Houston Rodeo returns stronger after two year hiatus


Photo by Valerie Guerrero

Sophomore Ella Castillo works at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo as a cashier or runner, giving out the food to the customers. She works some weekdays and weekends.

The sweet and tangy smells of funnel cakes and barbecue breezed through the air. The roaring sound of the carnival rides and the long, crowded lines of Southerners filled the NRG parking lot.

It was just another typical day for the city’s annual fair, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Junior Juliana Quintanilla skipped a school day to visit the fair with her mother. Suddenly, while purchasing a lemonade, Quintanilla heard news that Houston officials had canceled the rest of the rodeo season.

“When I read the news that the rodeo was being canceled, I was in shock,” Quintanilla said. “I’ve gone to the rodeo every year, so it was bizarre to think it could get canceled because it never had before that year.”

Two years have passed since then and the Houston Rodeo is back and stronger than ever.

“It felt really surreal going back after so long, I just didn’t know how to feel: it was a little emotional too because I hadn’t realized how much I actually loved going.”

Quintanilla returned to the Rodeo on March 2 to see country star Tim McGraw.

“The show was amazing,” Quintanilla said. “It was really exciting to experience the concerts again. They are definitely my favorite part about visiting the rodeo.”

This year, country artists dominate the concert lineup. Senior Nicole Mao plans to attend at least one concert this rodeo season.

“I’m going with friends a couple times over the break,” Mao said. “I really like the lineup this year, I’m a sucker for country music and I listen to a few of the artists that are going to be here.”

Tim McGraw opens the stage on March 2 as the third artist to perform for this year’s Rodeo lineup. Junior Juliana Quintanilla attends this concert with her family. (Photo by Juliana Quintanilla)

Another missed aspect of the city’s fair is the rides. With about 80 rides, the rodeo attracted over 2 million people each year, prior to its closing in 2020.

“I’m so excited that we’re having a rodeo this year,” Mao said. “The first thing I’m going to do is probably get in line for a ride or game. I’m looking forward to the different stands, games and rides with my friends.”

Although the Rodeo has returned to an adjusted sense of normalcy since before the pandemic, COVID-19 still poses a threat to attendees.

“I’m a bit concerned about COVID, but we’ll be outside in a pretty large area, so I think it should be safe enough,” Mao said.

Sophomore Ella Castillo, who works at a turkey leg stand, is vaccinated and said she feels comfortable working.

“You can wear your mask if you want to, so I feel like it’s everyone’s choice to do what they want,” Castillo said.

The return of the rodeo has brought a new experience for Castillo. Rather than attend as a guest, she enters the fair Wednesdays, Thursdays and on weekends to work the stand.

“This year is very different because I get to see what goes on behind the scenes and how much effort actually goes into making and getting the food out to people,” Castillo said. “Before, I didn’t even pay attention and kind of took for granted how easy it was to buy stuff.”

Junior Juliana Quintanilla attends the Houston Rodeo for the first time since March 2020. She misses concerts the most. (Photo by Juliana Quintanilla)

Castillo said she gained interest in working at the rodeo through Belles.

“The company came to our Belles class and everyone who was interested could fill out an application, pass a drug test and take a picture for an ID,” Castillo said. “I started three days later.”

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo runs from Feb. 28 to March 20, and is the highlight of the year for Mao.

“The rodeo really brings the Houston community together and it’s just a really special time of the year, there’s nothing like it,” Mao said.

Quintanilla said that she is thrilled with the rodeo’s return.

“I’m extremely glad the rodeo is back,” Quintanilla said. It’s such a big thing for Houston and I think it brings so many people together with music, food and all the fun it offers.