Witt Duncan | Happy Trails: A Record-Breaking Year at the Houston Rodeo

Happy Trails: A Record-Breaking Year at the Houston Rodeo

March 23, 2015  •  2 Comments

Rodeo season has come and gone once more in Houston, Texas. Time to fold up the pearl snaps and shove the trees back into all 5 pairs of boots you sported out the the events this go-round.

The immense scale of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR) never fails to impress me (and frustrate me when I'm behind the wheel) when it makes its annual appearance in NRG Park. From the trail ride to the livestock show to the carnival to the performances - it's one hell of a production, and tens of thousands of employees and volunteers work their asses off to make it happen. After all, it is the largest live entertainment and livestock exhibition in the world.

After spending a couple of nights at the rodeo this past year, I got to wondering about the numbers behind an event this large. Turns out it's a well-documented event, and this year was nothing short of record-setting.

The 2015 HLSR records include:

  • Rodeo/concert tickets sold: 1.37 million
  • Single-day rodeo/concert attendance: 75,357
  • The Grand Champion Junior Market Barrow (a male pig) sold for a record-setting $208,000 (also a world record)
  • The Grand Champion Junior Market Lamb sold for $260,000 (also a world record)

Although they may not be records, here are a few more impressive statistics:

  • Over 3,000 people saddle up, pack a wagon, and embark on a 100+ mile 'Trail Ride' that ends in Houston's Memorial Park each year in the days leading up to the HLSR
  • Total attendance for all activities on the grounds was 2.48 million (just shy of the 2014 all-time record of 2.49 million)
  • Rodeo contestants won over $2 million in prizes
  • This year's livestock competitions and horse shows boasted 28,592 entries
  • Peaches, the 2015 grand champion steer, drew $300,000 at the Houston Rodeo auction
  • More than 1,500 kids participated in Mutton Bustin in the Kids Country Arena, and more than 280 participated in Mutton Bustin in Reliant Stadium
  • The show ran 30,000 feet of copper and fiber network cable throughout NRG Park
  • HLSR and entertainer merchandise sales reached upwards of $3.6 million
  • Seventy semi-truck loads of teddy bears, minions and basketballs were won by visitors
  • Over 800,000 tamales were purchased
  • 143,000 pounds of potatoes were served
  • 116,000 BBQ sandwiches were served


And now on to a few images I captured at the HLSR this year (hover over images for captions)...

A HLSR crew member cleans up as the livestock show comes to an end. Nearly 30,000 animals made their way through the NRG convention center during the 3-week livestock show.   A total of 54 piglets were born during this year's HLSR. Once a piglet takes its first sip from its mother nipple, it returns to the same nipple every time it feeds...and sleeps plenty in between feedings. Exhibits of all sorts captivated children and families. Shown here is an incubator in which chicken eggs hatched. Boots and denim are high fashion during HLSR A roper rides through the arena in NRG Stadium A steer wrangling participant wrenches the neck of his adversary as a race against the clock Ropers spectate from within the arena as a bull riding contestant hangs on for dear life Wagon races in full swing - watch out for dirt! A contestant jumps from the back of his bucking bronc after going for a bareback ride

Mutton Bustin participants are without a doubt the cutest rodeo attraction. In this event, young boys and girls aim to hang on to the back of a sheep while it runs through the arena. More Mutton Bustin! Blonde hair, cowboy hats, pearl snaps, and cotton candy...doesn't get more rodeo than that The setting sun beams in through the windows of NRG Stadium as Luke Bryan takes the stage Luke Bryan struts the stage during his sell-out act on the last night of the HLSR Fans couldn't help but join in as Luke Bryan belted his upbeat tunes that inspire one to put a beer in their hand and sing right along Luke Bryan wasn't the only one shaking it on the HLSR's closing night; these two fans wanted to shake it for him During one of Luke Bryan's closing songs, he invited fans to raise a light as he dimmed the stadium lights. To which thousands responded by hoisting their cellphone flashlights - a modern homage to the old tradition of waving a lighter concerts.

All content © Witt Duncan


Thomas Husser(non-registered)
My wife and I recently went to our first Rodeo (new here in Texas). It was a small one just out of San Antonio. It was such a blast. We loved the Mutton Bustin'! I had my camera and I did OK during the early events. Sadly, as the rodeo moved into dusk the lighting just wasn't there for me to get the shots of some of the bigger events. I am to new to photography to understand what I did wrong. But I am ready to find another rodeo and try again!
Emily Webster
Awesome right up - you captured some amazing pics!
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