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Carnival & Fair News
Carnival & Fair News
New Stage is "Star" of the Show for Rodeo Houston
Friday, April 6, 2018
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If there were any doubts about whether Texans were tough, the 2018 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo showed that not even a devastating hurricane and flood were going to stop fans from attending in the tens of thousands to see the best on hoof and hear the best on stage.

Total attendance for all activities on the grounds, Feb. 22 - 24 (World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest) and Feb. 27 - March 18 (Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo) reached 2,408,550. This compares to last year's event record attendance of 2,611,176.

"There was something fun for everyone at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo," said Joel Cowley, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo President and CEO. "Along with our many offerings, we were excited to bring back Garth Brooks for our fans. With the help of more than 33,000 dedicated volunteers, fans were greeted with a celebration of agriculture, entertainment and Western heritage, all while supporting the youth of Texas."
Star Stage Star of the Show

The event featured a new, multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art, star-shaped concert stage for the live entertainment which, this year, saw a return by superstar Garth Brooks, performing here for the first time in 25 years. His fans showed their appreciation by turning out in record numbers, more than 150,000 for his two performances, including 75,577 for his March 18 show and 75,018 on Feb. 27. These fans put Brooks in the No. 1 spot for paid rodeo/concert performances at Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. 

In fact, thanks to the box office pull by Garth Brooks, five RodeoHouston performances landed on the list of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's top 25 paid rodeo/concert attendance records.

In addition to Brooks, three other popular national and regional acts packed fans to the edge of the star-shaped stage:

  • Sunday, March 11- Go Tejano Day - Calibre 50 - 75,565
  • Saturday, March 17 - Brad Paisley - 75,016
  • Friday, March 16 - Chris Stapleton - 75,014

Perhaps the real start of the show, though, was the new star-shaped stage.  "The thing that gathered the most attention is our brand new stage," Cowley said. "It surpassed our expectations."

The old stage had been in use for more than a dozen years. The new stage is "right-sized for the stadium," Cowley said. It measures 126 feet wide with large LED screens overhead as well as  600 lights. Designed by TAIT, "It will serve us well for 20 or more  years. It's a decades-long investment."

Although weighing in at 360,000 pounds, the stage is very mobile, allowing for it to be set up quickly in the arena after rodeo performance. A key feature of the stage's design is the five points of the star-shaped design.

These "arms" can be lowered during a live concert performance, allowing the entertainer to walk down to the dirt floor. They can also be raised 30 feet into the air, giving the performer a unique view of the audience and the audience likewise seeing their star in an elevated stance.

Bird's Eye View

Another innovation this year designed to enhance the audience's rodeo-viewing experience, Cowley said, was the installation of a flying camera in the north end of the stadium. "We got really cool shots for the concerts" that were then displayed on the video screens over the stage, he said. And for the rodeo performances, the camera "can drop right in on a bull rider or follow a bronco rider right across the dirt." Cowley said. 

Grounds for Appreciation

While there were no new pre-event promotions this year Crowley explained, a major effort was put into landscaping. "We wanted to create a very fresh, uniform look throughout the grounds," he explained. "We wanted to make it some place special." A core color look was the primary goal, he said. "We branded in more places, especially in places where we hadn't branded before with benches and signs," he said. This effort covered the 300-acre grounds, including parking and outdoor vending spaces.

The efforts seem to have paid off, Crowley said,. Patrons stayed longer and spent more on on-site opportunities. "We had a record year from an arrival standpoint and food,  Capital spending was up."

Restroom Trailers

Another improvement involved the purchase of three additional portable restroom trailers. As a result, the there were four banks of trailers around the grounds. Each trailer contained multiple private stalls, urinals and sinks and were ADA compliant. The use of restroom trailers " has definitely been an upgrade over the past three years," Cowley said.  Cowley speculated that these more comfortable, non-traditional portable toilet facilities added to fans wanting to stay on the grounds longer and spend more.

Good Weather

"We had just about as good a weather as we have had in recent years," Crowley said. That, too, contributed to the length of stays by fans."We focused in recent years on having leisure spaces - spaces where people can sit down, relax and recharge.. We put benches wherever we could. The Wine Garden was expanded."

