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Off to the livestock show

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Mary Catherine Gooding

LET’S RODEO Mary Catherine Gooding, almost 3 at the time, went with her parents to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 2020 before it closed due to the pandemic.

Buzz Baby is a column about life with babies. Writer Annie McQueen is a mother of four children under the age of 7.

Finally, it is again rodeo season in Houston. Through March 20, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo will take over NRG Park.

This year marks a big one – the show’s 90th anniversary. (To see artist Gonzo247’s colorful, nine-story mural created for the 90th anniversary, head downtown to One Market Square garage at Prairie and Travis streets.) The rodeo is a big part of being a Houstonian and is run by thousands of volunteers.

Mapping out a plan for visiting the rodeo, especially if small kids are in tow, will help. We talked to a couple of Buzz parents about their favorite kid-friendly rodeo spots.

Emily and Grant Gooding took their daughter, Mary Catherine (now 4), to her first rodeo in 2019. Emily grew up in Houston, attending the rodeo since she was a child. She remembers her first concert at the rodeo, where she saw Reba McEntire. Reba was lowered down from the ceiling to make an entrance onto the famous rotating stage.

Emily says she had been looking forward to taking Mary Catherine to her first rodeo in the months leading up it, and she was excited to find toddler-sized pink cowboy boots for Mary Catherine to wear.

Mary Catherine Gooding

Mary Catherine Gooding gets to go back this year with her new little sister, Molly.

Grant and Emily arrived at NRG Park, parked in one of the lots adjacent to the park, with then-22-month-old Mary Catherine in her pink boots. They made their way through the crowds and music and headed to the popular Agventure in NRG Center. Agventure is where kids can learn all about the world of agriculture through interactive exhibits and descriptive displays.

The Goodings walked in and took Mary Catherine to the petting zoo and pony rides. “Each time we walked up to a new animal, Mary Catherine would start making the sound that the animal makes,” said Emily. “That is something I'll never forget watching and telling myself to remember.”

The following year, in 2020, Emily and Grant went back to the rodeo before it shut down for Covid. This time, they took Mary Catherine, then 3, to see the carnival. “Grant was excited for her to try a funnel cake, but she was more interested in the gigantic corn dog.”

After the carnival, they went to the Agventure’s Fun on the Farm, which is outdoors near the carnival. “Mary Catherine enjoyed seeing chickens lay eggs and pretending she was shopping at the market,” said Emily.

They also walked up and down the aisles of cows, sheep, and horses at the livestock show inside NRG Hall. They are planning their 2022 visit with Mary Catherine and her new little sister Molly, 10 months, for Molly’s first rodeo.

Another Buzz mom, Elizabeth Shackouls, has enjoyed bringing her four kids, Annie, Cate, Caroline, and Charlie, to Fun on the Farm for many years. The two sets of twins, now 7 and 9, have visited since they were toddlers.

“It is such a unique spot for the children to sneak away from the chaos and noise of the carnival,” Elizabeth said. “It offers families a quieter spot to learn all about agriculture, which is essentially the foundation of the rodeo.”

Fun on the Farm, which is run by volunteers, gives kids a chance to experience farm chores such as “milking a cow” (not a real cow), gathering eggs, planting, harvesting crops, and feeding pretend chickens. As you exit the farm, the children get a token to spend $1 on a treat at the General Store. Finally, they pass by “Goat Mountain,” where real goats are frolicking on a small fenced-in hill.

Emily advises parents visiting the rodeo to bring a lightweight stroller, carry a backpack as a diaper bag to remain hands-free, and bring hand sanitizer and a change of clothes for those messy snow cones, ketchup, and ice cream treats.

For times and tickets, see rodeohouston.com.

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