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Strong Economy, Cowboy Cool & Community Support Breaks Records for Let's Rodeo Houston

RCS Midway Revenue Was Up in 2024
Revenues from Food, Games, and Rides were up slightly in 2024 at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Photo by Steve Hinz.

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As one of the first large scale events of the year – and the many-time #1 fair on the Top 50 fairs in the U.S., as compiled by Carnival Warehouse – Rodeo Houston is considered by many outdoor event industry observers as one of the key bellwether events forecasting the season ahead. If so, one may need to wear shades when viewing that crystal ball because the 2024 omens are bright and sunny.

“Houston is our first event of the season, and you could really feel the energy,” said Chris Lopez, Vice President of Ray Cammack Shows. “I can say that from the experience, there was a momentum, and if the economy can stay the way it is and we can get the kind of local support at our other events we got at the rodeo, that it is going to be a very good season.

The 2024 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo welcomed more than 2.5 million, an increase over the 2023 turnout and the highest overall attendance sice 2017. This year's event included 10 first-time entertainers, seven record-breaking auctions, two record-breaking paid stadium attendance records, and the inaugural RODEOHOUSTON® Hall of Fame.

2.5 Million

 “By offering an original entertainment lineup with 10 new musical acts, great rodeo competitions, world-class agricultural and educational exhibits, and a wide variety of food and fun, the 2024 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo drew more than 2.5 million visitors to take part in our community celebration of Western heritage,” said Chris Boleman, president and CEO, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. “With the dedication and commitment of our 35,000 volunteers, we proudly upheld Houston's favorite tradition in support of our $27.3 million commitment to Texas youth and education this year.”

Mother Nature smiled on Houston during the 23-day run, having only “one bad weather day, we enjoyed fantastic weather overall, contributing to impressive attendance numbers,” said Lisa Gagnon, Chief Marketing Officer Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, who also noted two additional 2024 record breakers – Los Tigres Del Norte with 75,595 tickets sold, which set a record broken only days later by the Jonas Brothers with 75,600 tickets sold.”

Turnout was high, but are folks continuing the post-Pandemic spending spree? Due to inflation, some vendors increased prices as did the rodeo, which Gagnon said was “pre-planned as part of our three-year pricing strategy,” she said. “Nevertheless, the unwavering support of our community persisted, as they continued to come out to the Rodeo, creating lasting memories along the way. Due to strong attendance, good weather and the support of our donors and sponsors, revenue was up vs. 2023. From what we've observed at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, consumer spending has been holding steady, which is fantastic news.”

Cowboy Cool

Despite inflation, post-Covid low unemployment and other positive economic indicators are conducive to bolstering demand for family-friendly entertainment. Turnout and community support had an added boost with the current popularity of Cowboy Cool in film, television and music. “We most certainly are seeing the resurgence in the popularity around cowboy culture,” she said. “But it's not just on the big screen, more artists leaning into the country genre which has some fans embracing everything cowboy culture has to offer. As we see this increase in exposure across the board, we are in turn seeing more people embrace it which also inherently spreads awareness about such an important part of our history here in America. We now have people who may have never been to a rodeo before entertain the idea of visiting, or individuals who have never owned a cowboy hat make a fashion pivot because of what's trending.”

She added, “We have also seen an increase in the diversity of our attendees, many of which are also embracing cowboy fashion. Western fashion has been trending in popularity across the nation and it was on full display at our event this Spring. It was exciting to witness both first-time guests and returning attendees alike fully embracing the cowboy attire, proudly showcasing their style. A lot of what we're seeing is a fusion of western tradition with a modern twist. This isn't just a trend but a celebration of heritage and individuality. At the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, we are embracing the pop culture “cowboy” boom, and we hope it sticks around.”

Let's Rodeo

With no signs of Cowboy Cool skedaddling any time soon, the marketing campaign was direct and inviting: “Let's Rodeo!” – This mantra was actually adopted last year and now is integral to the branding of the event. “We launched our “Let's Rodeo” campaign in 2023 and continued to build on it this year,” she said. “With our multi-faceted event, going to the Rodeo means different things to different people. Our campaign brings this to life.”

The advertising budget remained consistent with last year, as it did the media buy, with 50 percent going to digital advertising and the remainder dispersed among TV, radio, OOH, etc. “We adjusted our media spending allocation over the years as advertising trends shift with consumer behavior.”

The rodeo's active social media campaign emphasized engagement and personalized communication. “We've continued to evolve and grow our social voice to continue speaking with our wide variety of guests,” she said. “Over 23 days, we digitally interacted with a large audience who either are immersed in Rodeo, casually participate or have never been before. We made a huge effort in being a connecting point for all three of those audiences by creatively showcasing the abundance of events, experiences and opportunities the Rodeo has to offer our community.”

Midway Up

The positive impact of the Let's Rodeo promotion, marketing and branding campaign that also includes community outreach and support was clearly felt on the RCS midway, which showcased 80 rides, 40 food stands and 60 games. “Their marketing is the trademark of their event,” said Lopez. “They know how to get out their base. It's an event the whole community gets behind. The attitude of the customer is great, they really support the Rodeo. You could really feel the energy. Demographically, it's the fourth largest city in the country, a lot of oil and tech industry dollars. We also had good weather, it was a perfect formula. ”

Revenue showed significant upticks, with rides up 3 percent, food up 2 percent and games up 5 percent. “Over the last few years, we've emphasized our games,” said Lopez. Top performing rides include Le Grande XL, Sky-Ride; Raptor Coaster, Ray Wave, and the Crazy Coaster.

It was an up year in all segments for the highest attended fair in North America, especially its deep community roots. “Each year, we approach the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with a sense of anticipation, knowing our community's support will ensure memorable experiences and success,” said Gagnon. “However, this year surpassed even our highest hopes. We shattered attendance and auction records, fostered and strengthened partnerships with sponsors, introduced 10 new artists, and delivered a world-class experience on the grounds. And let's not forget, every moment our guests spent here helped make a year-round impact on countless students through our scholarship initiatives.”

At its core is the unique experience of the event itself. “Rodeos are a deeply rooted sport in Western culture. Rodeo events reflect the traditions of horsemanship, cattle ranching, and skills needed for rural life. It is also a way to preserve and celebrate Western heritage. Rodeos, especially here in Houston, serve as an important social event in the community. There has also been this massive surge in Western-themed shows and movies lately, and it has more people intrigued about the sport of rodeo. Rodeo, especially ours, is a chance for people from all walks of life to gather and celebrate western heritage.”

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