“In Houston, we have the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, casually known as The Rodeo. And um, I think it lasts from the beginning of March to, it’s almost the whole month of March. And basically what it is, it’s a lot of different things, um, you have the traditional like rodeo aspect where um you have, you know the livestock show where you have bull riding, you have you know exhibitions of like various like livestock, um you’ve got like, you know you’ve got that like sort of traditional rodeo aspect. And then it’s also mixed with an entertainment aspect. So like, for every night of the rodeo, there’ll be a different performer, and they’re usually like pretty big names, mainstream country performers and also like you know pop and rock, but they’re all like very big, popular names. So that’s uh a big thing every night, the concert. There’s also the carnival. They have this whole, you know, carnival set up with like rollercoaster rides, ferris wheels, all these different sorts of rides, and carnival type, midway like, you know, like little games and stuff .”
The informant, who happens to be my brother, related this account of the Houston rodeo while I was home over spring break (the rodeo was going on while I was there). He had this more to say about the role of the rodeo in the lives of kids who grow up in Houston: “When you were young as a kid, you know, we used to go, you know, our dad would take us, you know. We’d go see all of the livestock stuff, but then you get older and you start getting into high school, it becomes this big social gathering place, like you know that’d be your night. Like spring break would always be during the rodeo. If you were in town, that’s what you’d be doing every night. Like all the high schoolers, we go to the carnival, everyone gets pretty drunk, rides all the rides and goes to the concert. And it’s this really big social gathering, the rodeo. It’s, you know, this big cultural event. You see all of your friends that went to different high schools that you hadn’t seen in awhile and it’s just this big gathering place, really big time of year, like uh like if you don’t wear it any other time of the year, it’s when you bust out your Wranglers and your cowboy boots. So it’s just a great time of year, and you know just a great Houston, and overall, Texas experience.”
I believe what my brother said about the rodeo (in the context section) to be representative of what most teenage boys living in Houston would say about it. That said, the festival itself presents an interesting phenomenon. Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States. It is by no means a rural place, and it is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country. Therefore, the rodeo presents an opportunity for a bunch of city kids to wear boots and pretend like they are way more cowboy than they really are. So, an outsider looking in on this tradition without any context would picture in his or her mind the stereotypical image of a rural Texas. Don’t get me wrong, that Texas still exists, but not in inner city Houston. Furthermore, by virtue of even having a rodeo, Houston cements a stereotypical image of Texas in outsiders’ minds. I do not see this as a negative or a positive thing, per se. I myself enjoy wearing boots in Los Angeles to show that I’m from Texas, despite the fact that I come from an area more urban than where most students at this school come from. What really matters, though, is that this festival is important to a lot of people.