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Has RodeoHouston caved to city slickers? Wall Street Journal ropes up a controversy

Has RodeoHouston caved to city slickers? Wall Street Journal ropes up a controversy

Courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

If there's one thing that The Wall Street Journal knows, it's that cowboys don't drink wine.

So in writing a take-down of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, the world's largest event of its kind, it was the new wine garden that got the most ink, representing everything that some say a rodeo shouldn't be.

The Journal did bring up some contentious issues, notably the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association's decision to part with Houston for the first time in over 50 years. The PRCA objected to RodeoHouston removing the calf roping and steer wrestling competitions, part of an initiative to reach out to those who would visit the rodeo but voice concerns about animal cruelty.

The lack of championship points on offer didn't deter many cowboys, though — Houston offers bigger cash prizes than any current PRCA event.

Which leads to the juxtaposition that WSJ seems to lament. If the big purses keep the 20-day Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo intertwined in cowboy culture, it's all the bells and whistles at the rodeo — carnival rides, shopping, big-time musical acts and yes, even wine tastings — that bring in ticket sales to fund those winnings in an urban market.

The Journal compares this to a "traditional, bare-bones" rodeo in Arcadia, Fla., which sold out seats with cowboy events alone. That sell out capacity crowd? 12,000 — less than a sixth of the people who attended RodeoHouston on Wednesday, when Miranda Lambert performed.

And Houston isn't alone in edging away from animal events. Dallas' Texas Stampede eliminated all but the riding competitions in 2009.

And these corcerns aren't just an urbanizing American phenomenon. Spain may be known for bullfighting, but last July the Spanish province of Catalonia (which includes international hub Barcelona) approved a ban on the sport to take effect in 2012.

So do animal cruelty concerns make Houston's rodeo less like a "real" cowboy event? The Wall Street Journal doesn't say, but there's still the issue of the un-cowboy-like wine.

'The rodeo is all about agriculture and livestock,' says George DeMontrond, a car dealer who every year dusts off his cowboy hat for the Houston rodeo. 'This wine here is made from an agricultural product called grapes.' "