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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bringing boots and bucks, rodeo rolls into city

Bringing boots and bucks, rodeo rolls into city

Dust off that felt Stetson, pull on that pearl snap and embrace that cowboy culture. It's rodeo time in Houston.
For the next three weeks, the Bayou City will welcome a stampede of blue jeans and cowboy boots as Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo visitors adopt a cowboy demeanor and embrace the Western heritage.
Indeed, the city's Western heritage is rich. The first stock show was designed to draw attention to Houston as a cattle-raising center in 1932. Six years later, a rodeo was added.
Seventy-nine years later, the show has transformed into a massive event that continually redefines rodeo and attracts more than 2 million visitors annually, said Leroy Shafer, the show's chief operating officer.
This year's Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo will kick off Tuesday at Reliant Park and run until March 20.
Rodeo-goers can expect to enjoy the world's first invitation-only Super Shootout, a new multimillion-dollar educational Horticulture Program and two new rodeo events in addition to the usual award-winning barbecue, performances by the biggest names in the music industry and the world's largest livestock show.
"In addition to our great returning events and displays, we have added a whole new element to what has been the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with our Super Shootout: North America's Champions," Shafer said.
Forty of North America's greatest rodeo champions are descending upon Houston to clash spurs and compete in the show's ground-breaking new event in which champion athletes will compete in four RodeoHouston fan-favorite events, officials said.
The biggest change in the sport of rodeo in recent history, this one-night rodeo scheduled for March 20, will feature champion athletes from the top 10 rodeos in North America, determined primarily by total purse, said Skip Wagner, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo president.
They will compete in bareback riding, barrel racing, bull riding and saddle bronc riding for a total purse of $200,000.
"It's amazing what Houston is trying to do. They are changing a lot of things about how rodeo is done," said Kaycee Feild, bareback riding champion competing in the Super Shootout.

Last year set record

The Shootout is being held in addition to the Super Series, the annual rodeo competition where spectators can watch the sport's top cowboys and cowgirls compete in bull riding, barrel racing, bronc riding and more. The 19-performance series runs from Tuesday to March 19, and the cash commitment for contestants exceeds $1.7 million.
Indoor attractions at Reliant Center include pony rides, petting zoos, a school art display, a Fun on the Farm exhibit and other agricultural displays.
Officials are trying to revamp some areas of the Livestock Show and Rodeo to draw new spectators and competitors and to exceed last year's record-breaking attendance of 2.14 million visitors, rodeo officials said.
Also expected to draw new attendees is the Horticulture Program, which will include competitions, horticulture displays and educational seminars.
One component of the new program is the Horticulture Exhibit, where visitors can get hands-on with live earthworms, create earthworm farms, learn how to construct a composting bin and plant a seed to take home and watch grow.
"Everyone can take a journey underground into a worm hole," Shafer said.

From Gene Autry to KISS

This year's innovative rodeo events and exhibits are a far cry from the rodeo's modest origins.
Founded as a livestock exhibition when cattle vastly outnumbered people in the region, the Houston show gradually added its Western theme and entertainment to draw more visitors.
Gene Autry debuted as the first star entertainer in 1942. Since then, more than 350 entertainers have performed, including Elvis Presley.
This year's entertainment lineup kicks off with Clay Walker and includes Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, Kid Rock, Jason Aldean and KISS.
Aside from 20 nights of musical entertainment, there are livestock competitions where students can earn thousands of dollars in scholarship money, Wagner said.
The show contributes more than $16 million to Texas youth each year.

Mounted shooting event

Additionally, there will be a Floriculture Face-off in which professional florists will compete using only supplied materials in timed events.
The face-off will take place in the Main Arena. Professional florists will be given materials and a theme, on the spot, and asked to create a floral design. Visitors can watch while the florists are designing, and the judging will be open to the public as well.
RodeoHouston is also bringing cowboy mounted shooting to the rodeo competition. In this event, contestants run through a set course, firing two .45-caliber single-action revolvers with a range of about 15 feet at balloons.
"We have something for everyone this year, and we expect our new programs will be of tremendous interest to our visitors," Shafer said.

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