Unbridled and Uncorked: Rodeo, Music, and Wine Draw 2.4 Million Guests to Houston

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May 4, 2023

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(HOUSTON) — RODEOHOUSTON is an annual nexus of culture and competition highlighting sports, agriculture, music, and all things Texas. The 20-day event is far more than cowboys competing for prizes.

If you’ve never had the slightest interest in attending a rodeo, here are three things that may change your mind.

Mutton Bustin’

A young rider hangs on to a sheep as long as he can. [Credit: G Poulsen, Pixabay]

The rodeo’s smallest competitors draw crowds daily crowds for Mutton’ Bustin’,  an event in which elementary-age kids ride a sheep from one end of a barn to the other—as long as they are able to hold on.

Each rider is introduced by the announcer letting the crowd know where the tiny cowboy or gal comes from (typically surrounding Houston cities), what their favorite food is, and what they want to be when they grow up. Dressed in a helmet and chaps, riders hop onto their bare-backed sheep  and cling tight to their steeds, named things like ‘Lamb-bourghini’ and ‘Toddler Tosser.’ The atmosphere is comparable to a campus bar during an NCAA championship game when your school is winning, minus the inebriated coeds. (More on the booziness of the rodeo later.) 

 

Musician Keith Hickle                                  [Credit: Gabriel Muniz Photography]

Music

If you were to visit RODEOHOUSTON just to see broncos bucking, kids clinging to lambs, or taste Texas wines, you would miss out on the lifeblood of the three-week gathering. Cowboys and music are synonymous with Texan life, and musicians from around the state are in abundance, keeping the sound of the rodeo alive around the clock. And it’s not just the headliners like Machine Gun Kelly or Luke Bryan who are worth seeing.

The Rodeo Rockstar competition draws talented youth, ages 6-21, to the stage for a singing contest performing with a live band or acapella. As evening sets in, rodeo goers find a spot to settle in with a cocktail and take in local musicians like Keith Hickle. Accompanied by his wife Paula, and with his extended family cheering from the front rows, the Hickles embody Texas music culture with an ease and a joy that spills over into the crowd as Keith croons from under his cowboy hat. They’re even Hill Country natives. Unless they’ve got a sheep they plan to bring along next year, it doesn’t get more Texas than that. 

Wine

William Chris Vineyards is located in Hye, Texas, part of Texas Hill Country [Credit: Michelle Williams, Unsplash]

Texas Hill Country is home to ‘high-plains’ grown grapes and a variety of U.S wineries due to its unique climate. Located in the middle of the Lone Star state at an elevation featuring desert-weather conditions, the wineries are both breezy and sun-drenched. The RODEOHOUSTON international wine competition precedes the 20-day spectacle each year, and Hill Country winners are available for tasting at the rodeo. The wine garden sits on a small hill just to the side of the NRG Arena. Playing host to everything from bachelor parties to a jazz brunch, the garden is a respite from the crowds where you can buy a bottle from a Hill Country vineyard while listening to live music on one of the garden’s Rodeo Uncorked stages.

All things equine aside, if the music, wine, and cute kids clinging to sheep as the sound of unbridled joy at the highest of decibels does not draw you in, well then, there may be no hope for you. But could the over two million guests each year really all be wrong?

If you missed out on this year’s RODEOHOUSTON, mark your calendars. Next year’s event takes place Feb. 27 – March 17.  In the meantime, you can find some Mutton Bustin’ videos via RODEOHOUSTON’s YouTube channel. You know you are about to Google search it if you haven’t already.

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