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History of Houston Rodeo

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, also called RodeoHouston or abbreviated HLSR, is the world’s largest live entertainment and livestock exhibition. It also includes one of the richest regular-season rodeo events. It has been held at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, since 2003. It was previously held in the Astrodome. It is considered to be the city’s “signature event”, much like New Orleans‘s Mardi GrasDallas‘s Texas State Fair, and New York City‘s New Year’s Eve at Times Square.

In 2013, attendance reached a record high of 2,506,238 people requiring more than 28,000 volunteers. In 2007, the rodeo was deemed “the year of the volunteer. The event is 20 days long. It is kicked off by the Downtown Rodeo Roundup held near Houston City Hall, the Downtown Rodeo parade, and the ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run – a 10k and 5k walk & run and the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest. The show features championship rodeo action, livestock competitions, concerts, a carnival, pig racing, barbecue and the Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition, shopping, sales and livestock auctions. Traditional trail rides, which start in different areas of Texas and end in Houston, precede the Rodeo events. The City of Houston celebrates this event with Go Texan Day, where residents are encouraged to dress in western wear the Friday before the rodeo begins.

The rodeo has drawn some of the world’s biggest recording artists, including KissElvis PresleyBob DylanBrooks & DunnGeorge StraitGarth BrooksWillie NelsonSelenaBon JoviZZ TopTaylor Swift and Lynyrd Skynyrd, among others.

A Rich History

For more than 80 years, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has been the heartbeat of the Southwest, beating powerfully with more than 27,000 volunteers who annually contribute their time, resources, and talent as part of the world’s largest livestock exhibition, world’s richest regular-season rodeo, and the Southwest’s premier entertainment event.

Since the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was established, it has made an impressive footprint on the livestock and entertainment industries and in the sport of rodeo. It also has played a notable role in enhancing the lives of thousands of young people in the state of Texas.

The many milestones celebrated in the past 80 years have all contributed to Houston’s most popular event. Follow this historical sketch to see the changes undergone and developments that made the Show unique.

1931

The Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition is established after seven men meet for lunch at the Texas State Hotel.

1932

The first Show is held at the Democratic Convention Hall.

 

1937

The Democratic Convention Hall is demolished — no Show is held while the Sam Houston Coliseum is being built.

1938

The Houston Fat Stock Show is held in the Sam Houston Coliseum for the first time.

The first rodeo, horse show and downtown parade are held in conjunction with the Show.

1942

Gene Autry, “the Singing Cowboy,” debuts as the first star entertainer.

The calf scramble event is added to the rodeo performance.

1952

The first trail ride, Salt Grass, commences, as four men make the journey on horseback from Brenham, Texas, to Houston.

1954

The Houston Rodeo becomes RCA-sanctioned (now PRCA — Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association).

1957

Houstonian Ben Dickerson is presented the Show’s first major educational scholarship, a $2,000 award.

1961

The organization’s name officially changes to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

1963

The School Art Program begins.

1966

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo moves from the Sam Houston Coliseum to the Astrodome complex. The first performance in the new domed stadium draws 25,340 spectators, and attendance even tops 40,000 for one performance – almost five times the number of people the Coliseum could hold.

The organization’s signature “Bowlegged H” logo is designed.

The Show builds the Livestock Exposition Building, called the Astrohall.

1968

The 12-acre Astrohall is expanded by 4 acres, providing more exhibit space and meeting rooms.

1970

The Show launches a research program at an annual commitment of $100,000 to various Texas colleges in support of research studies.

Elvis Presley’s Feb. 27 performance sets an all-time attendance record with 43,614 spectators in the Astrodome, a record that remains unchallenged until eight years later.

1973

Two additional acres are added to the Astrohall, resulting in permanent administrative offices, meeting rooms and exhibit space, as well as the Super Sales Salon (site auctions and sales until 1991).

1974

The first World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest is held.

1975

The 6,000-seat Astroarena is completed.

1977

All four-year, $4,000 scholarships are increased to $6,000 awards.

1980

More space is added to both the east and west ends of the Astrohall.

