Photo courtesy of Cotton Holdings, Inc.

Is it a rodeo — or a fashion show? A little bit of both, actually, at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. This year, urban darlings and cowgirls can take inspiration from mainstream fashion trends. Sure, leather fringe and denim will always have their place, but why not create a rodeo outfit with some spice?

To get the lowdown on 2023's rodeo style, we sat down with the unofficial queen of rodeo fashion, Zinat Ahmed, who has cultivated her jaw-dropping rodeo looks over the past six years. Ahmed is the executive vice president of marketing and branding at Cotton Holdings, and not only did she help oversee one of the most lavish tent ever at HLSR's annual cookoff, she is also sure to make an entrance at every rodeo event.

"Rodeo season in Houston has always been a great time to step out of the box and tell a story through fashion," Ahmed tells CultureMap. "It's an opportunity to dust off our boots, take risks, and accessorize incredible pieces we rarely wear. I love telling stories through creative outfits. Whether with sequin suits or brightly colored boots, rodeo is the time to bring a different level of creativity and unique flair to your overall look."

For the next month, ultra-glam looks with bold statement pieces will rule the buzzy rodeo scene. This is the year of the "Disco Cowgirl," according to Ahmed, with oversized statement pieces, bejeweled boots, and wild embellishments. "There are no rules anymore," she says. "Put on your squash blossoms, wear denim on denim, throw on a bright pink hat, or have your full rhinestone cowgirl moment."

Since RodeoHouston runs through March 19, fashionistas still have time to gather all the essentials for a fantastic rodeo season. With that in mind, we've assembled local rodeo fashion inspiration that will make you wish the rodeo is a year-round event.


Christina Greene Jewelry

Christine Green's Rice Village boutique is bursting with rodeo fashion, including the gorgeous gemstones she is known for. Shoppers can also pick up scarves, dresses, hat bands, stunning beaded bandanas, and handbags.

King Ranch Saddle Shop

Iconic Texas brand King Ranch has everything you need for the ultimate rodeo experience. Their newly opened Rice Village outpost is stocked with apparel, boots, accessories, and cult-favorite leather bags.

Seeds of Glass

Houston artist Amy Simon's Astros-inspired jewelry designs are a favorite of the Astros' wives and Houstonians everywhere. Her brand of handmade beaded necklaces and earrings burst onto the scene during the World Series, and she hasn't stopped creating since. The H-town-inspired jewelry is a great finishing touch to any rodeo outfit and can be worn long into baseball season.



Maida's is a Houston classic and has been making bespoke custom boots since 1901. Their master craftsmen can make any fashion dream a luxurious reality, and the best part about the investment is that they will never go out of style.

Parker Boot Company

Family-owned Parker Boot Company makes all of its boots by hand. Owner Zephan Parker learned from the best master craftsmen from all over the state. Their Heights store also offers a selection of handmade belts, wallets and accessories.

Republic Boot Co.

The award-winning boot company makes all of its boots in Houston. Their Heights showroom has a selection of in-stock boots and craftsmen ready to get started on a custom pair.


Tecovas is known for its large selection of handmade products at a great price point. Pick up high, low, or zip-up boots along with bags, coats, and accessories at either of their City Centre or Rice Village locations.



We are currently obsessed with Freya's Rodeo Edit. The Houston brand has several felt and straw styles to choose from. Shoppers can't go wrong with the Mesquite or the Robin styles.

The Hat Chick

This year's rodeo darling, The Hat Chick, is popping up everywhere. The brand's fun hats with customizable embellishments will be at Hemline Heights location and Zadok Jewelers Rodeo Kick-off, among others, throughout the rodeo season. Check out their schedule to customize a hat for yourself.

Kemo Sabe

Luxury western-wear brand Kemo Sabe will pop up in Rice Village during rodeo season. Shoppers can pick up clothing, boots, buckles, jewelry, and their line of Kemo Sabe Grit Hats. A celebrity favorite, they have been worn by Beyonce, Katy Perry, LeAnn Rimes, John Mayer, and more.

zinat ahmed cotton 'q club tent

Photo courtesy of Cotton Holdings, Inc.

Zinat Ahmed, in a must-have, custom collection Teressa Foglia hat, rocks rodeo chic at the red-hot Cotton 'Q Club tent.

Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo fires up dates for 2023 World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest

get ready for cook-off

Now that fans know the entertainers who'll take the NRG Stadium stage or the 2023 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, it's time to turn attention to the unofficial kickoff of the rodeo run.

The 2023 World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contestwill run Thursday, February 23 through Saturday, February 25 on the NRG Stadium grounds. The wildly popular event sees more than 250 teams from around the world will compete for best in show in sections like brisket, ribs, chicken, Go Texan, Dutch Oven dessert, and the Open Contest category.

Cook teams show up and show out in pits disguised as fire engines and covered wagons, from airplanes to armadillos. The more than 700 entries compete for best overall barbecue and other categories on Saturday, February 25, with results announced at The Garden Stage at 7 pm.

As always, team tents are invitation-only. But rodeo visitors can enjoy several public venues, including The Garden, Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon, and the Chuckwagon. More fun and wild rides can be found at the carnival. The private tents are a see-be seen affair with presenting sponsor Cotton Holdings sure to unveil yet another over-the-top tent that's as big as Texas.

Young grillers and smokers can compete in the Jr. Cook-off contest on Friday, February 24. Kids between the ages of 8-14 will be given a single steak to prepare that will be judged on appearance/presentation, tenderness, and taste. Awards will be presented to the top three contestants.

The party continues at The Garden Stage, where Texas Country acts strum their stuff, while the Rockin’ Bar-B-Que Saloon also features live music, a DJ spinning tunes, and a large patio.

Visitors should consider ride sharing or look for parking at these lots:

Yellow Lot

  • Location: 610 to Main St., enter Gate 16 off Main St.
  • Hours: 6 am to 10 pm
  • Price: $25
610 Lot
  • Location: West Bellfort and Kirby.
  • Hours: 10 am to 10 pm
  • Price: $25

Tickets can be purchased online or at the contest gates and start at $20 for adults, $5 for children, and free for kids aged 2 and under. Admission to the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest includes a complimentary sliced barbecue brisket and sausage plate, access to live music areas, and admission to the carnival. (Importantly, admission does not include access to private cook-off tents.)

Fans can also score a Grounds Season Pass allowing access to all Cook-off events for $50.

Event times are Thursday, February 23, 5 pm to 11 pm; Friday, February 24, noon to 11 pm; and Saturday, February 25, 9 am to 11 pm. More information can be found at rodeohouston.com or on the official RodeoHouston app.

Photo courtesy The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Ken Hoffman chides New York Times' Houston travel guide and explains why our city isn't a great place to visit

come for a lifetime

Here we go again, and again...

Another “36 Hours in Houston” article telling readers where to go and what to do if they have a short spell to spend here. The latest ran in TheNew York Times last week, written by Shannon Sims, who claims that she grew up in Houston and continues to live here.

Thing is, Sims' read just like the one the Times ran in 2016. And the one they ran in 2010. They might as well just move here.

Thirty-six hours doesn’t do Houston justice. They’re written by travel writers, who sometimes don’t live here, for tourists who’ve never been here. Houston isn’t that kind of town. First impressions aren’t our strength.

For example:

Out-of-state media had a field day the first time the Super Bowl was held at NRG Stadium in 2004. Sportswriters complained about the weather, the distance between their hotels and the teams’ practice facilities and the stadium, the traffic, complimentary food spreads in the media room, just about everything. Freeloading whiners.

Writers sent so many negative stories about Houston back to their hometown newspapers that it caught the attention of ABC World News Tonight. An ABC News producer got hold of my name and asked if I’d go on with World News Tonight anchor Forrest Sawyer to talk about the badmouthing of Houston.


Welcome to the real Houston

They asked me where I’d like to do the interview, somewhere that looked like Houston. I said meet me in the Galleria area, on the corner of Sage and Richmond. I positioned myself facing south so the big Men’s Club sign would be over my shoulder. If I’m going to talk about Houston … let’s get real about Houston.

Just before we started the interview, a Men’s Club bouncer ordered us to turn off the camera and leave. Even though we were on a public street, we left. He was a big’un. We went across the street and did the interview in front of Pete’s Fine Meats.

I delivered my usual pro-Houston talking points — most diverse city in America (which I do not believe, by the way), 80 golf courses, 10,000 restaurants (not sure I believe that one, either), Galveston Beach, Whataburger, on and on, etc.

Defending and promoting Houston became my thing. Whenever a major convention came to town, I would write the welcome letter, bragging about all there was to see and do here — pretty much a “36 Hours in Houston.”

