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Rodeo blues

Between Feb. 28 and Mar. 19, my social media feeds, texts from friends, and alerts for ticket sales in my inbox tell me one thing: it’s rodeo season. And although I love having big snow days up here, the jealousy I have toward my friends attending the rodeo this year is inevitable. I look forward to it every year — the concerts, mutton busting, carnival, and the food all together create a fun that is impossible to replicate. 

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the world’s largest rodeo, bringing in over two million visitors annually, all looking to enjoy everything it has to offer. As the name of the event suggests, there is a huge livestock show. Cattle, pigs, chickens, and more are all shown by ranchers, farmers, and even students in the area. While not my personal cup of tea, I really loved collecting the animal trading cards at the show when I was little. Now I prefer the mutton busting, which is where little kids get placed on sheep and have to hold on as long as they can while the sheep run down a part of the arena. The reactions of the kids are golden every time. 

My personal favorite part of the rodeo is the carnival, which I always went to with my friends. It’s your typical carnival — fast rides, games that are impossible to win but you try a million times in vain, screaming kids — but what makes it stand out above all else is the food. Barbecue baked potatoes, buckets of fresh chocolate chip cookies, street tacos, and anything you can imagine deep fried. It’s heavenly, and before you even take the first bite, you know you are risking vomiting on the next ride you hop on, but you don’t care because it’s all just that good. 

The rodeo is special and probably doesn’t make sense to anyone until they’ve lived it. Some people think it doesn’t sound appealing because of how “cowboy” it is, and while it is very much like that, you embrace it. Almost every day out of the year I couldn’t really care less about horses and barrel racing, and suddenly, as soon as it is rodeo season, I am tearing up at the horse entrance and screaming my head off when the races begin. The energy is electric, and there isn’t a single person who isn’t enjoying it when they step onto the grounds of NRG. 

Every time I try to explain the rodeo to my friends up here, I feel like I’m speaking a different language. Nobody really understands why riding a bull for eight seconds is cool or why there’s an event for high school students to catch a calf and drag it into a box in the center of the arena, but that’s okay! It gives me a chance to share a part of my life that is new to my friends here. And it gives them a chance to laugh at videos of me getting thrown off mechanical bulls, which I know they enjoy. 

While I am jealous of all of my friends and family back home getting to experience the rodeo this year, I’m happy that my absence is a way to share it with others. Sure, I miss the excitement of getting ready for it with my friends and scrambling to find someone when they got lost in the sea of denim and Stetsons, but if you think about it, that experience could be somewhat comparable to scrambling to find your friend who ran off at the senior apartments. So while the rodeo blues got me down for a bit, my time here is keeping my mood up. All I’m missing is a massive barbecue baked potato.


~ Kathryn Stone ’26

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