By Crystal McKeon

Few events held in the great city of Houston are more well-known, better attended or more beloved than the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™. As many know, the Rodeo season kicks off well before the first official RODEOHOUSTON® contest or concert. Show fans get into the mood with the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, presented by Cotton; Rodeo Run, presented by ConocoPhillips; Rodeo Uncorked! ® Roundup & Best Bites Competition; the Downtown Rodeo Parade; and trail rides, among many other events in the days leading up to the official first night.

During the 20-day Rodeo lineup, patrons travel from near and far to attend the concert of a superstar entertainer. Guests spend hours at the carnival and AGVENTURE, presented by Oxy, playing games, riding rides and eating fair food. They wander the countless aisles of NRG Center shopping, looking at exhibits, and watching shows and competitions. And who could forget the RODEOHOUSTON® featuring bull riders, team roping, barrel racing and the Calf Scramble, to name a few of the iconic rodeo activities visitors enjoy. It is incredible to realize that beyond the relatively short but busy time frame in and around Show season, there is even more activity throughout the year.

The Speakers Committee is tasked with year-round Show promotion to bring the Rodeo into focus for members of the community. They contact businesses, service clubs and area schools to offer speaker services. All speech topics are based on the four pillars of the show: Western heritage, entertainment, education and agriculture. These broad topics can be narrowed down and personalized into endless presentations. A few examples of popular subjects are “Roping Women of the West,” “Flags of the State of Texas” and “What will you see at the Show?”

Some of the most impactful presentations are delivered to high schoolers about the many scholarships Rodeo offers. Speakers Committee Chairman Jennifer Lowery emphasizes the fact that you do not have to raise animals to be involved with the Rodeo. “The biggest misconception is that the Rodeo only pertains to kids who grow up on farms. Kids from all over the state participate in the Youth Quilt Contest, School Art program and Writing Competitions; visit the Rodeo; and learn about agriculture. And there are so many impacts and avenues, along with agriculture, in which all can be involved with the Show,” she said. Teens often do not know they can apply for any number of potentially life-changing scholarships. The Speakers Committee works to spread the word about the Rodeo to reach students and community members.

The Agriculture Education Committee is tasked with promoting the Rodeo to preschool through fifth-grade children. Chairman Margaret Fritz and her committee are working year-round to educate students about agriculture. “We stress the importance of a farmer and rancher in our everyday life, hopefully sparking an interest in pursuing a career in agriculture or just coming out to visit the Livestock Show and Rodeo,” she said.

The committee’s presentations are all TEKS-aligned, which means they are tied directly to the curriculum students learn. For preschool and kindergarten, the book “Farm Friends” introduces children to different animals they will find on a farm. In first grade, they discuss “Tops and Bottoms,” which teaches children about plants and breaks down what part of the plant is edible whether it be the flower, root or leaves. In second grade, students discuss “What’s in Your Lunch Box,” which helps them learn and understand the basic food groups, what they are eating and where it comes from.

The committee created a presentation on bees’ contribution to agriculture and incorporated it with the STAAR testing for third graders. Fourth and fifth graders experience a combined program that provides a “Tour of Texas,” teaching about the four regions of Texas and their subregions. Older elementary students learn about each region’s unique animals, crops and products. Teachers love these presentations because they support their in-class lessons with real-world examples and demonstrations at the Rodeo. Fritz encourages all Houston-area parents to “get us on your child’s school schedule!”

The Rodeo is known far and wide on a city, state, country and even worldwide level as the world’s largest and most prestigious livestock show. Even with this international notoriety, the mission statement of enhancing and educating the local youth and the surrounding community continues to be a challenge, and the Speakers Committee and Agriculture Education Committee will continue to be on the front line.