Barrel Racing

Rodeo Underscores Houston Spirit and Economic Opportunity

Let’s be thankful y’all that February is the shortest month. We can recognize 8th-century king Numa Pompilius for that and be grateful that we don’t have to wait one day longer for the return of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR). After two years of curtailed activities, the expectations for Rodeo 2022 are high, and excitement is building among fans and supporters.

This year, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo celebrates 90 years of promoting agriculture, showcasing Western heritage, and supporting the youth of Texas. Given the enthusiasm for this anniversary and the difficulties of the past two years, rodeo officials genuinely believe that this year’s event will hold greater meaning and more profound significance than ever before.

WALTLabs-Cowboy

Where Did the Rodeo Go?

Go ahead and Google, “Did the Houston rodeo happen in 2020,” and the search engine returns a single-word notice in bold black type, “Canceled.” The results are the same for 2021. So what happened?

March 11, 2020, was a fateful day for the rodeo. Issuing an emergency health declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner pushed pause on the world’s largest livestock show and richest regular-season rodeo. “Those of us who are Texans through and through from our region, you know just how much we love the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo,” Turner said. “The decision to cancel it has not come easily.”

The following year presented a similar story. Despite optimism among organizers and a massive logistical operation to re-schedule the event for later in the year, the show did not go on. Competitions, concerts and entertainment, carnival, and other attractions and activities were canceled due to the ongoing health crisis. “The Rodeo and our volunteers are committed to continuing to provide fans with a community event that all can be proud of,” said Chris Boleman, president and CEO of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. “We look forward to welcoming Rodeo fans back to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 2022 for our 90th-anniversary celebration.”

Rodeo Represents the Heart of Texas

Rodeo is a Texas tradition. Its origins are rooted in Spanish conquistadors who first brought horses to Mexico in the 16th century. Later, Mexican vaqueros known for their horsemanship rode atop the animals to move herds of cattle across the Southwest. Riding, roping, branding became the tradecraft of these equestrians along with their telltale adornments of saddles, spurs, and chaps.

By the 1800s, the era of the American cowboy had arrived. Cowboys working for established enterprises like the King Ranch and others drove cattle across the Texas plains to railheads for shipping to east coast markets and beyond. These ranch hands were measured by their skills in the saddle and the use of their lariats. As with the history of many sports, practical pursuits lead to those of a competitive nature. The modern rodeo was born.

Tradition and history aside, rodeo holds great economic importance to Houston, its surrounding areas, and even areas far beyond. According to its 2019 impact report, the livestock show and rodeo delivered a total economic impact of $229 million. Organizers point to more than 5,000 jobs supported by the event throughout the greater Houston area. Jim Winnie, board chairman for the rodeo, punctuated the charitable impact of the rodeo, “We committed $27 million to scholarships, junior show exhibitors, educational program grants and graduate assistantships for 2020, which means that the Rodeo surpassed $500 million in our total commitment to youth and education since 1932.” Yes, everything is bigger in Texas, and the impact of the Houston rodeo is no exception.

Rodeo Carnival

WALTLabs.io Looks Forward to Being There

Some may ask why a technology company is writing a blog about rodeo. The answer is simple–we’re Texans. Our U.S. headquarters, located in Spring, TX, means we’re also Houstonians. Our attachment to this region is strong, and, like so many businesses, we too saw and felt the impact of COVID-19. The return of the rodeo symbolizes the durability of the Texas spirit and our desire to work and play hard.

Today’s rodeo also holds massive entertainment appeal for all of us here at WALTLabs.io. During March, when we’re not migrating businesses to Google Cloud Platform or helping with application modernization, you might find us watching livestock auctions or spectating traditional events like bareback riding, barrel racing, bronco busting, steer wrestling, and roping. The nearly month-long gathering will hold something Texas-sized for each of us, including bar-b-que contests, parades, wine auctions, dining, and shopping. And the lineup for the concert series is as long as a country mile and comprised of the hottest names in country, rock, and pop music. If this happens to be your first rodeo, you don’t want to miss any of it–we sure won’t be.