AUSTIN FAIR AND RODEO
Rattle your hocks and saddle up because it’s that time of year when western heritage two steps across Austin summoning the most syrupy of southern drawls.
The Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo is as inherently Texan as country music and football. Who can resist the lure of fried food, professional rodeo competitions, and cowboy hootin’ and hollerin’ for over two weeks straight? Some might say two weeks is simply not enough to digest the heritage of the West and we couldn’t agree more. Since there’s so much to soak in here’s a snippet of what the annual event entails and why it’s such a big part of Central Texas life.
“Being a new father, it’s important for me to ensure that my son is given the opportunity to learn about the history of Texas and a big part of that history is undoubtedly Texas’ western heritage,” Anderson said. “And who wouldn’t want to be involved with something that helps Texas youth?”
Founded in 1938, the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that works to raise money and provide scholarships for Texas students. Over 2,000 volunteers, donors, and sponsors are involved in the mission. In 2010 the organization awarded $372,000 to 46 students.
Stacy Looney, Rodeo Austin Board Member says the fair and rodeo is not your ordinary walk in the farm.
“Going to the rodeo is a wild experience because it’s such a dynamic group of individuals and you’re seeing so many personalities involved,” she said.
Being in Austin means the event will attract an agricultural experience to an urban community. During the 16 days of Rodeo Austin, the Live Music Capital of the world spills its sphere of influence out to the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo fairgrounds by showcasing over 100 bands from every background, not just country music.
The range of events featured at the rodeo are just as diverse as its attendees too. But staying true to the backbone of any rodeo, it’s important to take heed of the bull riding.
The Star of Texas hosts the world’s 5th largest indoor, regular season ProRodeo. The rodeo events are sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) such as bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing, team roping and bull riding.
Kids events include the Calf Scramble — youngsters attempt to properly catch, halter, and coax a calf across the finish line (sometimes with the help of a rodeo clown); and Mutton Bustin’ — children between the ages of five and seven come busting out of the chute on wooly sheep, excited about their six seconds of fame.
Speaking of excitement, pork is served in abundance, everywhere. If pork isn’t your fancy though you’re in luck because this is Texas so there’s more beef than the eye can see. Steak and true ‘cue reign supreme like a slice of heaven. Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo marketing coordinator Jennifer Paladino said you won’t go hungry at this rodeo.
“Corny dogs, barbecue, funnel cakes, and just about anything fried, you name it we’ve got it here,” she said. “The BBQ cook-off is a major draw for people.”
Every year the rodeo is kicked off with the Cowboy Breakfast on Auditorium Shores and 6,000 hungry people gather to soak up the aroma of sizzling sausage, pigs in a blanket, catfish and brisket wraps. It’s a tasty way to tempt rodeo enthusiasts to the capital city for weeks of festival fun. This free event has been deemed the “Best Place to Rustle Up Some Grub” in an Austin Chronicle poll. It’s a Texas tradition that offers a little bit of something for everyone.
Eight seconds on the clock mark the bravery of the bareback rider, who is judged on his spurring skill, much like in the saddle bronco riding competition, considered the hallmark of the true cowboy. Horse lovers will also enjoy the equine elegance of barrel racing, in which rider and horse become synchronized souls as they maneuver around a series of barrels at top speed, and the annual horse show is a dignified display of English and Western riding at the Travis County Expo Center Show Barn.
For a show of sheer strength nothing beats steer wrestling, a test of wills between bulldogger and bovine, and cowboys pair up with their equine partners in the arena as they chase down calves in the team roping and tie-down roping events. Tip your ten-gallon hat in a tribute to the Old West at the Chuck Wagon Cook-off. Both faithful renditions of the portable food trucks and authentic wagons from yesteryear are featured, which pits chef against chef in a wildly creative cooking competition.
From the top of the Ferris wheel you’ll see clouds of cotton candy carried by festival attendees below as you look over the fairground attractions. Hit the target and win a prize at one of the many game booths, then ride the bumper cars and the Crazy Mouse. Mutton Bustin allows Lone Star little ones between the ages of five and seven to get in on the action. Donning protective helmets before their six second ride on a sheep, every child has a moment in the spotlight and is rewarded for their effort with a prize.
Texas teens take center stage in the calf scramble, and active children 12 and under can sign up for the Kid’s Rodeo Rumble 1K, a shortened version of the adults Sunrise Stampede 5K. A fiddle contest lets musically-minded minors shine, while kids can showcase their culinary skills in the children’s edition of the Chuck Wagon Cook-Off.
“Rodeo Austin is truly a family affair. There is something for all ages,” Anderson said. “It is an event that people grow up with, like my wife. She started as one of the youth and now we are taking our son out to the fairgrounds.”
So put your boots on and explore your western heritage. After all it’s part of who you are and it’s all for a good cause.
March 12 – Eli Young Band
March 13 – Big Time Rush
March 14 – Dierks Bentley
March 15 – Jason Derulo
March 16 – Blake Shelton
March 17 – Easton Corbin
March 18 – Josh Turner
March 19 – The Band Perry
March 20 – Ronnie Milsap
March 21 – Joe Nichols
March 22 – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
March 23 – Clay Walker
March 24 – Rick Springfield
March 25 – Loretta Lynn
March 26 – Kevin Fowler
The cowboy on horseback begins chasing a steer released from the chutesand then must slide off the horse while grabbing the steer’s horns and wrestling him to the ground. Fastest time wins.
Two cowboys compete on horseback working together to rope a steer. The header must rope the head and turn the steer for the healer to rope the legs. The team who properly ropes the steer with the fastest timewins.
Rodeo’s “classic” event, saddle bronc riding is similar to bareback riding but the cowboy is riding in a stock saddle with a halter-style rope rein.
Tie Down Roping
A calf is released from the chutes and the cowboy on horseback must rope the calf, step off the horse, run to the calf and tie its legs. The fastest time wins.
A women’s event, three barrels are set up in a cloverleaf pattern in the arena and cowgirls on horseback must maneuver around all three barrels without knocking them over. Fastest time wins timed in 1/100 of a second.
A crowd favorite, this event is the ultimate competition of man versus beast. The cowboy must stay on top of the bull for eight seconds while holding on with only one hand and not touching the bull with his free hand.
For more information about dates and tickets, visit Rodeo Austin!