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  • Jason Aldean set an all-time record for RodeoHouston concert attendance: Nearly75,000 fans packed the stadium for his third performance.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo proved to be more successful than ever in its 80th year: The all-time record for paid attendance was broken with 1,283,419 paying to attend the three-week event, breaking a mark set in 2010. The total attendance of 2,257,970 visitors on the show's grounds ranks recond all time.

The World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest upped the ante early on with record attendance (260,033 over three days), but a daily carnival, a jam-packed rodeo schedule and an unforgettable lineup of musical performers ensured full crowds nightly for the remainder of RodeoHouston.

"We enhanced sound in the stadium, which we know makes a big difference," Wagner said.

"The main things were improvements in terms of presentation," Skip Wagner, RodeoHouston president and CEO, told CultureMap. "We enhanced sound in the stadium, which we know makes a big difference."

Three shows — Jason Aldean's RodeoHouston performance on March 15, Duelo and La Original Banda El Limón on March 11 and The Band Perry on March 14 — drew more than 74,241 fans each, earning them all spots among the Top 10 Rodeo-attended concerts of all time.

Neither spring break travels nor St. Patrick's Day festivities could keep fans away from Reliant — the Saturday crowd set a single night total-attendance record of 153,159, with 73,757 attendees venturing inside of the stadium for the Brad Paisley concert.

With all of these records, how can RodeoHouston 2012 be topped?

"Next year, you can expect to see continued fine-tuning," Wagner said, specifically mentioning expansions to the horticulture program, horse shows and ranch and wildlife exhibits.

  • Houston Texans running back Arian Foster is a man of the people.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Pooja Patel, Arian Foster and Vishal Desai enjoy the Rodeo suite life.
    @arianfoster

Arian Foster is one generous cowboy: NFL star brings fans with him to Rodeo

Reaching Out

Arian Foster is spreading the love from his new $43 million contract — in the most Houston way possible.

The Houston Texans' star tailback took two fans to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Sunday, bringing them into a suite he had at Reliant Stadium to hang out. It all started with a tweet from Foster at 2:20 p.m. Sunday — a last-minute suprrise for his fans.

"I have 2 tickets to the Houston rodeo in a suite with me.! If anybody is serious about coming. Starts at 3:30, first person wins !!!" Foster tweeted.

"This is where I live permanently in the offseason," Foster said. "I'm a Houstonian."

Foster follower Vishal Desai replied in less than a minute and he was soon heading to the Rodeo on Foster with his friend Pooja Patel. Desai and Patel spent the rest of the day in Foster's Reliant suite with the running back and his friends and family, including Foster's 2-year-old daughter Zeniah.

None of this is surprising from Foster, who is one of the more grounded superstars in sports. This is a guy who doesn't just tweet — he keeps a running dialogue with his fans going on Twitter. And he's promised more Twitter surprises in the months to come.

After signing his new contract, Foster talked about his love of Houston, noting how quickly he's become a part of the city.

"This is where I live permanently in the offseason," he said. "I'm a Houstonian."

Foster may have seen two fifths of the offensive line he loves leave in free agency — with right tackle Eric Winston signing with Kansas City after being cut by the Texans and right guard Mike Brisiel signing with the Oakland Raiders — but he obviously hasn't lost his excitement for Houston. He knows how to Rodeo — and how to make it special for some regular fans.

  • Brad Paisley knows how to play to a camera — or a crowd.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Brad Paisley always looked like he was in complete command on the big ReliantStadium stage.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Brad Paisley enjoyed his time on the stage during RodeoHouston, but he may haveliked his time in the dirt even more.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Brad Paisley is not afraid of the spotlight.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Brad Paisley has quickly become a Rodeo fixture.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com

Brad Paisley gets into Mutton Bustin' as he rocks the Rodeo — debates bullriding vs. baseball too

Singing In the Dirt

Brad Paisley is an easy performer to like. His music is a healthy blend of both country and rock, and his songs contain both honesty and passion.

