Houston 101

Behind the Scenes Movers and Shakers at RodeoHouston

Cat Lift Truck provides services - pro bono - for the entirety of the Houston Rodeo. The money saved by this donation ends up as scholarships for future college students.
Cat Lift Truck provides services - pro bono - for the entirety of the Houston Rodeo. The money saved by this donation ends up as scholarships for future college students. Photo by Frank White
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is in no short supply of superstar moments. This year alone, Houstonians have seen the resurgence of Garth Brooks, the adorable Muttin’ Bustin, and those lip-smack-worthy turkey legs.

There’s one behind-the-scenes superstar many might not know about, though, who makes the entire rodeo experience glide smoothly. Cat Lift Truck provides construction and moving services for the rodeo, and they are the movers (literally) and shakers who keep all the operations running seamlessly throughout Houston’s most notable event. (Sorry, OTC, the rodeo's got you beat on this one.)

Cat Lift Truck transports everything from the ice and soft drinks to the animal cages and stage pieces for the sparking new star-shaped stage, and it's no small order.

"The rodeo has over 100 committees. Everything from the BBQ to wine to livestock to the concert performance committee. They all have different needs. They have to haul food and beverages around, the barricades for traffic control and port-o-potties. If you see it on the ground, it happened by us," said Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Cat Lift Trucks Kent Eudy.

Here's some numbers to consider: The company has been an official partner with the rodeo for the last 14 years. The company volunteers more than 150 vehicles each year The company unloads more than 350 truckloads of carnival equipment. They move steel fences and gates for pens for more than 32,000 livestock and horse show entries.    The trucks can lift up to 26,500 pounds The trucks cover more than 260 acres of land and ten trucks are left after the show's over to help with teardown.

Need we mention this is the largest rodeo in the world? So, of course, this requires planning and logistical strategy months in advance. The entire crew goes through a training starting in January before they ever set foot — or tractor wheel — on the rodeo grounds.

Safety is paramount, he says. "Forklifts are an industrial piece of equipment. You don’t want them being used around a lot of people. It can be a dangerous situation. A lot of times, the truck works in reverse, and the rear visibility isn’t conducive. Rodeo does a great job of keeping the attendees away from the working areas." Well before the rodeo season, Cat Lift Truck's local dealer, Darr Equipment, works closely with each rodeo committee to ensure that the proper range of lift truck models are provided based on their specific needs. The parent company of the group, MCFA, also gives the thumbs-up of approval. It's a joint effort from the top of the company to the local level to aid in the event.

"Ice, food, beverages, bedding and pins for the animals...that’s what the forklifts do. We work with those 100 committees and determine what size forklift they need. Some [freight] could weigh 25,000 pounds, and some could weigh 50 pounds. Once we go through that process, we’re able to spec out the right forklifts for them," Eudy said.

The result is that at any given moment, 60 to 80 truck lifts are in operation transporting everything from beverages to bovines with the remaining trucks held on standby. The other result is that the moving equipment - which is all volunteered - saves the Rodeo from having to pay for the service from an outside vendor.

"Before us, the Rodeo was paying $1 to $2 million per year. By donating the moving services, we saved the rodeo that much money that they can instead use for scholarships," Eudy told the Houston Press. "Cat Lift Truck is a big employer, so we sponsor a scholarship program where we offer two $5,000 scholarships per year. One goes to a Spring Branch ISD student, and we do it by identifying someone who is going to a business or engineering study. Based on the results, we award a scholarship each year at the rodeo, too," he said.

At current count, the company has awarded more than $115,000 in scholarships to local students. Be sure to check out RodeoHouston before it closes out at the end of this week, and take a moment to recognize the behind-the-scenes work that makes it all look so easy.
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd