History

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 throughout the years have all contributed to Houston's most popular event. Follow this historical sketch to see the changes undergone and developments that made the Rodeo unique.

Past Entertainers

Check out the all the star entertainers that have performed at the Rodeo, starting with Gene Autry in 1942!

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Star Trail of Fame

The Star Trail of Fame pays tribute to the stars that have made a significant impact on the Rodeo throughout the years.

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Magazine

Check out the archived issues of the "Bowlegged H" Magazine, all the way back to 1993.

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By the Decades

Learn how the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ has grown to be the world's largest event of it's kind since 1932.

1930s 1930s

1930s

In 1931, The Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition is created after seven men meet for lunch at the Texas State Hotel, with a goal of preserving the cattle industry along the Texas Gulf Coast area. In 1932, the first Show is held at the Democratic Convention Hall before it was demolished in 1937. The Sam Houston Coliseum replaced it in time for the Show in 1938. During this year, the rodeo, horse show and downtown parade was added to the event.
1940s 1940s

1940s

In 1942, the rodeo welcomed the Show’s first entertainer, Gene Autry, "the Singing Cowboy," and the calf scramble program. The calf scramble takes place in the rodeo arena with several young students outnumbering loose calves. The student who catches a calf receives a certificate to purchase a registered beef heifer or market steer to show at the Houston Livestock Show™ the following year.
1950s 1950s

1950s

News of the Houston Fat Stock Show traveled as the first trail ride starts on horseback from Brenham, Texas, to Houston in 1952. In 1954, the Houston Rodeo becomes RCA-sanctioned (now PRCA — Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association). In 1957, the Show presented its first major educational scholarship, a $2,000 award, to Houstonian Ben Dickerson.
1960s 1960s

1960s

In 1961, The Houston Fat Stock Show becomes the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ before introducing the new “Bowlegged H” logo in 1966. That same year the Show moved from the Sam Houston Coliseum to the Astrodome, known as the Eighth Wonder of the World. The organization also created the School Art Program to support young, aspiring artists.
1970s 1970s

1970s

Elvis, barbecue and scholarships — that is what the 1970s was about for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. In 1970, Elvis Presley graced the Show stage in the Astrodome. That same year, the Show pledged an annual commitment of $100,000 to various Texas colleges in support of research studies. In 1974, the first World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest was held. Before the decade was over, all four-year, $4,000 scholarships were increased to $6,000 awards.
1980s 1980s

1980s

Prior to 1983, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo solely funded the construction of the exhibition facilities on park grounds. In 1983, the expansion of the Astroarena was partially funded by the Houston Sports Association and Harris County. Three years later, the state of Texas celebrated its 150th birthday with the help of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The Show was one of the few associations to be marked as an official organization of the Texas Sesquicentennial Association. In 1989, the Show scholarship program grew to include the Houston Metropolitan area.
1990s 1990s

1990s

The 90’s welcomed two Georges – U.S. President George H.W. Bush and country musician George Strait – launched a website, made its debuted on television and reached 1 million in paid Rodeo attendance. In 1990, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and other world leaders visited the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations. The Show held a special rodeo in July, in addition to its annual rodeo in March. In 1999, the city of Houston became the home of a new NFL franchise, the Houston Texans. The Show then became involved with Houston NFL Holdings and Harris County to build a new Rodeo/football stadium.
2000s 2000s

2000s

The final rodeo performance in the Astrodome featured country legend George Strait in 2002, before the Show moved to its new, 70,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium. The Show introduced the first Wine Competition and Auction as well as create the new RODEOHOUSTON Super Series format. The Super Series included champions receiving a minimum of $50,000. For the first time, all junior market auctions, the School Art Auction, and the Wine Auction, top a million dollars each. In 2007, the Show celebrated its 75th anniversary, known as "The Year of the Volunteer" as well as the 50th anniversary of its educational programs. A year later, the Show awarded more than $1 million to both Texas FFA and 4-H scholarship recipients.
2010 -... 2010 -...

2010 -...

In the past six years, the Show has welcomed more than 2 million people each year. People came to see the world’s largest livestock show, carnival, horse show, rodeo and more. The Cinch RODEOHOUSTON Super Shootout: North America's Champions debut as an invitation-only, one-day event featuring champion athletes from the top U.S. and Canadian rodeos. The athletes competed as individuals as well as a team for the rodeo that named them a champion. In 2012, the Show raised student scholarships to four-year $18,000 scholarships. George Strait performed his last performance in a special concert-only performance with Martina McBride and the Randy Rogers Band. The concert set an all-time paid attendance record for any event in NRG Stadium, with 80,020 people.

Shell Show Pride!