Come for a lifetime — not a vacay

But truth, I would never recommend Houston as a short vacation destination. I would say, though, if you’re looking for a place to put down roots, raise a family, live your life … consider Houston for the long haul.

To paraphrase that sign outside Goode Company Barbecue on Kirby, “You might give some serious thought to thanking your lucky stars that you’re in … Houston.”

Spending 36 Hours in Houston is an empty promise. I’ve seen all those “Things to Do in Houston” and “Top 10 Attractions in Houston” lists provided by Trip Advisor, Time Out, Trip Savvy, Travelzoo and others: the Museum of Natural Science, Houston Zoo, the Galleria, Houston Arboretum, Menil Collection, Rothko Chapel, Bayou Place, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and more.

What’s a tourist supposed to do at Rothko Chapel – pray that Southwest Airlines finds their luggage before it’s time to go home?

I have friends visit from out-of-state. I’ve never taken them to any of those places. I’ve never been to most of them myself.

When friends tell me that they’re coming to Houston, I’m tempted to say, “Stay where you are, I’ll come to you.”

From the looks of most travel stories about Houston, the No. 1 (and practically only) thing to do here is eat. We do have limitless fine restaurants with international cuisines. That’s one reason, along with the number of convenience stores and movie theaters here, why Houston has won many titles as “America’s Fattest City,” which we’re not. It’s just a dumb algorithm.

We’re simply not a hot tourist destination. Several years ago, I wrote about the most-visited tourist attractions in Houston. You know what was No. 1? The Galleria. Now every city has a galleria and every city brags about its restaurants.

Houston, in a good year, attracts 18 million visitors, and most of them come from within Texas. San Antonio draws more than 30 million tourists. San Antonio has the River Walk, the Alamo, Natural Bridge Caverns, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and SeaWorld.

Houston’s top amusement park is in a Fiesta supermarket parking lot.

Do it right

This isn’t to say that spending 36 Hours in Houston is a waste of time. You just need to time it right. Come in March and spend a day at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. It’s a world-class event and tons of fun with a big name concert and funnel cake to close out your night.

Or, come during the summer when the Astros are playing at Minute Maid Park. There’s no more enjoyable sports experience in Texas than an Astros game. If you live up north, get here in winter to escape your deep freeze at home.

If you’ve got only 36 hours on your hands, maybe Houston isn’t for you. But if you’ve got the rest of your life, then Houston could be the place.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

New grocery store's Houston debut leads top stories

this week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week

1. New Houston-area grocery stores offer shoppers bulk restaurant food and supplies without a membership. Four locations are open now with two more coming soon.

2. Booming Houston 'burb named best place to buy a home and raise a family in America. The city earned high marks for its job market, housing availability, and more.

3. Brad Paisley joins George Strait and Selena with induction into RodeoHouston's prestigious Star Trail of Fame. This honor makes Paisley the 10th star honored with a gold plaque to commemorate his years of outstanding entertainment at the Rodeo.

4. Brad Paisley steals hearts — and a fan's phone — in his Star Trail of Fame RodeoHouston show. The performer brought the warmth from his plaque unveiling onto the stage in front of a sold out matinee crowd.

5. Houston's best burgers smash the game with exotic add-ons, beefed-up buns, and more. Presenting the nominees for Best Burger in the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards.

Netflix series Waco: American Apocalypse debuts with newly unearthed footage

Documentary News

Netflix has a new series on the tragedy that took place in Waco three decades ago: Called Waco: American Apocalypse, it's a three-part series documenting the standoff between cult leader David Koresh and the federal government that ended in a fiery inferno, televised live, with 76 people dead.

The series debuts on March 22, to coincide with the 30-year anniversary of the event which took place from February 28 to April 19, 1993.

It's an oft-told tale and not the only new release to try and exploit the 30-year anniversary: Jeff Guinn, former books editor at the Fort Worth Star Telegram, just came out with a book in January, also described as definitive, called Waco: David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and a Legacy of Rage.

Waco: American Apocalypse is directed by another Texan: Dallas native Tiller Russell (Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer), who obtained never-before-seen videotapes of FBI negotiations, as well as raw news footage and interviews with insiders.

Those insiders include one of David Koresh’s spiritual wives; the last child released from the compound alive; a sniper from the FBI Hostage Rescue Team; the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit Chief; journalists; and members of the ATF tactical team who watched colleagues die in the shootout against the heavily armed members of the religious sect.

