U.S. "Old West" spirit revived at Houston rodeo
Gone are the cowhands and pioneers of the American Old West who drove herds on dirt trails between sagebrushes on open plains.
Their Western spirit, however, was very much alive on Saturday as the 73rd Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo parade made its way for two hours on horseback and in covered wagons over Houston's concrete city streets.
Led by three wagons and horse-mounted officials, Houston's parade is a grand show of tractor-pulled floats representing Texas businesses, high school and university marching bands and 13 trail-riding groups that proceed between skyscrapers along the seven-block route lined by more than 3,000 spectators.
The parade officially marks the opening of the rodeo and was led this year by Grand Marshal Clay Walker, a country music legend who will be the first performer in a lineup of stars set to entertain the audience in Reliant Stadium on March 1.
"I think it's an honor to represent the city of Houston," Walker said as he mounted his horse.
Walker's wife Jessica, his two children and his mother-in-law followed him in a white carriage.
"I've been coming to the rodeo for six years," Jessica Walker said. "I think it's great. The kids are excited."
Many trail riders rode to the event from areas far outside the city limits of Houston.
Charros on Parade is a 10-year-old organization from Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.
Wearing wide-brimmed Mexican sombrero hats and costumed as Mexican ranch workers of another century, Art Montes, 63, said that Charros on Parade has ridden in the parade for eight consecutive years.
"We do it because we love showing what the original cowboys looked like," Montes said.
The Prairie View Trail Riders is a group made up of 200 African American riders from Hempstead, Texas, who have tried to preserve the Western heritage. This year's ride was the group's 54th consecutive showing in the parade.
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia said the rodeo and parade are important reflections of the Western heritage of one of the country's youngest major cities.
"It's really about tradition," he said. "There has always been a sheriff in Harris County, and there's always been a sheriff in the rodeo parade."
The float getting the biggest applause from the crowd was the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's Scholarship float.
Aboard and waving to the crowd were a few of the young recipients of funds generated by the three-week rodeo's main mission of helping agriculture students to pay for their college tuition.
Since 1957, the annual event has given out more than 265 million U.S. dollars in scholarships for research and other agriculture-based charitable causes. Enditem