Couple that with a little fiddle and a little slide guitar, serve it up with a large dose of stadium-ready rock bravado, and you’ve got a Brad Paisley concert in a nut shell. Because his music is so thoroughly catchy, he’s the sort of musician that could be considered a custom fit for a gig as large as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

In fact, what struck me the most about Saturday night's concert on the penultimate day of the Rodeo was not only Paisley’s music, but his confidence as a performer. The size of Reliant Stadium didn’t seem to intimidate Paisley one bit. While the rodeo lights went out and fireworks began to fire up, Paisley slyly made his way to the stage to launch into “Camouflage” from his most recent album This Is Country Music, and he didn’t stop to take a break until the fourth song of the set.

The size of Reliant Stadium didn’t seem to intimidate Paisley one bit.

To reinforce the point of the “Camouflage,” Paisley came out wearing a camo T-shirt, but he went through a slight costume change later as a fan threw him bright green shamrock beads to wear in the spirit of the St. Patrick’s Day show.

After many of Paisley’s songs, a little lip service to the Houston crowd would elicit much applause. “It’s great to be in the largest state in America!,” Paisley remarked after “Another Saturday Night,” quickly correcting himself for the geographic flub.

I mean really, what native Texan hasn’t at one point wished that Alaska didn’t hold that coveted geographic title?

As if the crowd-pleasing banter about Texas, bull riding versus baseball (he gave bull riding the edge, though I disagree), and our troops wasn’t enough, Paisley also treated the Houston crowd to a few local favorites from the annals of Texas country. The Waylon Jennings classic, “Good Hearted Woman,” segued perfectly into one of Paisley’s best-known songs, the playfully defiant “I’m Still A Guy” from 2007 album 5th Gear.

An even bigger treat, though, came when Paisley sang a couple of verses from “Deep In The Heart Of Texas” before launching into a rollicking tribute to country music, aptly titled “This Is Country Music.”

One thing that I wasn’t prepared for, but was pleasantly surprised to learn, was how talented of a guitar player Paisley really is. It’s hard to notice anything but his distinct voice and wry lyrics when listening to a Brad Paisley album, but his playing really shines in a live setting.

After many of Paisley’s songs, a little lip service to the Houston crowd would elicit much applause.

It wasn’t just the sound of his guitar that filled the stadium during solos, but also Paisley himself. He would fill the stadium floor by leaving the stage to greet fans near the ground level railing during every guitar solo. Late in the set, he used what looked like a fan’s beer bottle as a slide for his guitar, and then threw it back into the crowd near the railing.

I later learned that it was possibly a microphone that he used for this stunt, and I’m still scratching my head as to which scenario is more "rock and roll."

Saturday’s show could have easily been an hour and a half country-rock fest (and the majority of the show was heavy on the rock and roll), but Paisley sprinkled his set with just the right amount of material for those attending the show with their significant others. Numbers such as “She’s Everything,” and “Then,” from 2005’s Time Well Wasted and 2010’s American Saturday Night, respectively, added a sentimental backdrop to what seemed to be a stadium full of people that know the value of a good old-fashioned lovesick sing-a-long.

These earnest on-stage moments aside, Paisley seemed to be having so much fun off the stage that he probably could have played the entire show near the fans behind the concourse railing. During the penultimate song, “Old Alabama,” and after leaving the stage for what seemed like the 10th time, he set up a mic stand and practically finished the show there in the dirt, hundreds of feet away from his band.

From there, the show’s closer, “Alcohol,” took on an appropriate St. Patty’s Day tone by becoming a drunken chorus lead by Paisley and his expressive guitar playing.

If you missed Paisley this time around, don’t fret. He's a RodeoHouston veteran and I would be very surprised if he didn’t get invited back next year. His brand of country music is just as much a part of the Rodeo spirit as Mutton Bustin’ (which Paisley tweeted about and joked about participating in), deep-fried Oreos, and that once-a-year pair of boots I caught many urban cowboys wearing at Reliant on Saturday.

It’s hard to believe that this year’s Rodeo is almost over.

  • Train lead singer Patrick Monahan got up close and personal with the crowd atthe Houston Rodeo.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Patrick Monahan brought a band of Trainettes onto the stage to . . . um, dance.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Train's Patrick Monahan took off his shirt to get "romantic."
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • He snapped cell phone pictures of the crowd and promised to tweet them later.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • The rest of Train even got in on the guitar fun.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com

Wildest Rodeo concert ever? Train brings running singing, sexy Trainettes, SoulSister & Zeppelin

Ramblin' On

I’ve always had a weakness for Train’s play-on-words and cheeky rhyming, so it was a word nerd’s paradise at Friday night's Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo show. Gone were the shiny silver pants Train lead singer Patrick Monahan donned for a Grammy appearance and instead, the whole band embraced their urban cowboy in front of 63,599 at Reliant Stadium.

