By Marye Audet
No matter how old you are there is nothing more exciting than your first rodeo. There’s something to see and do nearly everywhere you look, plenty of action, and lots of old-fashioned fun. If you’re expecting to spend a couple of hours watching guys in hats ride livestock of various sorts you are in for a surprise.
The rodeo is always the first three weeks of March.
History of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
The first Houston Stock Show and Livestock Exposition began in January 1931 and was focused on livestock. It wasn’t until 1942 that the first entertainer took to the stage, a man by the name of Gene Autry.
The HLSR has been an important part of the Houston community since it’s inception. Since the beginning it has enhanced the lives of thousands of young people through over 375 million dollars committed to scholarships, as well as its annual commitment of $100,000 to Texas colleges to support research. You can get more information on scholarships here and if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer call the membership office at 832-667-1073.
Here are some tips for you first timers to get the most out of the Houston Rodeo.
Here are some top tips from veteran rodeo fans.
- Keep a packet of baby wipes and hand sanitizer in your bag whether you have a baby or not. There are a lot of ways to get messy.
- Funnel cakes as big as your face – enough said.
- Be sure to ride on the Western Hemisphere’s largest portable Ferris Wheel. Best view ever!
- Deep fried pecan pie should be on every Texan’s list of can’t miss foods.
- It can take up to two hours to get parked and get your ticket, even if you’ve paid for it and are just picking it up. Be sure to plan for long waits and get there early.
- The Yellow Lot (OST1) located at 2103 South Braeswood is the most convenient public parking area to the rodeo.
- Visit the livestock barns but keep in mind that the animals are often tense because of the unaccustomed activity. Don’t stick fingers into stalls or try to pet or feed the animals unless the owner gives his permission.
- Bring along some eye drops and Benadryl if you have a child that is sensitive to allergens. Cow or horse dander can be just as troublesome as cat or dog dander to someone with allergies.
- There are special seats for the visually or hearing impaired rodeo guest. They are sold on a first come first serve basis so contact the ticket office at 832-667-1080 if this is something you’ll need.
- When you first enter the arena there will be some vendors. Resist the urge to buy because there are many more vendors in Reliant Center.
- Young children will need a stroller – even if they are 4 or 5 and have mastered walking. If you don’t have a stroller you’ll be carrying a child at some point.
- You’ll have to check your stroller in the stadium so be sure to take an extra diaper, bottle, and pacifier with you. It’s a hassle to have to run out to get something from the stroller.
- Not all of the family bathrooms have changing stations. Be prepared for that possibility and bring a changing pad along.
- If you have a child that startles easily or has issues with loud noises bring headphones and load soothing music on your smartphone in case you need to drown out some of the noise.
- Choose a very lightweight stroller if possible. If you’ll be using public transportation it can be a huge hassle to wrestle a stroller on and off. A light umbrella stroller is much easier to deal with.
First Things First – Schedule and Tickets
The first thing that you are going to want to do is get tickets. It’s not as easy as it sounds because there are a variety of concerts and special activities scheduled for certain days. Look over the schedule carefully so that you can see the things that interest you most whether it’s Tim McGraw or the Mutton Bustin’ Contest.
Here’s the website where all of this information is available. https://www.rodeohouston.com/ExhibitorContestant/LivestockShow/Schedule.aspx You’ll also find maps, parking information, and just about anything else you might need.
Online: You can buy tickets online but be warned. There have been a lot of complaints about the website. The major complaints were that the site locked up or kicked you out when you tried to finish your purchase.
By Phone: You can purchase your tickets by phone at 888 596 4201
In Person: You can also get your tickets to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in person at either of these addresses:
BBVA Compass Stadium Box Office
2200 Texas Ave, Houston 77003
9 AM to 5 PM
NRG Park Box Office
South End NRG Stadium, Westridge Entrance
Monday through Friday 9 AM to 5 Pm, Saturday 10 AM to 2 PM
Ticket prices vary depending on the shows that you want to see and the seats that you want to get. Children under the age of two are free. Season passes are available – and they’re a great idea if there are several things that you want to see on different days.