1983

The organization increases all four-year, $6,000 awards to $8,000 awards.

The Show adds acreage to the Astroarena in a project partially funded by the Houston Sports Association and Harris County. This phase represents the first time that the Show does not totally fund construction of exhibition facilities.

1986

The Show introduces a new, state-of-the-art stage for its performers, featuring a 40-foot turntable and a sophisticated lighting system.

The 54th Show, held Feb. 18 – March 2, is the year of the Texas Sesquicentennial Celebration. The Show is one of the few associations in the state to be designated as an official organization of the Texas Sesquicentennial Association. Several activities are planned to help celebrate the state’s 150th birthday.

1989

The Show expands its scholarship program to include students in the Houston Metropolitan area.

1990

The Show hosts a special rodeo for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations in July, 1990, attended by President George H.W. Bush, United States; President Jacques Delors, European Commission; Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, Italy; Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Germany; President Francois Mitterand, France; Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Britain; and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Canada.

1991

An additional 4.8 acres in the Astroarena result in committee volunteer meeting rooms, a club, a restaurant, auction arenas and additional space for commercial exhibits. Harris County shares the costs of this construction.

1992

All four-year, $8,000 scholarships are upgraded to $10,000 awards. The increase is retroactive, and every student on a four-year scholarship receives an additional $500 per year.

1994

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is broadcast for the first time ever on pay-per-view television.

1995

Construction of a 40,920-square-foot warehouse addition is completed and donated to the citizens of Harris County. This facility stores the Show’s entertainment stage, houses rodeo contestants’ horses, provides a warm-up arena for rodeo contestants and serves as additional storage during the year.

Paid Rodeo attendance reaches 1 million for the first time.

1996

The Show celebrates 30 years at the Astrodome complex.

RodeoHouston® is initiated as the official name of the Houston Rodeo.

George Strait breaks the all-time individual turnstile attendance record at his Feb. 23 performance with 62,936 spectators.

The first School Art Auction is held.

1997

The Show’s website — www.hlsr.com and www.rodeohouston.com — is launched during the Show and the number of inquiries reaches 1.3 million.

HLS&R Institute for Teacher Excellence, Inc. (RITE®) is created to train elementary school teachers how to teach students in pre-kindergarten through third grade how to read.

1998

4-H and FFA scholarships are increased to 60 per program, making a total of 120 four-year, $10,000 awards.

1999

Opportunity Scholarships are awarded for the first time to students in the Houston area based on financial need and academic excellence.

4-H and FFA scholarships are increased for the second year in a row. Each commitment is increased to 70 per program, for a total of 140 four-year, $10,000 awards.

The Harris County Commissioners Court approves the construction of a new exhibition facility on the north side of the Astrodome.

Harris County begins construction of new parking lots on the west side of Kirby Drive that will provide additional parking beginning with the 2000 Show.

Houston becomes the home of a new NFL franchise, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo moves forward with Houston NFL Holdings and Harris County to build a new Rodeo/football stadium.

2000

Groundbreaking ceremonies are held in March for the new 70,000-seat, retractable-roof RodeoHouston®/NFL stadium. The stadium is projected to be complete in time for the 2002 football season and the 2003 Rodeo.

In June, groundbreaking ceremonies celebrate the beginning of construction for the 1.3-million-square-foot Harris County Exposition Center, slated to be complete in the spring of 2002.

Following a three-year pilot program, the Show extends its commitment for another three years and provides an additional $4.6 million in funding for the RITE.

In October, Reliant Energy acquires naming rights for the Astrodome Complex, including the currently under-construction stadium and exposition center. The renamed Reliant Park includes Reliant Astrodome, Reliant Arena, Reliant Hall, Reliant Center and Reliant Stadium.

2001

The Show holds its largest-ever presentation of scholarships when 300 Houston-area students each receive a four-year, $10,000 award through the Metropolitan, Opportunity and School Art scholarship programs, for a total of $3 million.

Tickets go on sale for the Show’s finale in Reliant Astrodome. The March 3, 2002, concert featuring George Strait sells out in less than two hours.

