As the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo opened Tuesday, organizers were already predicting a record-setting year.
"Our ticket sales are looking at setting an all-time record," said Skip Wagner, president of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo." "While the economy hasn’t come roaring back, I think everything is more stable, so a lot of the fear of the unknown is gone."
Organizers say, so far, ticket sales are up five percent from this time last year, when the economy took a $4 million toll on the rodeo’s profits.
The crowd on Tuesday morning consisted mostly of families with small children, eager to peer at the newborn calves and hatching chicks on display.
Three-year-old Grant McTaggart was one of the first to arrive, but he almost didn’t make it this year, his mother Melanie McTaggart said.
"Grant has leukemia, and he’ll be admitted to the hospital tomorrow," she said.
Since his diagnosis, Grant has had to relearn how to walk, talk and use his hands, she said.
"So this is a really special treat for him to come out today," McTaggart said.
Hundreds of other people came early to see the livestock show, the carnival, and the shop booths.
Melissa Holton said her 2-year-old twins were setting a milestone at the rodeo.
"Today, they're getting their first cowboy hats," she said.