Every year, millions of Houstonians don cowboy boots and hats in preparation for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, an 84-year-old tradition combining agriculture and entertainment. The rodeo, which this year runs from March 4–23, brings in an annual economic footprint of more than $475 million, with 2013 total attendance numbers topping 2.5 million people.
"It has a tremendous impact on not just the city, but the entire Houston region," HLSR president and CEO Joel Cowley said. "It's like having a Super Bowl every year."
The HLSR is not soley an entertainment driven event, as more than $23 million in college scholarships will be awarded to high school students this year. In 2013, 50 Cy-Fair ISD students earned four-year, $18,000 scholarships from the rodeo, claiming the second-largest total among Houston-area districts.
"In the case of the [Houston-metro] scholarships, we look at academics in terms of both classroom performance and standardized test performance, along with community involvement," Cowley said. "We try and find well-rounded students who we think will succeed in their next level of education."
Cy-Fair ISD high school students participate in various competitions at the HLSR such as breeding heifers, showing chickens, meat judging and the tour-guiding competition. Participating in these events has made a world of difference for some students, said T.J. Palisin, agriculture science instructor at Cypress Ranch High School.
"It makes a difference in their lives by teaching them more responsibility," he said. "You have to take care of your animal two-plus times a day for two to three hours per day."
Students from CFISD also participate in the tour-guiding competition, which helps teach younger students about agriculture.
"Some local Houston day cares, preschools and elementary schools have kids come and tour the Agventures section of the rodeo," said Lisa Hernandez, FFA adviser for Cy-Falls High School. "The rodeo has FFA kids come in and do those tours and educate kids on the exhibits."
Preparation for the HLSR requires varying amounts of time, ranging from six months up to two years, and practice before or after school at least one time a week.
"It teaches students lifelong lessons like responsibility, ethics and how to organize their time," Hernandez said.
Students who raise livestock for the rodeo also have space and monetary requirements to think about, as the cost of breeding livestock can range from $100–$400 a month, and a quarter-acre is necessary to raise the animal.
"You keep the animals in a pin for part of the day and groom them daily and take them out at night to let them roam around and graze," Palisin said. "It doesn't take a whole lot of space, but it's more than an average person's backyard."
Visitors to the HLSR can partake in a variety of activities each year in addition to the rodeo and concerts, ranging from the educational displays to shopping to the carnival and livestock show.
Although the core of the HLSR's entertainment lineup is country music, this year's event features a wide array of artists.
"The show started as a livestock show, and our mission is to promote agriculture," Cowley said. "We take great pride in promoting Western heritage, but as Houston grows more diverse, we've offered a more diverse line-up that should appeal to everyone."