2002

The Show’s concert finale featuring George Strait on March 3, 2002, breaks the all-time paid attendance record for any event ever held in Reliant Astrodome with 68,266 spectators.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo personnel move into new Show offices on the second floor of Reliant Center.

Reliant Hall is demolished and the site paved for parking.

Reliant Stadium opens with the first Houston Texans pre-season NFL football game on Aug. 24.

For the first time, Show sponsors are offered category exclusivity due to the new advertising and promotional rights the Show obtains throughout Reliant Park.

2003

The 71st Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo celebrates its first year in its new homes: Reliant Stadium and Reliant Center.

Rodeo paid attendance tops 1 million, for a record-breaking total of 1,215,913. On Feb. 28, only the fourth day of the 2003 Show, ticket sales have already broken the all — time record which has stood at 1,133,585 since 1997.

Paid attendance for an individual rodeo performance tops 70,000 for the first time on Sunday, March 9, with a paid attendance of 70,405 for Go Tejano Day.

Carruth Plaza is completed at Reliant Park (a Western sculpture garden home to eight large-scale bronzes). The plaza is named in honor of Allen H. “Buddy” Carruth, who was past president and chairman of the board of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

2004

Show attendance hits an all-time high with 1,890,174 visitors.

Rodeo paid attendance tops 1 million for the sixth consecutive year, for a total of 1,125,992.

The all-time paid attendance record for a RodeoHouston® performance is broken on March 17 with a crowd of 70,668 filling Reliant Stadium to see world championship rodeo action and a concert by Kenny Chesney.

The World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest has a record paid attendance of 183,339 visitors.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo holds its first Wine Competition and Auction, with 873 entries from more than 200 wineries from around the world and the auction bringing in $313,700.

With the 2005 budget approval, the Show reaches the $100 million in educational commitment since 1957. All four-year scholarships are raised from $10,000 to $12,000.

2005

Rodeo paid attendance tops 1 million for the seventh consecutive year, for a total of 1,127,239, the second highest paid rodeo attendance in the Show’s history.

The Hideout returns in a new home, Reliant Astrodome.

The RodeoHouston® all-time paid attendance record is broken twice this year. First, Alicia Keys set the new paid Rodeo attendance record on March 4, celebrating Black Heritage Day, with an attendance of 72,065. Then, just two nights later, 72,843 people packed Reliant Stadium to see RodeoHouston with Hilary Duff in concert.

2006

Rodeo paid attendance tops 1 million for the eighth consecutive year, for a total of 1,115,558.

The RodeoHouston® all-time paid attendance record is broken again this year. A total of 72,867 fans fill Reliant Stadium for action-packed rodeo and an electric concert by Brooks and Dunn on March 18.

The RodeoHouston performance featuring championship rodeo action and concerts by Ramon Ayala and Jay Perez, celebrating Go Tejano Day, Sunday, March 12, breaks the Show’s all-time rodeo attendance record for Go Tejano Day with a paid attendance of 70, 481.

For the first time, all junior market auctions, the School Art Auction, and the Wine Auction, top a million dollars each.

The yearly educational commitment exceeds $8 million. Area Go Texan scholarships are increased to 60, $12,000 awards. An additional $100,000 is committed to graduate assistantships and grants.

2007

The Show celebrates its 75th anniversary and “The Year of the Volunteer.” The Show also celebrates the 50th anniversary of its educational programs. All four-year, $12,000 scholarships are increased to $15,000 each, starting with the 2008 school year. The Show’s yearly educational commitment exceeds $10.6 million.

Rodeo paid attendance tops 1 million for the ninth consecutive year, for a total of 1,176,436. The World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest attendance records soar with 190,913, topping the previous high of 171,428.

RodeoHouston® introduces its Super Series format. The Rodeo purse increases to $1.2 million, making RodeoHouston the world’s richest, regular-season PRCA rodeo. Each RodeoHouston event champion walks away with a minimum $50,000.

The all-time paid Rodeo attendance record is broken with 73,291 fans watching championship rodeo action and Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana and the Cheetah Girls perform on March 4.

