My first time.

Six months away and my countdown to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo started the day after this year’s ended. I got my best friend Ari excited under false pretenses about a month ago by uttering “OH MY GOSH! RODEO IS ALMOST HERE!!” Her expression was priceless. From sheer elation to “Wait a minute! Rodeo is months away, dumdum!”

Houston is synonymous with the Houston Rodeo. If you’re like me, growing up, all I knew of the Houston Rodeo was the ‘Go Texan’ Day at school and…yah that was about the extent of it. Or if you actually went to the Rodeo it might’ve just been to attend the concert portion. If you showed up a little earlier you might’ve caught some of the rodeo competitions. But man, it’s so, so much more than just a concert. What an undertaking! My brain freezes just thinking about the logistical aspect of the event. Currently, there are more than 27,000 volunteers serving on more than 100 different show committees. Also a large portion of the rodeo’s annual revenues are used for educational advancement in the form of endowments, grants and scholarships. Next year’s educational commitment is to raise $23,062,464. Now THAT’S what I’m talking about! Not to mention how much the Houston economy benefits more and more every year from having such an enormous event. Here’s just a few facts for your eyes taken from rodeohouston.com

BECAUSE THE SHOW EXISTS

  • Annual gross sales are increased by $475,403,000.
  • Annual gross regional product is increased by $320,221,000.
  • Annual personal incomes are raised by $290,710,000.
  • 7,265 full-time equivalent jobs are created.
  • The local population is increased by 16,316 people

This year was my first time to serve on a rodeo committee. I got the opportunity to join a great one too, the Rodeo Contestant Hospitality Committee. I figured it would be the best ROI since I’ve been going every year faithfully from 2008 when I caught the bug. Those concert tickets can add up and plus, I’m a firm believer that you should find ways to reinvest into causes, organizations and/or people that have left a mark or added value to your world.

In my role, I had a set schedule that took me into the Reliant Stadium for a few hours over the three weeks that the Houston Rodeo was in full swing. Our team’s responsibility was to set up the green room where the Cowboys, Cowgirls and their families hung out. I bonded with my team rather quickly. Since I was their rookie team member for this year, I made sure to be on my best behavior…for the first shift at least! Some of the team members have been around faithfully since The Rodeo was in the Astrodome. Suffice it to say I walked away from every shift with plenty of stories.

One man in particular,”Viper”, told me a rather hilarious story of how he had to go looking for watermelon in March for one of their headliners, Mr. Luther Vandross himself. Since watermelons can’t be found in Texas in spring time, Viper had one shipped from a hot house all the way from Florida. He was so proud of himself for finding a watermelon out of season that he personally delivered it to the artist’s green room. When the show was over and he came back to clean up the room, in Viper’s words, “And I’ll be damned if that watermelon wasn’t sittin’ there whole!”. I’m surrounded by storytellers just like Viper. They love to share and I am their captive audience.

March 17, 2013 was the last day of this year’s rodeo and what a way to end it! Two of my dearest friends and I were like three giddy school girls who had the pleasure of watching the best in the business, the King of Country. Some women and maybe even a few men might argue he’s the sexiest man alive…George Strait. Below are a few snaps from my time spent working and playing at the Houston Livestock SHow and Rodeo.

It was a pleasant and fun experience. I just signed up for my second year and I can’t wait to see my team again! I’m like a kid waiting for Santa ( if I ever believed in him).

Things I learned as a Rookie

1. If you go enough times, you’ll get tired of the food choices.

2. Everyone is assumed to be Republican.

3. 2 things Cowboys and Cowgirls love: Prayer and an open bar.

4. It’s rare but men still tip their hats to women. I think it’s quite awesome and has that old world charm that can catch a girl off guard. You might even “catch the vapors”.

5. You can never have too many pairs of boots.

6. Favorite sayin I’m most likely to steal: “Oh hells’ bells!”

7. Everyone is kind and welcoming even to city/suburb folk like myself that don’t have much of experience with livestock.