Celebrating a Rich History

During the Rodeo, walk through Shell Show Pride! to learn about the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's many contributions to agriculture, education, entertainment and Western heritage throughout its more than 80 years. Visitors experience the growth of the Rodeo since its beginning in 1932, the incredible variety of entertainers, what the committee volunteers do and more. Shell Show Pride! is located in the lobby of NRG Center.

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Building Program

In 1966, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo made one of the most significant changes in its history — it moved from the cozy Sam Houston Coliseum to a place that seemed like a city in itself: the Astrodome. The first performance in the new Domed Stadium drew 25,340 spectators, and attendance for one performance even topped 40,000 — almost five times the number of people the Coliseum could hold.

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Attendance in the Astrodome consistently toppled records. And in 1996, the Rodeo celebrated its 30th anniversary in the Astrodome complex.

In addition to the Astrodome, two additional facilities were built to host this mammoth event — the Astrohall and the Astroarena. More than just a location for the Rodeo, these buildings have had an immeasurable impact on this organization as well as the entire Houston community.

After building and paying for the Astrohall and Astroarena, the Rodeo donated the facilities to the citizens of Harris County. These two buildings alone helped attract almost 30 million people to the various sporting events, trade shows, expositions and hundreds of other activities since the Astrohall was built in 1966.

Timeline

1966

The Rodeo builds the Livestock Exposition Building (Astrohall).

1968

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

1973

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

1975

The 6,000-seat Astroarena is completed.

1980

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

1983

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

1991

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

1995

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

1996

The Rodeo celebrates 30 years at the Astrodome complex.

1999

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.

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

2000

Groundbreaking ceremonies are held in March for the new 70,000 seat, retractable roof RODEOHOUSTON/NFL stadium.

In June, groundbreaking ceremonies celebrate the beginning of construction for the 1.3-million-square-foot Harris County Exposition Center.

In October, NRG acquires naming rights for the Astrodome Complex. The renamed NRG Park includes NRG Astrodome, NRG Arena, NRG Hall, NRG Center and NRG Stadium.

2002

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

Astro Hall is demolished and the site paved for parking.

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

2003

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

Carruth Plaza is completed at NRG Park, creating a Western sculpture garden that is home to eight large-scale bronzes.

2012

On Dec. 27, 2012, the Rodeo purchased 48 acres of land out of a 92-acre tract commonly referred to as the Astroworld property.

About NRG Park

NRG Park is located in the southwest part of Houston, between Kirby and Fannin, bordered on the south side by South Loop 610. Situated on more than 300 acres, NRG Park is conveniently located near fine hotels, restaurants, shopping and major airports. It is home to world-class sporting, convention and exhibition venues, including NRG Arena, NRG Astrodome, NRG Center and NRG Stadium.

NRG Park is conveniently connected to Houston's METRORail system. NRG Park is the south end of the rail, connecting the Texas Medical Center and downtown Houston.

Features

  • Approximately 2.1 million total square feet of exhibit space
  • 350,000 square feet in NRG Arena
  • 706,213 square feet in NRG Center
  • 97,200 square feet in NRG Stadium
  • 700,000 square feet in utility-prepared outdoor exhibit area
  • 104,800 square feet in meeting rooms
  • Approximately 140,000 seats in NRG Park
  • 8,000 seats in NRG Arena
  • 2,000 seats in NRG Arena Pavilion
  • 70,000 seats in NRG Stadium

NRG Arena

NRG Arena houses the Houston Horse Show, as well as some of the livestock show competitions. It is also home to the junior auctions.

Square Footage

  • Total square footage: 349,000 square feet
  • Arena floor: 24,000 square feet
  • Arena seating: 5,800

NRG Center

NRG Center houses the Houston Livestock Show, commercial vendors and educational exhibits. It is also home of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ permanent offices.

Building Features

  • Total square footage: 1.3 million (nearly 30 acres) compared to 644,840 square feet in the former Astrohall
  • Building size: 590 feet wide (nearly two football fields in length) by 1,532 feet long (just over five football fields in length)

Interior Exhibition Facilities

  • Total exhibit footage: 706,213 (more than 16 acres) compared to 550,000 square feet in the former Astrohall
  • NRG Center can be divided into 11 sections, ranging from 40,000 to 168,000 square feet (has 15 freight doors)
  • Contiguous exhibit space on ground level with ceiling heights from 25 feet to 60 feet.

Meeting Facilities

  • Meeting rooms are located on the ground and mezzanine levels.
  • 72 meeting rooms: each with 17 foot ceilings and individual sound systems
  • Largest meeting rooms: 17,000 and 22,000 square feet

NRG Stadium

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ is a co-tenant in the 1.9 million-square-foot NRG Stadium — the largest and most expensive rodeo and football facility ever built. As a partner in NRG Stadium, rodeo-specific features and special Western accents are apparent.