Reba McEntire is inducted into the Star Trail of Fame, joining other legends Gene Autry, Charley Pride, Elvis Presley, Roy Rogers and George Strait.

For the second consecutive year, all junior market auctions and the School Art Auction top a million dollars each, bringing auction sales to the highest total recorded, $8,495,132.

2008

The Show awards more than $1 million to both Texas FFA and 4-H scholarship recipients.

The Show celebrates a record-breaking year with record attendance to the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest — 209,313; and Rodeo attendance is the second highest on record — 1,206,551.

Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus breaks last year’s all-time attendance record on March 9 with 73,459 fans. On March 16, the Go Tejano Day Rodeo performance attendance record is broken by a performance from Duelo and Los Horoscopos de Durango with a paid attendance of 71,165. Six performances bring new top 20 attendance records in 2008.

The 2008 RodeoHouston® Super Series purse is increased by $122,898, resulting in a $1,322,898 payout to the Super Series athletes.

Brooks & Dunn are inducted into the Star Trail of Fame, and celebrate performing for their one millionth RodeoHouston fan.

For the third consecutive year, junior auctions and the School Art auction topped $1 million, with the Junior Market Steer Auction topping $2.5 million. Six new world’s record prices are set at the junior auctions.

2009

The Show dedicates this year to Celebrating Community Commitment.

The all-time general attendance record is broken in 2009. A record 1,890,332 visitors come to the Show breaking the record set in 2004.

The RodeoHouston® performance on March 15, 2009, celebrating Go Tejano Day and featuring rodeo action and a concert by Ramon Ayala and Alacranes Musical, breaks the Show’s all-time paid Rodeo attendance record with a paid attendance of 74,147.

RodeoHouston BP Super Series increases to pay out more than $1.4 million to Super Series athletes. Mutton bustin’ is added as entertainment during each Rodeo performance.

The new Fun on the Farm exhibit sees more than 70,000 children receive a hands-on agricultural education in the exhibit.

For the third consecutive year, all junior market auctions and the School Art auction top a million dollars each. Each of the auctions brings in $1.1 million or more.

RodeoHouston rings The Closing Bell® for the New York Stock Exchange March 13 in true rodeo style, with a bucking bull and cowboy, and Show officials and volunteers ringing cowbells.

NBC’s TODAY Show highlights the Salt Grass Trail Ride’s ride into Memorial Park on national television, and Fox Sports Houston airs 30-minute segments profiling RODEOHOUSTON, the RodeoHouston BP Super Series athletes and highlighting each performance through the course of the Rodeo.

Technological advances play a role in enhancing fan experience at RodeoHouston performances. A text message campaign is implemented and used to award prizes such as signed guitars to fans. The familiar rotating stage is given a makeover for the 2009 Show, including three 20-foot long and 10-foot wide walkways, and LED (video) screen systems added on top, bottom, and sides of the stage to enhance the artists’ presentation.

2010

A record 221,229 people visit the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, topping 2009’s attendance record of 217,640.

The all-time general attendance record is broken, with 2,144,077 visitors; this breaks the record set in 2009. This is the first time for the Show to reach the 2 million mark in general attendance.

The single-day general attendance record is set Sunday, March 14, 2010, on Go Tejano Day, with 141,273 visitors. The previous record was set in 2009 with 135,548 visitors.

The paid Rodeo attendance record is broken with 1,264,074 fans. This breaks the record set in 2003.

The RodeoHouston® performance on March 14, 2010, celebrating Go Tejano Day and featuring rodeo action and a concert by Pesado and El Trono De Mexico, breaks the Show’s all-time paid Rodeo attendance record with a paid attendance of 74,222.

A record eight RodeoHouston performances are considered sellouts (approximately 70,000 tickets sold).

Six RodeoHouston performances lands in the list of the Show’s top 20 paid Rodeo attendance records.

RodeoHouston BP Super Series increases to pay out more than $1.5 million to Super Series athletes.

