Five Things That Are Weird and Surreal About Rodeo Houston
Photo by Nicholas Zalud This, preceeded by mutton busting and followed by the likes of Usher. Does it actually make sense? Probably not.
In the decades since it started, our annual rodeo has rolled along and become, quite frankly, a rather weird amalgamation of our country past, our cosmopolitan present, all things Texas with some solid love for giant American flags and shout-outs to the armed forces.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo -- aka Rodeo Houston, aka Houston's Answer to Mardi Gras, aka that thing that ties up traffic every year -- has been around since time immemorial (really 1931.) Back when it started Houston was still more of a wide spot in the road and it made sense to put together a setup to showoff your livestock raising abilities and cowboy skills.
We hang onto our roots -- or our supposed roots, even though most of us grew up in the suburbs and some of us aren't even from Texas -- and we pull out our cowboy boots and hats to go be part of the rodeo. At the same time Houston is a modern city so there's all this stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with the cowboy life and the rodeo way. But even as life in and around the city have changed, the rodeo hasn't let go of old traditions.
Why would they do that when you can pop in everything but the kitchen sink? Which is what they do. The results are often awesome, usually entertaining but also what we're pretty sure a surrealist's fantasy of a rodeo would look like. Here are five things that are weird:
5. The rodeo is about cowboys and cows and livestock and all that, but we get performers like Maroon 5 and Usher. Hey, this is not saying a word against having a diverse choice of performers or from any and all the country music acts that swing on through during the rodeo, but think about it outside the framework of the rodeo: You show up to see Maroon 5, but before you see Adam Levine crooning about never leaving bed you watch some of the best cowboys and cowgirls in the world compete in bronc riding, barrel racing and a whole bunch of other stuff you're not likely to see anywhere else outside the time and space of the Old West. Then there are a bunch of kids riding sheep. Then there are older kids wrestling with baby cows. Stop and think about it. Nowhere else in the world will you see all that and then settle in to watch Usher sing from a revolving stage. It just won't happen.
4. Everyone walks around the Astrodome corpse like it's not at all weird. Or dead. Or there. The voters of Houston in their infinite wisdom chose not to fund the bid to get tax payers to foot the bill to re-purpose the Astrodome. This Houston landmark has been out of use and in limbo for years, but then folks took it up a notch and blasted off the towers added on to make it wheelchair accessible back in the day, leaving the Dome with gaping doorways looking even more like a husk far removed from its former glory. Anyways, this doesn't seem to phase anybody at the rodeo. People ride the rides and head into Reliant to watch the shows and the Astrodome is just a large thing everyone walks around. It's weird that what was once "the eighth wonder of the world," complete with air conditioning and AstroTurf, is now a very large mostly dead thing that people don't even see when they're scanning the park looking for the vendor selling chicken-fried bacon.