It’s one of the biggest annual events in the United States but it’s also one of the most underrated. You almost want to call it a hidden gem but that’s an odd description for an event that attracts 2.5 million people and uses more than 28,000 volunteers.
The event is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. It’s also known as “RodeoHouston” or “Houston Rodeo” and sometimes it goes by the initials “HLSR.” It’s the world’s largest livestock exhibition and one of the richest rodeo events of the season.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the city’s signature event. Besides the livestock show and rodeo, there’s a parade, carnival, pig racing, an international wine competition, shopping, and a world famous bar-b-que contest.
The first Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo occurred in 1931. Back then it was known as the “Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition.” The event spans 20 days and usually occurs in March. The Friday before the event’s commencement, the City of Houston and its citizens celebrate “Go Texan Day.” On this day, everyone is encouraged to deck themselves out in western wear.
The other component of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the live music. In fact, the HLSR is the world’s largest live entertainment event. For 20 nights, after the day’s rodeo competition has concluded, the event welcomes the biggest names in music to its concert stage.
Since the concerts are scheduled after a rodeo, they do skew a bit towards the country side, but artists from other genres are booked too. In 2014, Houston welcomed Usher, Maroon 5, Selena Gomez, Robin Thicke, and REO Speedwagon. In the past, the event has also hosted performances by Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, KISS, Bon Jovi, and ZZ Top.
Of course, scheduling country acts is where the Houston Rodeo excels. Over the years, the event has hosted the genres biggest names including Garth Brooks, George Strait, Reba McEntire, Kenny Chesney, and Tim McGraw.
The acts, whether country, pop, rock, or Latin, play to huge crowds. In 2013, George Strait performed to more than 80,000 fans.
The concerts, as well as the rodeo, are held at NRG Stadium (formerly Reliant Stadium). Both are hot tickets but they’re ice cold compared to the ducats to the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest. Everyone wants tickets to “The Cookoff” as it means all-you-can-consume food and beverages. “The Cookoff’s” popularity seems to grow every year. In 2012, attendance eclipsed the quarter-million mark for the first time since its inception in 1974.