Fifteen minutes into the Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo Parade, the 6-year old girl sitting on the curb in front of us, turned and asked her mom, " Can we go home already?" It was not a good sign.
Hair Balls has been to more than a dozen Rodeo parades and they were all pretty much a happy blur of cowboys, horses, poop, and marching bands. This year was a little different. Sure, there were cowboys, horses, poop, marching bands -- and there were rodeo volunteers/officials in bright yellow jackets stalking the line make sure the kids kept their feet on the curb and no one accidentally stepped in the street. More officials were driving golf carts up and down the streets, delivering urgent messages to the people in the yellow jackets. (Hair Balls imagines these were something along the lines of "The clowns are fighting a block over, we're gonna need the medics" and "It seems the trail riders in the next group fed their horses beer for breakfast. Tell the cops to have their tasers ready.") And street cleaners stirred up quite a bit of dust every time they came by.
Given our 6-year-old parade watcher's rather unenthusiastic reaction, we decided to work up a report card for the parade and organizers.
First, let's start with the things the organizers couldn't control: the weather, the crowd and the overall parade vibe. As with any parade, the most important factor was the weather. For the Rodeo parade, it was cool and sunny. Although Rodeo organizers didn't have any control over it, we give them an A for the weather. Next was the crowd, which numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Because the weather was mild and there was plenty of room to spread out so that everyone could find a mostly unobstructed view, everyone was cordial and pleasant (no shoving for curb space like we've see at other parades). Organizers earn a B for this.
And then there's the parade vibe, the most intangible of all three qualities. The crowd was pleasant and friendly, the marching bands kept the volume well under the ear-splitting range and the trail riders were almost dust free. (Some of those cowboys clean up real good.) The trail riders kept things pretty calm, responding to screams and waves from the crown without being too raunchy rowdy themselves. Cops and Rodeo organizers were stationed every few feet, so safety wasn't a concern (if a stallion went wild, police officers with tasers were just a few steps away). As a family-friendly, Houston-proud even, the vibe was another B.
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Now here's what organizers could control: the glut of politicos at the start of the parade (Hair Balls loved that Sheila Jackson Lee, who was riding in a horse-drawn cart, did a beauty pagaent wave to one side of the street and and then did a little half-bow to the other side when spectators started cheering for her.) They were also in charge of the parade entries line-up and celebrities.
Spectators might not realize how very important the parade route is to the success of the event. It must be long enough to allow people to line the streets without being too cramped, but not so long as to make the crowd seem sparse. Or so stretched out that the trail riders and marching bands are dragging themselves along by the time they reach the end. You also don't want too many turns, trail ride wagons and marching bands sometimes have trouble managing those 45-degree angles. And you want to have the route end somewhere near where it started (no sense creating two separate staging areas). The Rodeo parade's route was perfect. Another A for the organizers.
Hair Balls thought the mix of trail-riders/marching bands/officials was a little boring. There's wasn't enough variety for us. There were too few marching show bands (some bands just march along, others do dance steps, have showy band leaders up front and play updated arrangements of popular songs -- we like the latter). And, while the politicos were thankfully kept grouped up at the front of the parade, there weren't any celebs spread out through the rest of the parade. Plus, there were entirely too few pom-pom girls. Hair Balls suggests upping the show bands, increasing drill teams and pom-pom girls. And would it hurt you to throw in a B-level celebs? (Hey, What's Lisa Hartman Black doing these days?) Organizers get a C here.
Total score: B+. Good job Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo Organizers.