As a native Houstonian, Phoenix Rutherford has many childhood memories of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. In her teens, she went to countless concerts. In her 20s, she volunteered on the Gatekeepers Committee. But it wasn’t until now, in her 30s, that she experienced what she calls her BEST Rodeo yet.
What’s so special about 2013? It is this year that Rutherford first introduced the Rodeo to her 2-year-old son Wyatt. And she watched his joyful face take in all the sights, sounds and smells of the 80-year Houston tradition.
What’s so special about 2013? It is this year that Rutherford first introduced the Rodeo to her 2-year-old son Wyatt.
"I have never seen him this giddy. Everywhere he turned there was something fascinating. He was skipping and even shuddering, he was so excited,” says Rutherford. “The rodeo offers so many new adventures in one fell swoop. Wyatt was in his element, and I felt all his happiness.”
Within three hours, all before naptime, Mom and Wyatt had petted wallabies and alpacas, heard the shrilly squeals of newborn piglets, ridden a roller coaster and a camel, planted pretend carrots, watched pigs race and swim, and even witnessed chicks peck out of their eggs.
"I like the hatching,” the toddler later told his dad Stevan Rutherford. “And I like riding in the sky.”
Yes, Wyatt did go riding in the sky. At his first rodeo, Wyatt put on a harness alongside his mom, and glided 600 feet over Kids Country alongside his mom. In addition to fun-loving Houstonian sensibilities, it seems this little cowboy picked up his parents’ daredevil genes!
Here are five family-friendly attractions that are sure to give kids unique experiences. The Kids Country and AgVenture areas are open 9 a.m. — 9 p.m. daily.
The Great American Petting Zoo
Kids can feed and brush a variety of animals including llamas, fallow deer, bennett wallabies, African pygmy goats, assorted exotic and domestic goats and sheep, Vietnamese potbellied pigs, bantam chickens, miniature Sicilian donkeys and miniature call ducks. These friendly animals are hand-raised on a farm in Oregon and journey to Houston each year.
One petting zoo is inside in the AgVenture section of the Reliant Center. A second petting zoo is outside in Kids Country.
The Birthing Center
The birthing center features newborn lambs, piglets and dairy calves. The Rodeo has added giant screens above the birthing pens so bigger crowds can witness a birth or playing piglets.
“For many Houstonians, the birthing center offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the miracle of life up close,” says Elizabeth Greer, Executive Director of Exhibits and Attractions, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. “Stop by to visit the baby animals, watch as they take their first steps, see how their mothers nurture them and witness how they react to the world!”
The Cutest Show on Earth
Check the Kids Country Stage schedule to catch these fun and interactive performances. Actors invite kids and their parents to get in costume and come up on stage.
“This fast-paced improvisational show provides kids with the opportunity to roar like a lion, moo like a cow, giddy-up like a cowpoke, or sail the seven seas on a pirate ship as they star in live show on a real stage with professional actors,” Greer says.
Kids Pedal Tractor Pull
Children ages 4 to 12 can sign up to try with all their strength to cross the finish line. This is the second year this event has been at the rodeo. “The kids become the stars of the show while they compete in a fast-paced, action-packed, pedal-powered tractor pull. The tractors and pulling sleds are built for fun,” says Greer.
Milking Parlor & Dairy Discovery Zone
Kids can pet the world famous Elsie and her calf Beauregard at the Milking Parlor, then visit the Dairy Discovery Zone to learn all about life on a dairy farm and the dairy products that dairy farmers produce. After taking a virtual farm tour to see how cows are milked, kids can practice milking on a life-sized cow.
Bernadette Verzosa is founder and editor of ParentsPost.com