Welcome to Go Inside: Exploring Texas Culture! Brought to you by First Choice Power, this series will explore the legends and history that make up the meat and bones of the Lone Star State. Specifically, we’ll share our favorite indoor attractions to visit, which includes the great museums and quirky cultural outposts that fill the Texas landscape.
Well it’s bulls and blood, it’s dust and mud, it’s the roar of a Sunday crowd.
It’s the white in his knuckles, the gold in the buckle, He’ll win the next go ‘round.
It’s boots and chaps, it’s cowboy hats, it’s spurs and latigo.
It’s the rope and reins, and the joy and the pain, and they call the thing a rodeo.
– Garth Brooks, from the song “Rodeo,” released in 1991.
We continue our journey into the ethos of Texas culture by exploring our state’s official sport, the rodeo.
Rodeo began in the late 1800s as a competitive sport from the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, Canada, Australia, South America, and the United States. The sport centered around the skills of the vaqueros, who later became the cowboys, as we known them well today.
The competition is to test the skill and speed of both cowboys and cowgirls, with events including the tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, and barrel racing, to name a few. But along with the sport, comes authentic Texas culture in the form of contests, live stock shows, pageantry, entertainment and you guessed it, barbecue.
The culture of rodeo spreads itself across Texas, both big and small. Cue up that Garth Brooks song, and ride along, as we travel across the state to find the popular and lesser known rodeo events that our state has to offer.
We start at the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, more commonly known as the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, founded in 1896. With Fort Worth nicknamed “Cowtown” shortly after the Civil War, the famous Fort Worth Stockyards were officially incorporated in 1883. With a rich and diverse history, the show began from a wish for local ranchers to show off their livestock, and promote interest in what they were doing.
The Fort Worth Stock Show was the first rodeo to feature Brahma bull riding in 1933, which is now one of the top events at most rodeos. Besides the live stock competition, rodeo competitions and general Texan fanfare, the organization offers endowed scholarships to Texas Christian University and Texas Tech, to name a few.
23 days long and holding its claim as the “World’s Original Indoor Rodeo,” it also includes a carnival, live music and entertainment, exhibits for kids, and more than 22,000 animals on view! The rodeo takes place in the middle of January, bleeding into February.
Founded in 1932, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has grown to become the world’s largest event of its kind.
Taking place in late February and into early March, groups participate in trail rides that begin at various towns and cities across the state and country, to spend the week riding their way to the rodeo, stopping to camp and cook out along the way. The trail rides convene for the big barbecue cook off, which includes the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, kicking off the rodeo with true Texan flare.
The Houston Rodeo has grown to include top entertainers, a livestock competition, student scholarship programs, carnival rides and foods, wine and art competitions and of course, the rodeo itself. The Astrodome became home to the rodeo in 1966, where it then moved it it’s current location, NRG stadium, in 2003.
The first entertainer to take the stage in 1942 was Gene Autry, and since then, Elvis Presley, Beyonce, Johnny Cash, and George Strait have graced the stage, to name a few. It’s a massive affair and embodies the spirit of Texas in it’s entirety. If you’ve never been, make your way to Houston during this rodeo bonanza.
It’s not the big guys that hold the crown as Texas’ longest continuously running rodeo. The West of the Pecos Rodeo began in 1883 in this small town in West Texas.
Authentic, rugged, and one that captures that small town Texas charm, this rodeo features bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, a wild cow milking competition (an event reserved for the locals to compete!) and a hide race, a special event specific to this rodeo, that’s full of live action and switching riders! Head to where the big blue skies reign down, and enjoy a weekend here in late June, at one of the liveliest outdoor rodeos the state has to offer.
The San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo began the same year as the Houston Rodeo in 1932, with a goal to promote better breeding, fattening and finishing, of livestock on West Texas ranches and farms.
The rodeo prides itself on allowing all cowboys and cowgirls who hold permits in either the PRCA and WPRA to compete. What this means is that the San Angelo Rodeo allows new riders the chance to compete and win, unlike some rodeos who only take the top end cowboys in world standings.
Taking place in early February to mid-March, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, and bare back riding are a few events, alongside timed events like tie-down roping, steer wrestling and women’s barrel racing.
But the real highlight of this rodeo is the crowd. West Texans love rodeos, and you can feel it in the stands! According to their website, this is the only location in the world that tie-down ropers get a louder cheer from the crowd than a bull rider does!
As one of our favorite places to spend the weekend, Matagorda Bay is a sleepy fishing town that lacks the commercialism of other well known coastal locales. We love loading up on fresh hauled shrimp while in town, and leave just a little slower and more mellow than when we arrived.
The Matagorda County Fair and Livestock Association hosts an event once a year that includes a barbecue cookout, a public speaking contest, a Rodeo Queen Pageant, a Ladies Calf Decorating contest, an Academic rodeo featuring local youth and of course, a good ole rodeo!
Events includes calf branding, steer yoking, and a ladies barrel racing contest, to name a few. Head to Matagorda County in late February and early March for small town fun, and don’t forget your fishing pole or cooler to load up on fresh, locally caught seafood.
Did we miss your favorite place to rodeo? Let us know in the comments below.