It's time once again to don your hats, boots, and bolo ties and dive into a delicious combination of music, artery-clogging cuisine and unparalleled athleticism, all with a healthy dash of education and philanthropy, because the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is back in town, and it promises to be bigger and better than ever before.
RECURRING THROUGHOUT THE RODEO
(February 27-March 23 unless otherwise noted)
This carnival brings great exhibits and rides that families love to experience again and again, including La Grande Ferris wheel, carousels, roller coasters and the Sky Ride gondola. Tasty food of an unhealthy and often fried nature will be offered in abundance, and games that can confound or please will be waiting for someone to step up with tickets. The carnival has shorter hours for the first few days of the Rodeo and will be open from 6 to 11 p.m. on February 27, 4 to 11 p.m. on February 28, noon to 11 p.m. on March 1, and 1 p.m. to midnight every weekday thereafter. On weekends, the Carnival is open from 10 a.m. to midnight.
An educational place for anyone who wants to learn more about the flora and fauna that go into making the Rodeo what it is, this large and lively exhibit can be found in Reliant Center Hall A. Visitors can see and learn about livestock; farm animals both full-size and miniature; bees busily buzzing about; and all manner of machinery and workmanship found on a farm, including a new exhibit on rainwater harvesting and an overview of the different climate regions of Texas. Entry is free to all exhibits. This event is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Champion Wine Garden
An enduring fixture of the fair, this garden is located on Carruth Plaza and open from afternoon or early evening until 11 p.m. It has singular landscaping guaranteed to draw the eyes of weary passersby and is sure to offer a moment of comfort and fine wine to anyone who enters. Drink tickets for wines from this year's Champion Wine competition will be available for purchase for a taste, a glass or a bottle. The garden also hosts live musical performances and twice-daily seminars at which wine-tasting veterans and novices alike can learn more about wine and how to appreciate it. The seminars will cover different topics every day, but tickets are required to participate, so be sure to plan ahead.
The Hideout is a special little musical corner of the grounds meant for country and western lovers age 21 and over. Opening at 6 p.m., this tent will be home to plenty of performers with a bent for the simple life.
A kid-friendly section of the Rodeo set aside for the smaller cowboys and cowgirls, this pint-size carnival includes events such as the Kids Pedal Tractor Pull, Mutton Bustin' and Pig Races. It will also have certain staples, including a petting zoo; an old-fashioned carousel; pony rides; camel rides; a zip line for kids who want a high-flying view of the fair; the educational "fun on the farm" exhibit, in which kids can help out with farm chores and observe goats in their daily lives on Goat Mountain; and a stage devoted to entertainment that will host the amateur singing contest called Rodeo Rockstar as well as up-and-coming Houston-area stars. Kids Country closes an hour earlier than the rest of the Rodeo attractions.
Kids Pedal Tractor Pull
Part of Kids Country, this event is open to children ages four to 12 and gives them the opportunity to participate in a pedal-powered tractor pull. It takes place several times a day, weekdays and weekends alike.
This fluffy little event gives groups of five- and six-year-olds the opportunity to try their hand at braving the bucking of a bouncing sheep for the interminable period of eight seconds. As a safer and cuter alternative to the adult version, it will be available every hour to all who swing by Kids Country during the day and every night to those who come for the Rodeo itself. To be eligible to participate, children must not weigh more than 55 pounds; each ride costs $15.
Watch tiny piglets with punny names compete against each other in full racing colors, as well as an aquatic performance by an especially talented pig. The races are staged in Kids Country and take place all day, every day on an hourly basis from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
March 11 and 18
Kids and young adults hoping to launch a career in music have entered this amateur singing competition for a chance to perform on the Statoil Stars Over Texas Stage. The junior event will include children from ages six to 15, and the youth event will include hopefuls from ages 16 to 21. The preliminary competition takes place on March 11, and the finals will take place on March 18, with the younger group appearing at 5 p.m. and the older group following them at 6 p.m.