K9s4COPs Hard Dog/Fast Dog Exhibition March 8 "K9s" is the term for dogs that undergo training for police work. Their acute senses of smell make them invaluable in assisting officers in searching for explosives, checking for narcotics and apprehending suspects on the run. The training is very specialized and can be expensive. The K9s4COPs organization formed to address the need for funding the purchase of K9s for law enforcement agencies. At 7:30 p.m in the Main Arena, attendees will have an opportunity to see the group's Hard Dog/Fast Dog exhibition and be amazed at these dogs' abilities to chase a heavily padded "suspect" on the run and safely take him down.

Lil' Rustlers Rodeo March 9-11 No matter who he or she is, every rodeo contestant goes through challenges. It's the same at the Lil' Rustlers Rodeo, in which the contestants, who have mental or physical disabilities, participate in barrel races with stick horses, rope "steers" of hay bales and ride plush stuffed "bulls." At the end of the event, there will be a lot of proud parents and happy kids who are perhaps feeling a little taller and stronger that day. The event takes place in the Tractor Supply Main Arena at 5 p.m.

NRG Stadium Events

RodeoHouston BP Super Series March 3-21 There are big cash awards at stake in this international invitation-only rodeo. The RodeoHouston BP Super Series has a purse totaling $1,690,000. Some of the best cowboys and cowgirls from around the world come to compete in bareback riding, barrel racing, bull riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping. The entire purse is provided by RodeoHouston and no entry fees are required from the contestants -- just the ability to hold on. Weekday events start at 6:45 p.m., and at 3:45 p.m. on the weekends.

Calf Scramble March 3-22 Year after year, the calf scramble proves to be one of the most popular events of RodeoHouston, and for good reason. Students are given the opportunity to catch a calf in exchange for a $1,500 certificate to purchase a registered beef heifer or a market steer. Then the hard part begins as the student is tasked with grooming, feeding and caring for the animal for a year. Both owner and animal return to RodeoHouston the following year for a special competition. Join the crowd in rooting for these youngsters in the Main Arena. The Calf Scramble takes place daily during the RODEOHOUSTON performance.

RodeoHouston Super Shootout March 22 This event has a huge total purse of $250,000. Rodeo superstars who are champions from other rodeos in North America compete as individuals as well as in teams. Competitors will show their skills in bareback riding, barrel racing, bull riding, saddle bronc riding and steer wrestling. Individual champions may ride away with a cool $25,000 payout, and the Champion team walks away with $12,500. The action starts at 3:45 p.m.

 

Pitbull is bringing his style to the Rodeo this year.
Pitbull is bringing his style to the Rodeo this year.
Photo by Marco Torres

Rodeo Performances

Rodeo performers run the gamut this year, from the Miami-infused rap of Pitbull to the heartstrings-pulling lyrics of John Legend. Of course, this is a rodeo so there's plenty of country music to go around, including perennial favorites Alan Jackson and Tim McGraw. This year marks hot pop star Ariana Grande's debut at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, as well as Eric Church, Fall Out Boy, Justin Moore and La Maquinaria Norteña. Dierks Bentley deserves some love, since this is the sixth year the country star has appeared. Put on your dancing boots, y'all.

March 3: Eric Church March 4: Hunter Hayes March 5: Miranda Lambert March 6: John Legend March 7: Alan Jackson March 8: Fall Out Boy March 9: Justin Moore March 10: Tim McGraw March 11: Brantley Gilbert March 12: Zac Brown Band March 13: Pitbull March 14: Billy Currington March 15: Arrolladora Banda El Limón/La Maquinaria Norteña March 16: Dierks Bentley March 17: Ariana Grande March 18: Florida Georgia Line March 19: Blake Shelton March 20: The Band Perry March 21: Brad Paisley March 22: Luke Bryan

Monday through Friday performances: Rodeo Houston® start time is 6:45 p.m., with the performers typically taking the stage between 9 and 9:30 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday performances: Rodeo Houston® start time is 3:45 p.m.; performers typically take the stage between 6 and 6:30 p.m.


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