Hurricane Harvey was certainly a factor with respect to overall attendance, Crowley admitted. Grounds admission prices were also increased from $10 to $15 but the decision was made and in the budget  before Hurricane Harvey, Crowley explained. "But we still have people (in Houston) in recovery." 

Official Rodeo Merchandise

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and entertainer merchandise sales reached more than $3.4 million, proving the popularity of the brand. Nearly 75,000 items with the Rodeo's logo went home with fans, including 30,000 caps and T-shirts, 10,000 lapel pins, and 9,000 cups and mugs.

Ray Cammack Shows Carnival

A record of more than 2.7 million rides were given in the carnival area, provided by Ray Cammack Shows.

The top five rides in the carnival were La Grande Wheel, Skyride, Windstorm, RaveWave and Crazy Coaster.


This year, RodeoHouston committed $2.17 million to its contestants. Its Super Series invited the world's top rodeo athletes to compete in seven traditional rodeo events. They competed for a share of $1,748,000 in prize money. Each event champion rode out of NRG Stadium with $50,000, plus winnings from the preliminary rounds.

The 2018 champions, with total money earned, are:

  • Three-time RodeoHouston champion - 2003, 2017 and 2018
  • Tie-Down Roping: Tyler Milligan: Pawhuska, Okla. - $56,000
  • Bareback Riding: Clint Laye: Pocatello, Idaho - $57,250
  • Team Roping: Matt Sherwood: Pima, Ariz., and Walt Woodward: Stephenville, Texas - $112,000
  • Saddle Bronc Riding: Cody DeMoss: Heflin, La. - $56,250
  • Steer Wrestling: Timmy Sparing: Helena, Mont. - $53,500
  • Barrel Racing: Nellie Williams-Miller: Cottonwood, Calif. - $58,750
  • Bull Riding: Parker Breding: Edgar, Mont. - $57,500

Super Shootout

The RodeoHouston Super Shootout: North America's Champions, presented by Crown Royal, was held Sunday, March 18. This one-day event featured champion athletes from eight of the best rodeos in the U.S. and Canada.

Contestants competed as individuals and as a team consisting of event champions from each of the eight rodeos: Rodeo Austin, Calgary Stampede, Cheyenne Frontier Days, Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, RodeoHouston, National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, Reno Rodeo, and San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo.

The Super Shootout featured five fan-favorite events: bareback riding, barrel racing, bull riding, saddle bronc riding and steer wrestling.

With a total purse of $250,000, the Super Shootout is among the richest one-day rodeo events in the world. Each event champion earned $25,000, and team members earned an additional $2,500 each for their share of $12,500 for the winning team.

The 2018 champions, with the rodeos they represented, are:

  • Bareback Riding: J.R. Vezain, Team RodeoHouston
  • Barrel Racing: Nellie Williams-Miller, Team Reno Rodeo
  • Bull Riding: Sage Steele Kimzey, Team Calgary Stampede
  • Saddle Bronc Riding: Heith Demoss, Team Reno Rodeo
  • Steer Wrestling: Tyler Waguespack, Team RodeoHouston
  • The Super Shootout Team Award: Reno Rodeo

Scholarships and Education

The Houston Rodeo committed $26,709,110 to the youth of Texas in 2018:

$14,271,000 in scholarships will be awarded this summer; $8,125,250 to junior show exhibitors and calf scramble participants; $3,726,820 in educational program grants; and $586,040 in graduate assistantships.

Looking Ahead to 2019

The 2019 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo will be held Feb. 26 through March 17. Crowley said they are already looking ahead to concert acts to book.

"We do have some offers out to entertainers who have never performed here before" he said. 

"We take pride in celebrating Western heritage," he said. "As such, the majority of our 20 performers are country music This year we had 15 country acts; last year, 12.  We have non-country acts because Houston is such a diverse city," he said.

One non-country act this year, J. Baldwin, "packed 'em in," Crowley said. "It was rockin."

"We will always look for a way to attract new acts," Crowley said. "If we believe there is a demand for it in Houston, we'll darn sure consider it," Crowley said.  

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