The FBI videotaped inside the hostage negation room, thinking they'd be there maybe 24 hours, not 51 days.

"These are video cassettes that were sitting in somebody’s closet for 30 years, that show the mechanics of hostage negotiations in an intimate setting - not the hostage negotiation scenarios you see in films, but a team of people grinding, day in and day out, for 51 days," Russell says.

He also procured footage from Waco TV station KWTX, who had a reporter embedded in the initial gunfight.

While the standoff was broadcast live on TV at the time, much of it was out of camera range. The film uses 3D graphics to recreate the details of the compound.

Russell acknowledges that the tale of the cult leader who was also a pedophile, the debate over the right to bear arms, the constitutional limits of religious freedom, dredge up painful conversations that continue today.

"It cast a long shadow, pre-saging the Timothy McVeigh bombing in Oklahoma, the shooting at Colombine, and a growing distrust of government, but I think it's important to reckon with our past so we don't repeat mistakes," he says.

"So much of what’s roiling in culture today can be traced to Waco, a story about God and guns in America with all these children at the center whose lives were determined by the adults around them," he says. "There was no playbook for what happened, everyone was out on a limb, and people made mistakes. But almost everybody was trying to do their very best."

"I think this is a story that's often recalled in politicized terms, with finger-pointing on who screwed up and how did we get here, but there's a profound humanity to it all," he says.

Watch the trailer below:

Texas Top Chef winner debuts new National Geographic series during SXSW

Top Chef

Texas is proud to claim chef Kristen Kish as its own, but the Top Chef winner has always had a global mindset. She first earned her chops in French and Italian cuisine at Boston's acclaimed Menton restaurant, infusing those influences into the menu at Arlo Grey with a pioneering curiosity and adventurous spirit. Now, she's bringing that explorer's mindset to a new National Geographic series that debuted Tuesday, March 21.

Available on Disney+, Restaurants at the End of the World is a docuseries in which Kish travels to off-the-beaten-path pockets of the planet. The four-part series follows Kish as she searches for the secret ingredients – people, places, culture, and traditions – within the world’s most remote restaurants in Boquete, Panama; Svalbard, Norway; North Haven Island, Maine; and Paraty, Brazil.

A lucky selection of South by Southwest (SXSW) attendees got a sneak peek of the series at a special dinner last week. The event took place inside Arlo Grey at the Line Hotel, where Kish mingled with guests and introduced clips from the upcoming series. A family-style dinner featured dishes inspired by different episodes of the series, from Maine-inspired Parker House rolls to Arctic char and strawberry semifreddo.

"This series is all about shared experiences and trading stories," Kish said, introducing the evening's menu. "So, when putting this menu together, I realized there are a lot of similarities. When I think back to all the places I went and new things I learned, there are so many familiar flavors to every bite that can bring you right back home into your own story."

The menu celebrated each location in the upcoming series, often in the same course: Parker House Rolls (with delicious whipped brown butter) were a nod to her New England episode ("Maine Island Barn Supper,"), paired with a scallop crudo commemoration of her time in Brazil ("Brazil’s Floating Feast,"). Meanwhile, the main course gave guests a glimpse of the great lengths Norwegian fishermen go to when harvesting Arctic char, accompanied by a clip of Kish's adventures with local purveyors in Svalbard, Norway.

The aim of both the dinner and the upcoming series is to showcase the tenacity it takes to run restaurants in such remote places. Each episode follows Kish behind the scenes with local purveyors, farmers, herders, kitchen crew, managers, and head chefs to hear their stories. She invites viewers along with her in the hunt for the best and freshest ingredients, unearthing the culture and heart behind global cuisine and showcasing the balancing act required to bring unique food to the table around the world.

“Food has an unparalleled power to bring us together and teach us about one another and the world around us, and we see that firsthand by going to restaurants in the world’s most remote areas,” says Chef Kish via release. “Filming this series with National Geographic was an adventure of a lifetime that taught me so much about an industry I’ve been steeped in my whole life. I can’t wait for viewers to come along on the journey with us and experience these dishes at restaurants most never even knew existed.”

The first episode of Restaurants around the World debuted on March 21.

Kristen Kish

Courtesy National Geographic

Top Chef winner Kristen Kish has a new National Geographic show that debuted on March 21.