I’m sure my second year will be even more eventful than last because I understand the ropes now and I’ll feel more at home! So let the countdown continue!

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At the George Strait Show- Darryl, Ari and Me

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With my Rodeo Contestant Hospitality Committee Team and Leon Coffee- Rodeo Clown

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At my very first Brahman Cow Auction.
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Photography Phun with Phriends- Jorge& Serena

Jorge and Serena are one of the most beautiful couples I know. So generous and loving, I look forward to seeing where their passion and drive will lead them.

I met Serena in college. From the moment I met her, she radiated love, sincerity and goofiness, in that order. It only makes sense that she put that goofiness to use! Jokes aside she is a very talented woman. Let me brag on her for a minute. She’s a voice-over artist for anime. Recently, Serena was featured in a Nikon commercial. Isn’t she cute? Serena is quite the little songbird too! I love listening to her sing. I hope we get to sing together one day. Here’s where it gets even cooler. I love when world’s collide. Darin from my earlier post helped direct and shoot a promo/music video that Serena was featured in. Did I mention she’s got a lil swagga too? Check out her out spittin’ some rhymes in the Lakewood Church Youth Music Video .

Photo by Darin Rios Photography

Her equally awesome husband Jorge was part of the photo shoot as well.

Photo by Darin Rios Photography

I met Jorge back in 2003 or so when he was fancying Serena. I won’t say I didn’t bust his chops but I could tell that he was legit.  Jorge is an up and coming entrepreneur. He’s got his sights set on success. Check out his company. www.pathway2savings.com .

So why did I write this blog? Simply because I am surrounded by extraordinary people and they need to be spotlighted. Darin, Serena & Jorge are just three of a host of amazingness that surrounds me. I have to show off my friends. They are worth sharing with the world.

Photograhy Phun with Phriends- Darin Rios

I find myself regularly spending a few minutes (hours) looking through photos, mostly the work of professionals. Although I do enjoy skimming through snaps of a fun weekend on a friend’s Facebook wall as well. Either way, I am an fan of GOOD photography. I’ve had the opportunity to work on a few photo shoots. LOVE it! Most recently I was unexpectedly recruited by one of my best friend’s to put together a few looks  for an impromptu shoot. She decided to have some head shots made so she can pursue some commercial modeling opportunities. I showed up at her place, pulled a few looks and thought I was going to be on my merry way.

The next 9-12 hours turned into an experience worth sharing. I had the great honor of watching a professional at work. Darin Rios, whom I had I met briefly before and had seen his work prior to meeting him, was the photographer of the day. We jumped in his car and drove around to a vacant field and spent the better part of the day taking pictures. I watched  as he captured every possible light, angle and pose with passion and vigor.  With one DSLR camera, a 600 ws strobe light and a perfectly overcast day beauty and artistry joined hands and kissed. It was a learning curve for me because Darin let me play the role of “assistant director”. I was secretly geeking out. (hehe) Darin’s super chill vibe mixed with Serena and Jorge’s good looks made it an easy work environment. I didn’t notice the time passing.

Photo by Darin Rios Photography

Since the shoot I’ve hung out with Darin a few times. Come to find out this dude is jam-packed with talent. Photography is just one of the many arts that Darin is passionate about. He is a graphic artist, break-dancer, aspiring singer-songwriter and after getting to know him, a downright humble guy. His back story is worth hearing and could easily be made into a movie, which he could very well write, direct and produce.

I should tell you one of my all-time favorite photographers is the uber-talented Jeremy Cowart. I saw this picture posted at an event and it caught my eye right away. Upon taking a look at Darin’s site for the first time I saw my favorite photographer’s signature styles staring back at me but in a very unique way. I share all of this to say, I won’t be surprised WHEN Darin makes it big. He’s driven, talented, and determined. So I’m glad I met you before you hit it big time homie. Cheers!

Part 2: Jorge & Serena