For native Houstonians, the rodeo is a tradition we grew up with; and while it’s changed a great deal over the years, there are some things that always stay the same. That said, the things we hate to love are usually the very reasons we come back year after year.
On March 16, 2013, Luke Bryan performed at the RODEOHOUSTON BP Super Series Championship and broke the single day total attendance record with 174,507 attendees. The 2014 rodeo season promises three more weeks of great performances from stars like Jason Aldean, Usher and Blake Shelton to name a few. We can also rest assured there will be plenty of fried food, wranglers and expensive booze, along with a whole slew (get it?) of other events, items and games we consider awful and amazing at the same time.
These are the top ten things Houstonians hate to love about the livestock show and rodeo:
#1. BBQ cook off hangover: One of our most beloved Houston Rodeo traditions starts before the performers ever take the stage. Each year the rodeo kicks off its first weekend with the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest , where more than 300 teams compete to earn bragging rights for the best BBQ in the world.
Meanwhile, cook-off attendees compete to see who can guarantee the biggest hangover on Monday morning. Yes, for those of you who aren’t native to Texas, copious amounts of bar-b-que’d beef, pork and chicken are likely to slow you down for at least a week. And let’s face it; spending half the day at the Crown Royal tent didn’t help either.
#2. Expensive booze: Speaking of drinks, it wouldn’t be the rodeo without ice-cold beer. But be prepared to pay for it. If beer isn’t for you, many vendors sell various liquors and wines, as well as those famous margaritas that are bigger than your head.
Most importantly, plan ahead for a designated driver. Houston Police Department has already announced their “No Refusal” policy for the duration of rodeo season. And besides, drinking and driving is stupid especially in a city with a 90% vehicle ownership rate.
#3. The carnival: The carnival is coveted by all children who have ever attended the Houston Rodeo, and therefore despised by most of their parents for a couple legitimate reasons. One, the carnival tickets will cost you an arm, a leg and a pair of boots. (On the other hand, it may be your only option when little Sally gets tired and starts throwing a tantrum.) Two, if little Sally doesn’t wait long enough after devouring that corndog, the Tilt-a-Whirl will win, and you will be left to clean up the mess. Of course, these problems are potentially avoidable, and you can always check out the half price carnival packs here .
#4. Fried, bacon-wrapped, on a stick: If your New Years resolution included any sort of weight loss goals then check this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJXSkt7Vl1I&t and you may as well give them up before you enter the rodeo gates or consider packing a sack lunch. Turkey legs were once the reigning kings of the rodeo food tradition, but somehow the demand for all things fried, on a stick, and bacon wrapped has taken over.
The Gold Buckle Foodie Award judges dive into eight different food categories and vote to choose the best and worst in each. A few standouts this year include bacon wrapped turkey legs, Fletcher’s corndogs, Stubby’s cinnamon roll pancakes and Custom Confections’ fried bananas foster. If you plan on going all out at the Houston Rodeo this year, check out the full list of award winners here . And for those of you looking for something classic with a bit of a spin, try out the double decker strawberry whip cream funnel cakes.
# 5. Live animal birthing center: In Hall A of Reliant Center you can experience AGventure, a gigantic exhibit featuring almost every species of livestock. This educational journey usually includes walking around dodging cow pies, but now you and your loved ones can see the miracle of life at the animal birthing center. Your kids will be mesmerized; but for the adults, the most exciting part of this AGventure is watching the faces of other adults gathered around the birthing center. We prefer to leave those sights and smells to the imagination.
#6. Rodeo smells: Speaking of the senses, yours will be coming alive from the moment you enter the gates. If you’re wondering what we mean, combine numbers one through five from the list above and imagine the byproducts. With that said, we probably owe a very special thank you to the rodeo volunteers who clean up after us (and the animals) each and every night.
#7. Country music: Living in Houston has made many of us immune to the sorrows of country music. We know each and every song will conclude with some tragedy to the tune of “my truck broke down”, “my wife left me”, or “my dog died.” Needless to say, after three weeks of country music announcers yelling, “Houston, are you ready to RODEO??” we are indefinitely ready to go back to normal life. Thankfully, over the past several years, rodeo committee members have began to feel our pain and have asked singers from other genres including, Maroon Five, Usher and Selena Gomez to join the 2014 lineup.
#8. Rodeo fashion: For some Houstonians, rodeo season is our very own version of New York Fashion Week. Suddenly, everyone owns a pair of boots and a cowboy hat. And if you thought Wrangler jeans were 90s artifacts, take a stroll through Reliant Park, and you’ll be painfully reminded of their existence. Dressing up for the rodeo is a tradition we will never live down. If you need to update your rodeo look, head over to Tootsies on Westheimer for a large selection of designer jeans. You can also check out Wheeler Boots , where shoppers can customize that perfect pair of cowboy boots.
#9. Rodeo parking and tractor transportation: Native Houstonians can relish in the memory of parking in the Astrodome lot and taking a quick hop and skip over to all the festivities. These days, it’s crucial to build in 30 minutes to an hour (each way) for parking, then riding to and from Reliant Park. Once you park your vehicle, there are stations where tractor trams pick up rodeo guests and take you to the desired gates. If you remember anything from this list, please remember to take note of where you parked and which tram to take in order to get back to your car at the end of the night.
#10. The maze—AKA Reliant Park: During the 1982 rodeo season, 646,735 people paid to attend the Houston Rodeo. By 2013, that number more than doubled, with over 1.3 million paid attendees. Due to this drastic growth in attendance, the event grounds have become massive in order to accommodate. Reliant Park basically becomes its own city for three weeks. So when getting ready to head to Reliant Park, do yourself a favor, and print all of the maps . Although you may need to carry a separate “map bag”, at least you won’t spend half your day being lost.
Enjoy the Houston Rodeo tradition …
Remember, these are the things we hate to LOVE about the rodeo. We can complain about them all we want, but it wouldn’t be the rodeo without them. Now get out there and rodeo, Houston!
Want to do something that involves a little less hoot-nanny with the same amount of Houston? Check out our list of the best places to walk or ride a bike in Houston or our top five spots to spend a Saturday in Montrose.