The radio-friendly band kicked off with "If It’s Love," taking pictures of the crowd and promising to tweet them later, followed by "Meet Virginia" and "Drive By."

It clearly takes some work to sing, run and shake hands simultaneously and it was endearing.

Proving there’s some Led Zeppelin in every band, Monahan did an impressive turn at "Ramble On" (turns out he led a tribute band) and, much to the delight of old school Journey and teen Glee fans, moved into "Don’t Stop Believin", proving if you’re going to do covers, go big.

Monahan ran along the fence singing, and while he gets points for interacting with the crowd, somewhere his vocals were making Steve Perry wish he’d run away with Michaele Salahi instead of Neal Schon.

"She’s On Fire" started out a little bit pop but wound up a lot country. Monahan threw his black cowboy hat into the crowd and announced he also wanted to give away his guitar. Moments later, a dozen Texas cuties in Trainettes T-shirts filed onto the stage for an interactive interlude.

In the moments that followed, it became apparent Monahan needs his own variety show. He asked the group to dance while "Burn Baby Burn" played, but unfortunately, it seemed only two girls he deemed “Funky Spice” and “Sexy Trainette” got the memo and he bantered with the crowd about the lack of oomph on the stage.

“I don’t know where we got these girls,” he said to the crowd, which led to a dance-off, followed by the entire group attempting to mimic Monahan sing "Hey, Soul Sister." Sexy Trainette won that battle of the voice, but if it’s any consolation Funky Spice, the crowd totally thought you nailed it.

"Calling All Angels" and "Save Me, San Francisco" followed and after asking the crowd if they wanted to get romantic, Monahan slipped on a white T-shirt that said “Marry Me” in neon pink and zipped back out into the crowd. It clearly takes some work to sing, run and shake hands simultaneously and it was endearing. He’s a generous fellow and at the end of the song, he signed the shirt, throwing it into the audience.

"Hey, Soul Sister" was a good old-fashioned sing-a-long and the crowd ate it up, but when the first few notes of "Drops of Jupiter" played, Train fans responded with “heeey, heeeeeaaaay” and sang the rest of the song with the band.

Monahan is personable, engaging, funny and, when not racing around the floor of the rodeo, a talented singer. Especially when he references Winger and rhymes downward spiral with viral.

  • The toddler slipped under the lap restraint several rotations into the TechnoJump.

Frightening video of a toddler getting flung from ride puts Houston Rodeo innational spotlight

Buckle up

Carnival and amusement park rides are meant to simulate a free fall without actually putting the riders life in peril.

Unfortunately, such was not the case on Wednesday during a run of the Techno Jump ride at The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, when a 3-year-old girl slipped under the lap restraint and was flung through the air (the video shows her feet over her head) before hitting the platform below.

National and international news outlets such as the Huffington Post and The Daily Mail are reporting on the toddler's Rodeo nightmare.

Initial eyewitness Rodeo accounts claimed that the toddler had slipped from under the bar on her own early on in the ride, and dropped just a few feet. A video given to KTRK Ch. 13 by a parent who was filming his daughter, though, shows that the fall took place several rotations in and from a much greater height than first thought.

Now, national and international news outlets such as the Huffington Post and The Daily Mail are reporting on the toddler's Rodeo nightmare.

The 3-year-old girl — who did meet the height and weight requirements for the ride — suffered contusions and a concussion. She is resting at home after having been rushed to Texas Children's Hospital post fall.

RodeoHouston has since changed the height and chaperone requirements, and officials maintian that much of the fault lies with the young girl's mother — who left her in the care of her 8-year-old brother after a last-minute decision to leave the ride.

"We are going to have to ask the patrons, and we have done so continually, do not put a 3-year-old child on a ride . . . and not ride with it," Rodeo chief operating officer Leroy Shafer said.

