Rodeo impresses fans with music and cowboys

George Strait performs for the crowd at the Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas, Saturday February 18, 2012. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/MCT)
George Strait performs for the crowd at the Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas, Saturday February 18, 2012. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/MCT)
By Alexa Brackin
News Editor

The cowboy rode away all right. The “King” took with him the all-time paid attendance record for both the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Reliant Stadium.

A record-breaking 80,020 concertgoers came from far and wide Sunday to see George Strait, along with Martina McBride and The Randy Rogers Band, in what was proclaimed as his final RodeoHouston performance. This record-shattering milestone marked his 21st appearance at the rodeo.

“George Strait is a country music legend,” said Leroy Schafer, chief operating officer of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, in a press release. “To include our show on his ‘The Cowboy Rides Away’ tour was truly special for our fans.

Before Sunday’s show, RodeoHouston announced that it would award an annual four-year college scholarship in Strait’s honor. The award is said to honor the legacy of Strait and his 30-year partnership and friendship with the show.

“The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is committed to benefiting the youth of Texas through scholarships and educational programming,” Schafer said. “What better way to help young Texans pursue their dreams and to honor a true legend.”

These are not the first milestones Strait has seen the rodeo through. He broke the record for all-time paid attendance at the final show performance in the Astrodome and performed on the opening night of the rodeo in Reliant Stadium.

“George has had a lot of special moments in the 30 years since he first appeared at the show,” Schafer said. “I remember the day we flew him in as a replacement act an hour before his performance. He took the stage and quickly stole the ears of our rodeo fans.”

Before Strait blew the top off of the paid-attendance record, Go Tejano Day broke the record on March 10, with 73,305 fans making the rainy trek to the rodeo. Go Tejano Day will still hold the show record for a rodeo and concert, because Strait’s performance was a concert-only day for the show.

Other performers that reeled in the crowds included country stars Toby Keith, Gary Allan, Alan Jackson, Zac Brown Band, Brantley Gilbert, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Jake Owen, Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan and The Band Perry; former Disney star Demi Lovato; R&B singer Mary J. Blige; YouTube star Austin Mahone; rock legend Styx; “Just the Way You Are” singer Bruno Mars; Hispanic sensations Julion Alvarez and Los Invasores de Nuevo Leon; and rapper Pitbull.

Bryan, Shelton, Pitbull and Mars all exceeded the 75,000 attendees mark.

All of these entertainers are a part of a bigger charitable endeavor on the part of RodeoHouston. The show was organized in 1932 for educational and scientific purposes to encourage and facilitate the relationship between students and the livestock industry.

All of the money that the show brings in, with the exception of funds used to meet necessary expenses of the show’s yearly upkeep, is devoted to scholarships and educational endowments.

Since its beginning, the show has contributed more than $330 million to students.