Located immediately adjacent to NRG Astrodome along Kirby Drive, NRG Stadium opened in the fall of 2002 for football and early 2003 for rodeo.

Architectural Elements and Amenities

From the very beginning, the stadium's design focused on offering superior amenities to spectators. Standard capacity is fixed at 69,500 seats, although provisions were made to accommodate larger crowds for the 2004 Super Bowl and for Rodeo. Every effort has been made to pull the spectators down and forward to the action. Compared to NRG Astrodome, for example, the suites are almost 70 feet closer to the action at the sidelines.

Some areas in the main concourse are up to 65 feet wide, which boasts one concession stand for every 125 people. The main and club concourses have open views to the seating areas, allowing the Rodeo action to permeate the concourse areas. Exterior terraces at each concourse provide the opportunity for spectators to enjoy the outdoors between events.

The sides and ends of the stadium are open with large areas of glazing. As opposed to the dark and artificially lit concourses of most indoor facilities, these concourses feel more like an open-air stadium. The transparent skin allows for heating and cooling to regulate temperatures year round. At night, the building glows from within, and the circulation and excitement of the people inside are visible from the outside.

One of most notable aspects of the design is the operable fabric roof. While the NFL prefers to play in open-air stadiums, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has strict requirements to hold its events indoors under more controlled environments, and during the Rodeo, massive speakers and video screens are hung from the roof to enhance the performance. As a result of these opposing ideals, the need for a retractable roof was apparent from the start. The NFL also could take advantage of the roof during the hot pre-season and early season home games by offering a fully air-conditioned stadium for the spectators.

After studying multiple roof schemes, a uniquely simple solution was pursued for cost and maintenance reasons. The operable roof consists of two large panels that bi-part at the 50-yard line. Each panel slides on a track and rests over each end on two massive supertrusses that span the length of the field. It takes approximately 10 minutes to open or close the roof.

In order to keep the weight down and decrease the overall cost, the decision was made to skin the upper roof with fabric. The fabric roof provides a structurally light solution that keeps steel tonnages to a minimum. The translucency also provides the ambient sunlight to help maintain the natural grass playing field for football.

NRG Stadium Stats

  • Building square footage: 1.9 million square feet
  • Unique glass-paneled exterior
  • 72,000-plus seats for Rodeo performances
  • Supertrusses: support the retractable roof transport system. 84 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Weigh 3,750 tons (equivalent to the weight of more than 1,000 vehicles)
  • Each supertruss has structural steel equivalent to a 20-story building.
  • Pedestrian ramps in each corner with reversible escalators in each ramp system (full height of building)

NRG Setup and Presentation

  • The stadium's palletized grass playing field is completely removed for Rodeo and replaced with a clay base and dirt floor. Nearly 7,000 cubic yards of clay and top soil is used.
  • Rodeo stock — bulls, broncs, steers and roping calves — are housed in the north end of NRG Stadium under the lower bowl. During performances, roping and wrestling stock are penned on the south end of the arena.
  • All loading and unloading dock space is located on the north end of NRG Stadium. During Rodeo, rolling doors separate the dock into two receiving areas to isolate the food and concession deliveries from the rodeo equipment and livestock deliveries.
  • Roughstock chutes are located on the north end of the arena, and timed events, with the exception of barrel racing, begin on the south end.
  • The translucent, retractable roof remains closed during Rodeo performances due to the eight video screens and the sophisticated speaker system — 180,000 pounds of equipment — suspended from the NRG Stadium roof.
  • Two video boards at the end zones and additional LED screens on concourses add to the visual presentation.

Rodeo Concerts

  • The Show's familiar rotating stage is stored at the south end of the arena during the rodeo events and travels to its traditional center location for the concerts.
  • The Rodeo logo is tiled into the walls in the south-end dressing rooms. These same areas are utilized by visiting NFL teams.

Rodeo Seating

Action Seats, Club Level and Suites
  • Concourses in NRG stadium are up to 65 feet wide, with the field and club concourses having open views of the rodeo action. Rodeo's popularity and frequent sales of standing-room-only tickets necessitated the open views, and it has since been the model for other NFL stadiums.
  • On the concourses, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo logo — the familiar "Bowlegged H" — is embedded in blocks in the walls and alternates with the Houston Texans logo.
  • Spectators find that access to seating is labeled as "chutes" instead of "aisles." The recurring Western theme includes brands painted on walls and concessions with names like Fannin Icehouse and Mission Grill.
  • Action seats, located between the field seats and the arena, take fans closer to the thrills and spills, and rodeo contestants. They are the closest seats available. Just watch the dirt fly!
  • Leather panels in each upper and lower suite commemorate Rodeo, Houston Texans and NRG Park. If the door handle to each suite looks familiar, each one is shaped like a bull's horn.
  • Rodeo and Houston Texans logos are laser cut into the back of each bar chair.
  • Rodeo logos are prominent throughout the seating area, too, with the end cap on every other row embossed with the Rodeo logo.
  • The rodeo and football influence is carried out in four themed bars on the Club Level.

