Yee Haw – It is rodeo time

Houston Rodeo with Kacey Musgraves

NRG Stadium, Houston Texas, Attendance 53,031

Weather: Cool, 60 degrees; Price $21, Face $25 StubHub


The Site

The Houston Rodeo is a winter staple here in Houston and is consistently ranked as one of the best rodeos in the U.S.A. The rodeo was previously held at the Astrodome. When NRG Stadium was built, they moved the whole kit and kaboodle there. The rodeo is a combination of a state fair, rodeo, and concert all wrapped up as one. We have been to the rodeo three times over the years and at both venues. The NRG set up is well done. This year we did not check out the livestock, but the kids used to enjoy that. We walked through the midway but did not partake in any of the amusements. The rides aren’t cheap because they are all based on tickets. There is no pass or or Ride-a-Rama wristband. I think you can buy discounted ticket books before entering the rodeo. I did not as I have a standing rule that I do not ride any amusement that is taken apart and moved from town to town on a trailer or is put together by a guy with a mullet and wearing cut-offs.

There are also tons of food vendors, most of them unhealthy. It is deep fried this and deep fried that. I am not judging. It is kind of the deal at these fairs, etc. They also had local vendors as well. Alas, on this visit, we were running late and had to grab something at the stadium. I have been to NRG stadiums for a number of games. As a stadium, it is fairly average. There is no real defining characteristic of the stadium. The concessions are standard mass merchandised stadium food. The worst experience I ever had there was when the Steelers were playing the Texans on the opening weekend of the NFL season. The Texans coaching staff thought they would take advantage of Pittsburgh by making them wear their black jerseys and not turning on the air-conditioning. It was a failure as the Steelers crushed the Texans by more than fifty and the fans were pretty ticked off for having sweltered through the game.

The Event

For the rodeo, the stadium floor is covered with dirt. They proceed to then go through all the events, bronco busting, steer wrestling, barrel racing, bull riding, etc. I actually prefer the smaller local rodeos because at Houston, these guys and gals are pros. They are so good, there often isn’t much drama. At the small town rodeos, the contestants are not nearly as polished and it feels much more exciting because nothing is guaranteed. In fact, the best drama at the Houston rodeo are the two events with amateurs, the calf scramble and mutton busting. The calf scramble is where they bring in a bunch of 4H kids to chase around a herd of calves. The kids that manage to catch a calf then get to raise it and bring it back the next year to show it at the rodeo. As you might imagine, there is usually more than one kid that is dragged all the way around the arena by a wayward calf. The funniest laughs, however, come during the mutton busting. Mutton busting is the term for little kids riding sheep until they fall off. The kids are geared up but most of them don’t really know what is coming. The rides are often short and sometimes result in tears.  Overall though, the whole thing is pretty entertaining to watch the kids hang on for dear life while the sheep hauls ass across the dirt.

The Concert

Our seats were in the end zone, located at the bottom of the upper deck. While a little high, any action we could not see up close and live was also shown on massive video screens. I would guess even the cheap seats would provide a reasonable view. The rodeo runs about two hours. They keep score for all the events, but it was hard to be interested in the results since I didn’t follow the circuit. After the rodeo, they roll a large stage to the middle of the arena. Fortunately the stage turns so between the video screens and rotating, the concert viewing is fairly decent. The acoustics aren’t the best but it didn’t really bother me. For this show, we saw Kacey Musgraves. I had just bought her most recent album the week prior and she was fresh off of multiple Grammy wins. She rocked the joint singing most of the songs from her recent Album of the Year, “Golden Hour.” In classic rodeo fashion, she exited the concert via horse.

The Logistics

The traffic in Houston is pretty awful on a regular basis. Instead of driving all the way downtown, we opted to take one of the multiple shuttles the city offers. It isn’t exactly the quickest way to get to the show, but it is relatively stress free. It costs about $6 a person. If you decide to park, it will probably run anywhere from $10 – $25.

Personal Notes

I wouldn’t consider the Houston Rodeo a “must see” sporting event. However, it is an enjoyable experience. Certainly if you live within three to four hours of Houston, I would say it was worth the trip. Or, if you knew you were going to be in Houston in early March, I would make an effort to grab a ticket and attend. It isn’t one of those marquee events like New Year’s at Times Square or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but it is a memorable time.