Back in August last year, when I was talking to the mum about me possibly coming out to Houston, she said “Oh, you’ll be out here for rodeo time; it’s such fun!”
Well, jump forward several months and I was heading from the hotel, where I stay on my 24hr break, to the NRG Stadium, looking forward to my first ever rodeo. I had purchased me some cowboy boots from Cavenders (an amazing shop with so much choice of boots, clothing and hats) and was ready to go.
I had no idea what to expect, to be honest. I knew it was a cattle show, so had vague thoughts of Widecombe Fair on Dartmoor but on a larger scale. I got dropped off close to the entrance by my shuttle from the hotel. It was after 4pm so the sun was still up high and families were walking towards the stadium. There were no queues so after a quick bag search (you’re not allowed to take any of your own refeshments in; which was a bugger as I didn’t want to buy bottled water) I was through to the other side.
Nearly everyone was wearing cowboy boots and there were some great outfits going on. Tassles, sequins, big hair, short shorts and that wasn’t only the ladies. I took a left and wandered through one of the food halls. I had promised myself to at least try some the much talked about fried food, but I think it’s totally ingrained in me to want food of colour and not beige. Chicken on a stick; corn dogs; massive turkey legs to gnaw on; sausage on a stick; doughnuts; pulled pork; deep fried…stuff. To some people this would be heaven.
I wandered over to a stall selling corn dogs and asked them what exactly is in a corn dog. Well, it was some kind of sausage, dipped in batter and fried and stuck on a stick. With your choice of sauce over the top. I decided to decline…. “I love your accent,” he called as I wandered off. Once past the food halls there was a funfair; at least 3 big wheels which I wasn’t allowed to go on as a single person; rides and funfair games to win enormous cuddle toys. It reminded me of the scene in Despicable Me (“IT’S SO FLUFFY“).
I wandered around for the next hour, popping into the Wine Garden and then biting the bullet and eating a Snickerdoodle ice cream (enormous and not as nice as I was hoping) and gradually became aware the amount of people heading to the stadium was increasing. The sun was starting to set and and the show was due to start at 6.45pm, so I joined the steady stream of people heading up to the entrance. Inside it was cool and I was surprised by how the place still seemed empty even though stacks of people had already gone through the doors. I easily found my seat and then headed to one of the food counters to buy myself a beer. “What do you recommend,” I asked “Bud Light,” was the definite reply. So with my Bud Light I sat down to watch the show. Horses and their riders were already milling about down below, and helpfully there were large screens showing us what was going on. Then someone did a prayer over the loud speaker and a white horse appeared with a blonde female standing on it’s back, carrying a large American flag. She cantered around the ring as someone sang the National Anthem. At the very end, fireworks came out of her boots as she turned the horse to gallop back under the stadium. Pretty impressive!
And then the rodeo started. 90 minutes of cowboys doing their thing of lassoing calves, sitting on bucking horses or bulls and having cart races around the ring. It was fast paced with commentary informing us of what was going on. They make money on these rodeo’s. About 6 cowboys do the same thing (lassoing a calf and then jumping off their horse to tie the calves three legs together) and the fastest one wins. The calves trot off quite calmly afterwards, btw, for anyone that is a bit sensitive. It’s extremely fast paced and the crowd, that was steadily increasing, were shouting encouragment. They also had Mutton racing where small kiddies under 5, were placed on sheeps back (with a crash helmet on) and then released from the pen to see how far they could stay on. There were a few tears, but otherwise most were resiliant and the winner told us that he practiced on his dads back.
As the rodeo ending a stage started heading out towards the centre of the ring. Now it was time for the music. They get some huge names singing here. Garth Brooks played the opening night and he is also closing on Sunday and Keith Urban played the night before. For $30 that’s not a bad night out! Tonight was Thomas Rhett and there was much excitement building around me.
The stage came to a stop; the lights went down and the wings around the side started to lower. The crowd went wild as the music started up and I could see this young, cute guy, with a guitar in the centre, playing to his fans. He was definitely very good, as all country and western singers are and he had a loyal group of followers. The women on either side of me knew all the words to his songs and they sang along with him.
I was actually feeling pretty knackered by this point and not quite sure how I was getting back to my hotel. So, before the end of the gig, I decided to leave, climbing over the back of my seat and scooting along behind the people sitting on my left.
I exited the arena and stepped out into the warm air (it was so cold in the stadium with all the a\c on) and headed off towards Kirby (the road, no one says Kirby Road or Shepard Street, it’s either Kirby or Shepard). I had been told by the nanny about the possibility of catching a bus back but, after being told by various staff that the buses weren’t running (turns out they were wrong) I decided to walk the 7k back to the hotel. It was pretty simple as it’s basically a straight line, but my boots were starting to chafe, so I switched to my end of the night shoes, which I had packed in anticipation.
An hour and a half later, I was finally back at the hotel. I’d had a great time and had had no idea what to expect, but the Houstonians love these three weeks and they’re all very proud to be Texans. I’d had vague thoughts about doing another night, but was satisfied with the one and to say that I had been to a rodeo.