That distant rumble you may have started noticing in the past few days is the machinery of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo steadily springing to life. The world’s largest rodeo and the Bayou City’s biggest party is now 55 days away, running March 1-20 this year, with some important signposts along the way: Rodeo Roundup at Houston’s City Hall (February 23); World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest (February 25-27); Go Texan Day (Feburary 26); and Downtown Rodeo Parade (February 27). The grand marshal is TBD, but here’s a vote for newly begrilled UH football coach Tom Herman and his Peach Bowl trophy. Or maybe Astros ace Dallas Keuchel and his Cy Young.
As for the lineup, it will be announced at 12:05 a.m. next Monday, January 11. Of the 15 dates marked for country music this year (75 percent of the total), possible first-time acts could include recent breakout stars Thomas Rhett and/or Sam Hunt, and/or critical favorites Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves. The two pop dates could go to Shawn Mendes or Joe Jonas (maybe). The traditional Black Heritage Friday has been tweaked from R&B to Hip-Hop/R&B — J. Cole, perhaps? Rock is back on March 15, also known as the race to follow up Fall Out Boy. Panic! at the Disco? Cage the Elephant? Despite headlining the Woodlands Pavilion on July 5, Twenty One Pilots might be be a neat look. Whoever fills this year’s banda/nortena slots on March 13 will probably set a new single-day attendance record, again.
Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on Saturday, January 16 at the rodeo’s Web site, rodeohouston.com. The rodeo will indeed use the same AXS ticketing system as last year, and is bringing back the controversial “virtual waiting room,” which opens at 9:30 a.m. that day. Registering in advance is highly recommended; it’s open now at axs.com/rodeohouston_registration.
A few more morsels to tide y’all over until the chuck wagon comes:
*** Last year’s overall attendance was 2.483 million people — meaning everyone who came through the NRG Park gates — down a hair from 2014. However, the paid rodeo/concert attendance portion set a new record with 1.377 million.
*** Seven 2015 performances are now in the all-time Top 20 paid attendance, in descending order: Go Tejano Day with La Arrolladora Banda El Limon and La Maquinaria Nortena (No.1), Brad Paisley (No. 9), Ariana Grande (No. 11), Blake Shelton (No. 14), Florida Georgia Line (No. 15), Pitbull (No. 16) and Luke Bryan (No. 18).
*** Entertainment at this year’s World’s Championship Barbecue includes Bri Bagwell, Bart Crow, the Texas Renegade Band, Cameran Nelson, Kevin Fowler, Rich O’Toole, Cory Morrow and Pat Green.
*** The rodeo plans to give out nearly $26 million in educational grants this year, of which its more than 750 college scholarships for Texas high-school seniors make up about half.
*** Fans will be pleased to know the rodeo plans to add more bathrooms this year. New this year is an underground sanitary system built to service those bathrooms as well as the rodeo’s vendors.
*** The McNee Gate off Kirby will only be open to pedestrian traffic and emergency vehicles this year.
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*** Due to last year’s virulent avian flu epidemic that decimated the nation’s poultry population, there will be no male turkeys, or toms, at this year’s livestock show. The Top 100 female turkeys, known as hens, will be auctioned off instead.
*** The rodeo’s late-night honky-tonk tent, known as the Hideout, will be located in the Miller Lite Blue Parking Lot this year, south of the carnival on the west side of NRG Arena. The 2016 lineup is below.
March 1: Justin Van Sant
March 2: Trent Willmon
March 3: Aaron Einhouse
March 4: TBD (Black Heritage Day)
March 5: Jason James
March 6: DJ Red Ritch
March 7: Jamie Richards
March 8: Abbi Walker
March 9: Max Stalling
March 10: Zane Williams
March 11: Cooper Wade
March 12: Randy Brown
March 13: Go Tejano Day
March 14: JB and the Moonshine Band
March 15: Mark Monaco & the Strayhearts
March 16: Bri Bagwell
March 17: Cameran Nelson
March 18: Mike and the Moonpies
March 19: Josh Ward
March 20: Sam Riggs