The Show launches RodeoHouston Radio, an online radio station playing the best of the 68 years of 350 superstar entertainers that have performed at the Show.

All four-year, $15,000 scholarships are increased to $16,000 each, starting with the 2011 school year. The Show’s yearly educational commitment exceeds $12 million.

2011

A record 244,184 people visit the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, topping 2010’s attendance record of 221,229.

The total attendance record is broken, with 2,262,834 visitors.

The single day total attendance record is broken Saturday, March 19, with 150,948 visitors.

Five RodeoHouston® performances land in the Show’s Top 20 Paid Attendance Records.

The RodeoHouston BP Super Series, an international, invitational championship, features the world’s top 40 cowboys and top 50 cowgirls in seven events. With the entire purse provided by RodeoHouston and no entry fees required by the athletes, contestants compete for a share of more than $1.5 million in prize money, and each event champion walks away from Reliant Stadium with at least $50,000, a RodeoHouston trophy saddle, and a champion buckle.

The Cinch RodeoHouston Super Shootout: North America’s Champions debuts Sunday, March 20. This ground-breaking, invitation-only, one-day event features champion athletes from the top 10 U.S. and Canadian rodeos competing in bareback riding, barrel racing, bull riding, and saddle bronc riding for a total purse of $200,000, making the event the richest one-day rodeo. Each champion walks away with $25,000.

The RodeoHouston Sports Medicine Team is introduced, providing a comprehensive medical plan for all rodeo athletes competing at the Show. High-caliber sports medicine services are provided to all participants by emergency and orthopedic physicians, chiropractors, sports medicine trainers, and Safety Committee paramedics and EMTs.

The Show launches the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo free, custom mobile application. The app, available for iPhone and Android devices, is an electronic version of the Show’s visitors guide.

Alan Jackson is inducted into the Show’s Star Trail of Fame Friday, March 18.

RodeoHouston rings The Closing Bell® for the New York Stock Exchange Friday, March 18, in RodeoHouston style, with a bull rider bursting out of the chute on a bucking bull.

2012

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo celebrates 80 years.

RodeoHouston® paid attendance totals a record 1,283,419.

The one-day total attendance record falls Saturday, March 17, with 153,159 visitors.

FiveRodeoHoustonperformances land in the Show’s top 20 paid Rodeo attendance records.

The March 15, 2012, Rodeo performance, featuring Jason Aldean in concert, takes the number one spot for paid Rodeo attendance with 74,901.

The Show’s educational commitment to the youth of Texas exceeds $330 million.

All four-year, $16,000 scholarships are increased to $18,000 each, starting with the 2013 school year.

The Show’s yearly educational commitment exceeds $24.6 million.

The Show starts the military, and rising junior and senior scholarship programs.

2013

A record 264,132 people attended the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest Feb. 21 – 23, at Reliant Park.

The 2013 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo attendance reaches an all new-time high with 2,506,238 visitors. This number exceeds the city of Houston population.

The RODEOHOUSTON paid-attendance record also is shattered with 1,308,288 fans enjoying action-packed and super star entertainment.

The Sunday, March 17, concert-only performance with George Strait, Martina McBride and the Randy Rogers Band set an all-time paid attendance record for Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo concerts, and for any event in Reliant Stadium, with 80,020 people.

Five RodeoHouston performances landed in the list of the Show’s top 20 paid-Rodeo attendance records, taking the top five spots.

Eight of the Show’s junior market and School Art auction Grand and Reserve Grand Champion sales set new world record prices.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ was organized for charitable, educational and scientific purposes to encourage and promote the breeding, raising and marketing of better livestock and farm products at public fairs and to promote and maintain research and educational functions within the livestock industry. It is the general policy of the Show to utilize, in the fiscal year subsequent to which it is earned, the excess of its revenue over expenses for the furtherance of its exempt purpose, including the granting and/or funding of scholarships, educational endowments, agricultural research projects and other similar programs and the funding of related capital additions and improvements. The funds of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo are used exclusively to meet necessary expenses for its upkeep and operation and in furtherance of the exempt purpose of the organization.

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