In 2020, COVID-19 forced the early closure of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Last year, select events were held in person. But in 2022, the rodeo was back in full force as it celebrated its 90th anniversary. Successfully staging the largest rodeo in the world relies on the contributions of 35,000 volunteers.
“Welcoming back more than 2.4 million guests to celebrate the 90th anniversary was an incredible feeling,” says Chris Boleman, Ph.D., who is president and CEO of the organization. “Our fans and the community were excited to come out and celebrate this milestone year with us.” Boleman, who has been with the organization in various capacities since 2017, shared some of his personal rodeo highlights with us.
M+E Which two events are your favorites?
I love the Calf Scramble. Seeing those young people catch a calf and then return to the show the next year with their beef cattle project (steer or heifer) completes the full cycle of the learning experience.
I love it. I also love the night of the Grand Champion Junior Market Steer Selection inside NRG Stadium. I grew up showing steers and took a few into the stadium as an exhibitor myself, so that moment always brings back great family memories for me.
M+E What are your favorite rodeo memories?
There are several. When the Grand Champion Market Steer sold for $1 million, I was very emotional. It was such a monumental moment in our history.
Getting to the George Strait concert [on the final night of the 2022 rodeo]. It meant we made it through an emotional journey. It meant that everyone stuck together to get to the finish line—volunteers, staff, donors, sponsors, partners, the community—everyone.
Personally, I am not a dancer, but opening night with Cody Johnson kicking off the rodeo’s 90th anniversary and playing to a sold-out crowd [was memorable]. I was on the dirt dancing with my wife, Randi, and I was so relieved that we finally made it. She has been my rock through some very difficult times, and it was great to share that moment with her.
M+E Out of curiosity, how many pairs of cowboy boots and cowboy hats do you own?
Nine pairs of boots. Far fewer than my wife! Four hats. I am looking to purchase another one really soon.