Thursday, March 09, 2006

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Each year our family joins with the family of a co-worker of Lavie to make the pilgrimage to the Event known as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo--or in these parts--just "The Rodeo". A month-long festival celebrating all that is Texas and Good.

Parking is generally off site. Attendees need to select one of many Metro Park-and-Ride lots around the city and are bussed in on public buses. Or you can park kinda close and hike it several long blocks. Fortunately (or rather unfortunately) due to Lavie's disability, we are able to park a good softball toss from the main gates in the handicapped parking.

It was a beautiful Saturday. The wind held a light breeze that worked well to convey the smoke from the barbecue pits across the entire grounds. I ended up getting a free mild sunburn. It was cool, but not cold.

The first sight that greeted us was the Reliant Stadium. This is the replacement to the Houston Astrodome. The Astros (our MLB NL baseball team) now plays in their own baseball stadium downtown. The Houston Texans (I still hate that name) NFL football team plays here. This is also where the main Rodeo events are held along with the concerts. It is massive and dwarfs the hard as that is to believe.

Upon reaching the main gate, we were presented with this massive yellow semi. It was the Build-A-Bear workshop on 18-wheels. Alvis had to check it out. I find it interesting that last year this prime piece of Rodeo event real estate was held by the Army recruiting team. What a change a year makes--or maybe the bubbly Build-A-Bear sales girls were really black ops Army commandos recruiting the next generation of elite that I think about it, there were some cammo outfits for the bears in there...

I think we spent most of the time shopping in the multitude of booths. The girls scored some crop-top denim jackets. There were lots of Tacky-Texas goods, lots of specialty/gourmet foods, loads of western wear from jackets to jeans to leathers to boots. Lots of handmade goods and a number of art exhibits. Quilts were on display. There were also some oddities such as a booth for hot-tubs, along with a boot for a new steam-iron, insole inserts, magic rubs (as in Dasterdly Dan's Magic Do Everything Snake Oil Special--guaranteed to cure every ailment). Ford (being a sponsor) had a number of vehicle exhibits: the coolest were the heavy trucks but they had cars there as well. Lots of farm implement dealers and tractors. Oh yeah, they also had some animals on exhibit. Goats, rabbits, cows, pigs, bees, chickens, etc....but who wants to see pictures of those things. Boring.

Ok, I do have to show this livestock related item. I guess it is a good thing chickens can't read or the Build-A-Bear special ops commando unit would be kickin into high gear. This was taken in the "kids educational center" and shows adult chickens eating from their feeder. Behind them is the helpful cartoon illustration teaching the kids (and the chickens) what awaits these cute and lovable cluckers the kiddies were all trying to pet. Notice the stages of chicken processing: Sedation, Picker, Eviscerator, Ice Bath, Packaging, Weighing, and Cold Storage. Damn, being a chicken really sucks. Rub it in Rodeo organizers--good thing the kiddies can read about as well as the chickens at this point.

Outside the exhibit hall is a series of tents where the more "bourgeois" eat. Here you will find the fancier smoked meats, mexican foods, and barbecues. And beer. Lots of beer. It's Texas, The Rodeo and Houston. What do you expect?

Beyond these tents are the Fairgrounds and Carnival, proper. Here is the real food. Just about everything is fried. Alvis had a fried Twinkie. I wasn't impressed but she thought it was awesome. Take a Twinkie, cram a stick into it, dunk it in corn batter, fry, eat. Yummm. The fresh-squeezed lemon aid was great (although Lavie and I would have preferred limes) and the roasted corn-on-the cob was to die for. Oh so good.

Alvis and I took a ride on the mid-sized ferris wheel. While airborne, I chanced a shot over my shoulder across the parking lot. In the distance you can see where the AstroWorld amusement park used to be. The only ride still visible is the old wooden roller coaster the Texas Cyclone. Previously, this view would have contained a large number of the steel frame coasters high into the air along with a dungeon-drop tower, the cable-car gondolas and the like. They have all now been auctioned off and dismantled. I had heard that the Texas Cyclone was too old to resell (in entirety) so it will never be ridden again. The other rides will be repackaged at other theme parks across the state and country. This is really sad. Alvis, Lavie and I had a lot of great family memories there. The land is worth too much against the value of the park income.

I'm a fuddy-duddy when it comes to the carnival games. I never found much pleasure in playing the carny games. They just seem rigged to me. I'd rather just hand the guy my money and walk away. That would be more entertaining. However it's hard to tell your kid/loved one "pass" with the colorful displays, the barking game operators, the smells of smoking meats and fried foods. How can you pass this stuff up. The past few years the carnies have kinda taken the edge of things. In most of the games, if you blow it bad, you still get to give the kiddies a "consolation prize". This being a tiny, small-scale toy/plushie. Oh well. Makes forking over that $5 spot a little more palatable.

The Rodeo proper kicks off around 4:45 each day. We filed into the Reliant Stadium with the other thousands of Rodeo/Concert goers. We watched: Bronco (horse) riding, Bull Riding, Chuck Wagon races, Barrel Racing (where the female rider races around three barrels in a timed event), Calf Roping, the ever delightful Calf Scramble, where kids get to chase calves all over the area floor and drag them into the center. If they succeed (more kids than calves) they get a scholarship to raise a cow for the next Rodeo and a chance to win a big time scholarship if it makes the grade and gets auctioned. The concert followed around 7pm'ish. Martina McBride was the artist. We lasted through two or three songs and decided to make a break for it. It had been a long day.

On the way out I snapped this picture at dusk of the mega-ferris wheel. It turned out pretty good. I think it was my favorite of the bunch.

I shot all the photos with our Canon Powershot S200 Digital Elph camera. Lavie has an older Pentax with tons of lenses. I have a Canon Rebel SLR I got shortly after we wedded. Both haven't been pulled out of their cases in years. I really am considering investing in a digital SLR. The pictures turned out pretty well, but are really just snapshot quality. I used to take much better photos but I just don't get the immediate satisfaction of film photography anymore. Besides, developing is still moderately expensive and you can't check then on the fly like you can with digital photography....I don't know. Just seems sad to have those nice cameras and know Lavie and I probably won't be using them much (if any) anymore.

Cowboy/Cowgirl Up!

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