Every year, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ has an important international mission, and this year, the Show hosted more international visitors than ever before. The International Committee, consisting of 675 volunteers, created a spectacular experience for nearly 3,000 international visitors from over 96 countries. “We had more guests check-in on day one than we did all of last year combined,” International Committee Chair Randy Pauly said.

From the moment a guest enters the International Room, a dedicated space within NRG Center for all registered international guests, they are greeted with a big Texas and Rodeo welcome, “Howdy!” Committee members then showcase the City of Houston, explain the how and why behind Rodeo events and even help facilitate the purchase of livestock from championship bloodlines, if they are interested. Many of the Rodeo’s international guests attend to grow their own ranches by purchasing semen, cattle and horses. The President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, his wife and their delegation were among the international guests and purchased champion bloodline Brahman. This year, these guests surpassed $3.4 million in cattle sales, helping boost the ranching and wildlife economy across the state. “These folks also come to purchase ranching equipment, look at our colleges and schools, take care of their medical needs and shop,” Pauly said. 

While the International Room sees many of the same faces year after year, the occasional new guests describe their first time at the Rodeo as a “mind-blowing experience.” One international visitor even compared it to visiting Walt Disney World.

Adolfo Jimenez, a visitor to the Rodeo from Costa Rica, took his very first flight to attend the Rodeo. He was part of the group representing a Costa Rican Rodeo, Camara de Ganaderos de Liberia out of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. This leadership group wanted to experience firsthand what it takes to produce one of the world’s largest livestock shows and rodeos. Jimenez and the rest of his group said they were amazed at how much the committee wanted to help them learn.  “Within our room, we were able to set them up with Show staff as well as volunteers from all different areas of the show so we could explain the wins and the hurdles while giving them the chance to ask questions,” Pauly said.

While most international guests speak enough English to manage while they’re visiting, the committee also has translators to assist. The committee also feeds approximately 250 international guests each day of the Rodeo; however, that number can reach 450-500 guests on the busiest days. “In addition to the free lunches, we host many events throughout the day including a ladies’ luncheon and formal gala,” Pauly added. 

The effort of the volunteers is what is most noticed by the international guests. The Costa Rican guests loved witnessing all the volunteers working together. They said the greatest part of the experience was everyone wanting to pitch in and make it better, seeing how many scholarships were given, and how the event helped the community. While the Costa Rican visitors experienced numerous aspects of the Rodeo, they were most interested in the calf scramble, mutton bustin’ and scholarship opportunities. They hope to implement what they’ve learned at their own rodeo to further develop a love of the sport and the mission among their own community’s youth.  

The Committee is also doing its part in helping further develop the youth’s appreciation for the Rodeo. “This year, we implemented a Kid’s Corner for the first time ever,” said Johnny Flores, an International Committee member. “Those kids are the future of the room in 20 or so years!” 

The connections formed and lessons learned within the four walls of the International Room will have a long-lasting impact and help keep livestock shows and rodeos thriving around the world for generations to come.