When we moved to Houston, we heard mention of “The Rodeo.” As non-Texans, we had no concept of the sheer size of the world’s largest rodeo event, which lasts 20 days and has a famous country artist perform each night. I grew up in Tennessee and have been to my share of state fairs and farming events. I was even known to show cows back during my 4-H days. But as a Houstonian explained to me recently, “It’s like a state fair on steroids.” I couldn’t have described it better myself.
As the only true country music fan, Jordie was asked to choose the night we would attend. He opted for a Wednesday Rascal Flatts expedition, so we joined Samantha and Sean for an outing where Jordie would reveal himself as The Mole.
Parking can be a bit of an issue when over 70,000 people are expected at an event, so we took Houston’s newest form of public transportation: the LightRail. What you may not know is that people in Houston don’t believe in public transportation. The LightRail is a couple years old, and somehow buses/cars are still managing to wreck into it on a regular basis. Though it’s nowhere near as squished as I’ve experienced on the DC metro, the people on the LightRail didn’t stop complaining the whole way there saying, “This is what China must be like!” The closer we got to the stadium, the louder the comments got. My experience was a mixture of amusement and annoyance.
When we finally made it to the rodeo, we all paused to take in the sights: an entire stadium (Reliant Park, home of the Houston Texans) and convention center full of rodeo events. Check out these fried foods!
Surrounding us was tens of thousands of people, decked out in either A) western wears or B) clubbin’ clothes. I never expected to see so many teenagers dressed to impress at the world’s largest rodeo event. Even so, I gave props to our crew for pulling out their finest plaid.
As hunger pangs gnawed at our stomachs, we set our minds on finding the tastiest fair food. By this point the smell of grease had completely pervaded my consciousness, and I could think of nothing else. We soon realized this was not the case for Jordie. Technically the rodeo event and concert was supposed to begin soon, and Jordie was purely focused on getting us all to our seats in time to see Rascal Flatts, which no one else really cared about. As we struggled to keep up with Jordie’s increasingly fast pace, he began to get irritable. Painfully passing BBQ, funnel cakes, and a variety of strange foods on a stick, our stomachs growled. We salivated. Even so, each time we lagged behind, Jordie turned around and sternly beckoned us forward.
Much to our dismay, Jordie led us past every single food stand and into the stadium, which involved a separate ticket and entry point. Signs read, “No outside food or drink past this point. No re-entry.” Jordie had crushed our dreams of food, and there was no turning back.
Once we entered the stadium, we climbed to the very top cheap seats we’d purchased and begin absorbing the rodeo. As hungry as we all were, the events in front of us were more than amusing. Two witty cowboys announced the events as we watched men compete in lassoing calves/riding bulls bareback, followed by close ups and re-plays on the big screen. Jordie was as surprised as the rest of us when this continued for three full hours before Rascal Flatts ever came out. About an hour in, he began whining about how hungry he was. It was not well received, yet we all maintained our composures to not let hunger or hatred for Jordie interfere with rodeo enjoyment.
The best events were those with small children. The “Calf Scramble” involved letting 50 kids and 25 calves loose in the ring. We watched in pure glee as the kids chased calves in hopes of catching one to take home with them.
The Mutton Busting event was by far my favorite. In this one, 5 year olds bearhuged a sheep by wrapping their arms and legs around it as tightly as possible while the sheep darts around the ring. The kids often made it no more than 20 feet, in which gravity got the best of them, and they swiveled to the ground. A bright faced adult was there to move them to a vertical position, where each child stretched both fists to the sky in pride for the camera.
After this, the rodeo crew cleared the dirt to begin quickly assembling Rascal Flatts’ stage. We all gave Jordie a look of disgust, but smiled intermittently as to not kill the facetious mood. The events that followed were worth our time. We were surprised to see, in true bigger-is-better Texan form, a series of men descend from the top of Reliant Stadium with American flags.
Next came an entire fire work show. Who knew they did this in the middle of a huge football stadium!?
Then finally, after waiting three full hours in extreme hunger, Rascal Flatts appeared.
Now throughout this entire week, Lee had been building up Rascal Flatts for one song: Mayberry. She didn’t know anything else about Rascal Flatts, but that song blared from enough Davidson frat houses that it was hard to forget. As every new song began, Lee thought it was Mayberry and went bananas. And each time she then realized it was not Mayberry and got really bummed. This roller coaster of emotions lasted throughout the entire concert. As they began what we thought was their final song, the first couple chords of Mayberry began. Then, suddenly, Mayberry ended, Rascal Flatts said goodbye, and they exited the stage. Every time we bring up this moment, where they started and promptly stopped playing Mayberry, the disappointment in Lee’s eyes looks like this.[To see Lee as digital art, check out Sean Matthew Leary’s fan page!]
We all filed out, hoping for some late night eats. Unfortunately all the eateries were closed. Jordie will never live this down. Luckily, Lee and I returned to the rodeo the next week to have some real rodeo food.
We also purchased these bad boys!
For once, Lee can’t complain about me being a saboteur. Thanks Jordie!!