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'We truly cannot do this work without them' | Volunteers keep Rodeo running every year

The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo is a huge event hosting millions of people each year and it's primarily operated by volunteers -- 35,000 of them.

Brandi Smith

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Published: 3:10 PM CST March 10, 2023
Updated: 9:28 AM CST March 11, 2023

On a given day during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, at least 80,000 people pour through the gates, though there are usually many more. They come for the concerts, for the carnival, for the food, for the livestock and for the rodeo.

"Been coming out here every year of my life," visitor Melanie Loyd told KHOU 11 on opening day.

The three-week event is about more than fried Oreos and turkey legs, rides and slides, rock stars and rappers, crooners and kings. It’s about community. 

"It’s fun to see everyone come back together, you know. It’s something you don’t see often," said Damian Quinonez, who celebrated his birthday on opening day. "Everybody’s reconnecting."

You see it in the crowds in NRG Center, in the Midway carnival and in the seats of NRG Stadium: every walk of life, every age, veterans and rookies. 

"I’ve been to a couple small rodeos before, but not this big," said Hunter Adams.

It is a huge event hosting millions of people each year and it's primarily run by volunteers.

"Right now, we have about 35,000 volunteers on 109 different committees," shared HLSR president and CEO Chris Boleman.

You’ve seen them before whether you realized it or not. They drive trams, sell tickets, greet you at the gate, help you navigate and so much more.

"Without them, we can’t do what we do. It’s definitely a team here, no doubt about it. Through the various committees, they really take care of everything if you think about it," Boleman said. "I’m asked all the time, how do you do this? I don’t know that you could do it anywhere else. For whatever reason, it just seems to come together here. This community just has a service atmosphere to it, in my opinion. Houston just does. So there is this sense of calling and a lot of people connect with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo."

As president and CEO, Boleman is one of a few dozen paid HLSR staffers.

"The number of volunteers compared to any paid staff members is exponentially larger," said Josh Reeves, chairman of the Graphics & Signage Committee. "Five-hundred volunteers to every one Rodeo staff member here. Chances are, it’s going to be a volunteer you’re dealing with."

It’s impossible to spotlight every one of the 35,000 volunteers on those 109 different committees, KHOU 11 is saluting those men and women who donate their time each year so the rest of us can enjoy the largest livestock and rodeo show in the world.

"We truly cannot do this work without them," stressed Boleman.

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