  • Jason Aldean rocked in front of the all-time Rodeo record crowd.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • It's good to be a RodeoHouston regular. Just ask Jason Aldean.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
  • Jason Aldean owned the stage and he knew it.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com

Crazy Record Town: Jason Aldean salutes George Strait as another all-time Rodeocrowd record falls

A Confident Cowboy

Personally, I've long been a faithful resident of "Crazy Town," but in front of an all-time Rodeo record-breaking crowd of 74,901 (the second time in a week the record's been broken), Jason Aldean welcomed the rest of Houston to his special place in Crazy Town. I appreciate artists of his stature recognizing it's a real place, and based on the crowd's reaction, I wasn't the only one.

Strutting on stage in his baggy ripped jeans, his George Strait vintage tour T-shirt and the country western standard cowboy boots and cowboy hat, Aldean was ready to rock the mic for a third straight year at RodeoHouston.

Aldean owned the stage and you could tell by the confidence he exuded in every note, in every motion, that he knew it.

Speaking of George Strait, it sort of hurts my soul that Aldean beat his attendance record, but thankfully, there were quite a few lyrics (and that vintage tour shirt) that ultimately showed Aldean's respect for the country legend.

The Georgia boy set up his set-list by getting all of the "slow songs out of the way" claiming he was ready to have some fun with the Houston crowd.

Aldean and his band were animated the entire show — amped up and ready to rock, taking barely a minute to breathe between hits. The only slightly awkward part, and I know the crowd holding its breath for Kelly Clarkson would agree, is when "Don't You Want To Stay" played and the pretty American Idol singer was on the big screen singing her heart out and waving to the fans instead of being front and center on stage.

Had she only appeared during that song, it would have been the cherry on top of the already overflowing ice cream brownie sundae.

Instead of a surprise visit from Clarkson, dueling guitars kept the crowd on its feet. Having been to almost every Houston Texans home game, I'm not sure I've heard that kind of rabid screaming for any of Matt Schaub's touchdown bombs. Fans, old and young, men and women, were going bananas as Aldean and his boys put on a show for the sold-out crowd.

Aldean owned the stage and you could tell by the confidence he exuded in every note, in every motion, that he knew it. Every chance the crowd got to reaffirm that notion, they took.

So after a record-breaking performance like that, can I hear it from all the Redneck Romeos?

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Wish Sam Houston a happy birthday at his Huntsville party this March

#TexasForever

Proud to be a Texan? Ready to celebrate it? Then head to Huntsville, only an hour north of Houston, on March 2 for a day-long bash honoring both Texas Independence Day and the birth of Sam Houston.

Put on by the Walker County Historical Commission, Sam Houston Memorial Museum, and the City of Huntsville Tourism Department, the event commemorates the adoption of the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836, when we officially severed from Mexico and created the Republic of Texas.

The same day 43 years earlier saw the birth of Sam Houston, a leader in the Texas Revolution who later served as president of the Republic of Texas, and who was instrumental in Texas’s becoming a U.S. state

Here's what's on tap for the day:

Raise a cup
It all starts with a coffee reception at the Walker County Museum: Gibbs-Powell House at 9:15 am.

Cemetery procession
General guests, along with members of the student body, faculty, staff, and administration of Sam Houston State University, then follow the university’s ROTC members in the traditional march to Sam Houston’s grave at Oakwood Cemetery from the Old Main Pit, located near Austin Hall on the campus grounds.

The gravesite ceremony will also include the SHSU ROTC Color Guard and Rifle Team, special musical selections and speakers, and the laying of wreaths by descendants of Sam Houston.

A true Texan
Also at the gravesite is the much-anticipated “Baptized a Texan” ceremony. Participants kneel in front of Sam Houston’s memorial and receive pond water across their forehead, plus receive a commemorative gift bag from the City of Huntsville Tourism Department. You're not official until you're official, y'all.

Let's lunch
The day ends with a luncheon hosted by the Walker County Historical Commission, which includes a “Toast to Texas” and birthday cake sponsored by the City of Huntsville Tourism Department.

Photo courtesy of City of Huntsville Tourism Department

It all happens on March 2.

To receive a letter or email from about how to participate in these events, please contact the staff at the Sam Houston Statue Visitor Center at 936-291-9726 or vcenter@huntsvilletx.gov.