If you happen to lose your ticket call the park and your ticket will be voided and another one issued to you.
There’s plenty of public parking but traffic is going to be crazy – crazier than usual and it’s expensive. For $30 you’ll get a parking pass and find yourself walking about a block, if you don’t have the parking pass you pay less ($12) but you’ll have to walk up to five blocks. Consider parking in Hermann Park or the Museum District and using the light rail or finding the Park-N-Ride near you and taking a bus. You’ll pay $5 each way, you won’t have to worry about parking, and you’ll be let off right at the gate. Taxis are another option, especially if you plan to enjoy a few beers.
The App for Your Phone
One must have item that you’ll want is the free app for your phone. It is like having the information booth at your fingertips!
- Parking information and availability.
- Friend finder
- Show Schedule
- Shopping and dining information including reviews
- Concert dates and times including ticket information
- Information about the athletes, scores, etc.
- Rodeo social media
- Camera with customized frames
You’ll find the app online here!
What to Wear
You are going to be doing a lot of walking so the main thing is to wear comfortable shoes – and a pair that you don’t mind getting dirty. Rodeos are lots of fun but, they are not the cleanest environments in the world. While boots are always appropriate, don’t wear any that are not well broken in.
Keep in mind that the weather in Houston in March can be problematic. It could be chilly in the morning, then heat up in the afternoon. While average temperatures range from the 50s to the 70s you could find yourself sweating in an unseasonable 85 degrees or shivering in the midst of an unexpected cold front. Dress everyone in layers so that you can adjust your clothing as the temperature changes.
There are three first aid stations available should you need them. They are staffed by professional medical personnel and equipped to handle most medical emergencies.
- NRG Center Room 109 and Hall C Lobby
- Just outside the front of NRG Arena and inside the main doors facing the carnival
- Southeast entrance of NRG Stadium
Must See and Do
There is so much to do that it can be overwhelming. Here are some activities that you definitely want on your to do list.
- The Friday before the rodeo is known as Go Texan Day. Everyone is encouraged to wear his or her jeans, boots, and hats – a tradition started in the 1950s.
- This is the biggest livestock show in the world. Take the time to walk the kids through the barns and look at the animals
- Mutton Bustin’ is a lot of fun to watch, as well as participate in, for kids. It costs $15 and your child must be between the ages of 5 and 6 on March 3, 2015. He or she must also not weight more than 55 pounds. Sign up is first come, first served basis in the Mutton Bustin’ Arena in Kids’ Country. It is a must see!
- If you want an easy way to discuss the birds and the bees with your kids, stroll over to the Capital One AgVenture birthing center where you may be able to witness calves, lambs, chicks, and other animals being born.
- Shop y’all. You’ll find everything you expect and many things that you don’t at the Reliant Center. Be sure to have time to browse.
- Think of this as the State Fair in springtime as far as food goes. Corny dogs, fried Oreos – it’s all here and you don’t want to miss it.
- The carnival runs from 4 PM to midnight on weekdays and 10 AM to 1 AM on weekends. There is a ride for kids of all ages or game booths to win your honey a prize!
- Channel your urban cowboy and ride a mechanical bull.
- From 6 PM to midnight you can dance with your sweetheart at the Reliant Astrodome.
There aren’t many rules but here are some that you need to be aware of before you go.
- No outside food or beverage unless it’s a medical necessity
- No video recorders
- No professional camera equipment or lenses over 12-inches long
- No laser pointers
- No backpacks, large bags (11-inches by 17-inches) or sealed bags (purses and diaper bags are permissible but subject to search)
- No animals other than service animals
- No obscene, indecent, or offensive clothing as determined by Reliant Park
- No artificial scents such as cologne, aftershave, hairspray, etc.
- No smoking
That first rodeo is a never to be forgotten experience. Make the most of your Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo visit by preparing ahead of time, planning for your comfort, and checking the schedule so that you see those things that are most important to you.
Take lots of pictures, try as many new foods as possible, and buy a bottle of Pepto Bismal on the way home. If you are like most people your first rodeo experience won’t be your last.