Star Bar

  • Located on northwest side
  • Silver star on the back of each bar chair
  • Tables covered with names of Texas-born stars of rodeo, entertainment, sports, etc.

Horseshoe Bar

  • Located on southwest side
  • Silver horseshoe on each bar chair
  • Tables covered with maps of Texas trail rides and rivers

Football Bar

  • Located on northeast side
  • Tables covered with star football players from Texas

Spur Bar

  • Located on southeast side
  • Tables covered with official icons of Texas, such as state flower, state bird, etc.
  • The floor covering on the Club level also reflects Texas heritage with carpet with the state of Texas, and carpet with broncs and footballs.

Rodeo Contestants

  • Rodeo secretary offices and contestant dressing rooms are located in the northwest quadrant on the service level.
  • Contestant dressing rooms, with separate accommodations for cowboys and cowgirls, provide comfortable areas for contestants to prepare for competition and to utilize separate hydrotherapy areas.
  • Uniquely Rodeo, the dressing rooms are adorned with Rodeo tiles and a red, white and blue theme. Across the hall from the dressing rooms, rodeo contestants' families are able to watch, wait and cheer in a special family room.

Carruth Plaza

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ has a home for its collection of Western art bronzes thanks to a grant from The Wortham Foundation, Inc.

Carruth Plaza has transformed a prime corner of NRG Park into a Western art sculpture garden — a sanctuary of bronze sculptures, Texas style landscaping and a flowing stream. The tranquil setting offers Rodeo visitors a place to gather and relax away from the hustle and bustle of other activities.

Named after Allen H. "Buddy" Carruth, who served as president of The Wortham Foundation and president and chairman of the board of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the plaza is located between NRG Astrodome and NRG Stadium, directly across from NRG Center. The Plaza is a tribute to the renowned Houston philanthropist who dedicated many hours to serving the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the people of Harris County.

Carruth Plaza is home to a unique collection of large-scale bronzes representing the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Texas' Western heritage. Eight pieces, many by Houston artists, are included in the Plaza.

The landscaping of the plaza reflects a Texas heritage, too, with native Houston and Texas plants such as cactus, yuccas and Live Oak trees. A stream flowing through Carruth Plaza creates a soothing atmosphere for visitors. Seating has been placed in close proximity to each work of art for maximum enjoyment.

As with the previous sculpture locations, bronze donors are recognized on plaques accompanying the artwork. Information about each sculpture is included at the site and also is available in Braille.

  • Cookie

    Summoning weary cowboys to the chuck wagon, "Cookie" stands ready to ring the dinner bell with hand to mouth to call the cowboys in. Created by Eric Kaposta, the bronze was unveiled in 1997.
  • Dreams and Memories

    The Rodeo impacts people of all ages, as depicted in "Dreams and Memories" by Jim Reno. A Texas Sesquicentennial gift dedicated in 1986, this work represents the Rodeo's past and future through a youngster with a calf peering up at a cattleman on horseback.
  • H. Stuart Lang Jr.

    Created by Cowboy Artist Hall of Fame member and Rodeo Lifetime Director Mark Storm in 1993, the bronze, "H. Stuart Lang Jr.," commemorates Lang's legacy with a rendition of the Astrodome, Astrohall and Astroarena at the foot of the statue. Lang served as the Rodeo's president from 1963 to 1966 and was instrumental in the Rodeo's move to the Astrodome complex.
  • Team Ropers

    The bond between a boy and his dog is portrayed in "Team Ropers." Created by Veryl Goodnight and dedicated in 1991, the bronze shows a boy holding a rope while his canine companion tugs on it playfully.
  • Texas Legacy

    Created by Robert Summers, six majestic Texas Longhorns are guided by two vaqueros on horseback in "Texas Legacy." A gift in 1987, the bronze epitomizes Texas' Western heritage.
  • Vivian L. Smith

    A former minority owner of the Houston Astros, Vivian L. Smith and her husband, R.E. "Bob" Smith, were an important part of the development of the Astrodome complex.
  • Wild and Free

    Created in celebration of the Rodeo's 60th anniversary in 1992, Edd Hayes' "Wild and Free" portrays the spirit of freedom through three mares, two colts and a stallion.
  • Yes!

    The excitement of victory is captured in "Yes!" The work of Lawrence M. Ludke, the sculpture portrays a young girl holding a first-place ribbon in her right hand, extended upward in joy.