Texas star Matthew McConaughey in talks with Taylor Sheridan for 'Yellowstone' spinoff, report says

alright, alright, alright....

The Dutton family drama has come to Texas again — this time, off screen.

According to a February 6 report by Deadline, Matthew McConaughey is in talks with Taylor Sheridan for a Yellowstone spinoff. Neither the Austin-based actor nor the Weatherford-based series creator has confirmed the report, but Deadline typically gets its Yellowstone scoops right.

Exactly why McConaughey may enter the Yellowstone world, however, has whipped media and fans into a frenzy. Deadline says it "understands" that Sheridan will end the show after this season due to scheduling conflicts with star Kevin Costner. Costner just won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of family patriarch John Dutton but also is directing and starring in the Western series Horizon.

"For the second batch of episodes of the current, fifth season of Yellowstone, the actor ... only wanted to spend a week shooting," the magazine says. "This has been a source of frustration for Sheridan and it is understood to be causing morale problems for the other stars of the show."

Deadline's sources tell them that Paramount Network has declined Costner’s most recent proposal and "instead has made the decision to move on to the other show."

Enter McConaughey, the cowboy-hatted hero, riding in on his horse to save the day. Sheridan will write McConaughey in as the star of the new franchise; they're in negotiations now, reports say.

In response to Deadline's reporting, Paramount Network issued a "hold your horses" statement: "We have no news to report," they say. "Kevin Costner is a big part of Yellowstone and we hope that’s the case for a long time to come. Thanks to the brilliant mind of Taylor Sheridan, we are always working on franchise expansions of this incredible world he has built. Matthew McConaughey is a phenomenal talent with whom we’d love to partner."

It's not known where the McConaughey-led series would be set, or where it would be filmed. Texans, of course, will vote for Texas.

The Lone Star State is already the home of Taylor Sheridan’s upcoming Paramount+ limited series about Bass Reeves, the once-enslaved man who became a famed federal marshal. The series is reportedly filming in Waxahachie later this month. Sheridan's Yellowstone prequel 1883 also was shot in Fort Worth.

Texas, as a whole, is home to five of the top 25 best cities for filmmakers, according to MovieMaker Magazine.

Eclectic and inventive Montrose restaurant carts up new 'global street food' fast-casual concept

new from traveler's table

The owners of Traveler’s Table are opening a sister restaurant devoted to global street food. Called Traveler’s Cart, it’s expected to open in late 2023 in the former Pronto Cucinino space at 1401 Montrose Blvd.

Like Traveler’s Table, Traveler’s Cart will serve an eclectic menu that features dishes from different culinary traditions but in a different format than its sibling.

As a fast casual restaurant, Traveler’s Cart will offer a lower price point and a more relaxed environment than Traveler’s Table while still offering well-executed dishes and a comprehensive beverage program. Its model takes some inspiration from restaurants such as Loro, the Asian smokehouse from the hospitality group behind Uchi, and Urbe, the Mexican street food concept from James Beard Award winner Hugo Ortega, owner Matthew Mitchell tells CultureMap.

“I think food is democratizing,” Mitchell says. “People want really high quality food, but they don’t want to make a reservation. There’s times you want to roll in wearing shorts and T-shirt and get really good food.”

Opened in 2019 by Thy and Matthew Mitchell, Traveler’s Table’s combination of an eclectic menu with refined service and a stylish environment has been highly successful. Its accolades include an appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and making the third highest donation of all participants in the 2022 edition of Houston Restaurant Weeks.

As with Traveler’s Table, Mitchell has turned to Houston’s Gin Design Group to create the interior for Traveler’s Cart. Plans call for design elements that reference markets and street carts from around the world.

“We want to create enough of an experience where people can come in for a date or meet up with friends,” Mitchell says.

Another benefit of a fast casual model is that the restaurant will be open during more times of day. Currently, Traveler’s Cart plans to serve lunch during the week, dinner nightly, and brunch on the weekends.

Traveler’s culinary director Stanton Bundy will create the menu for the new restaurant. Beverage offerings will include a full range of wine, beer, and cocktails.

Mitchell feels optimistic about Traveler’s Cart’s potential. If this location catches on, others could follow.

“It’s something we think we can scale,” he says. “This one is built to have legs — maybe Rice Village or the Galleria.”