Boots and Cattle: Livestock Show Rides On

With more than 16 acres of exhibition space in a building that's five footbal fields long, the Houston Livestock Show in Reliant Center is the largest in the world. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, the show is about a lot more than just showing animals.

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"I'm George Norris Jr. and I'm from Somerville, Texas. This is the granddaddy of them all and I've been showing here since 1948 down the old coliseum in downtown Houston."

Norris stands by himself along one of the dozens of aisles filled with cattle, a grizzled old Livestock Show veteran who comes these days to meet old friends, but also to win. Usually he brings eight, but he's only showing four head of cattle this year.

"Like they tell me sometimes, man, you've been showing for 48 years, you must like to show cattle. I say, well, I don't know if I like to show cattle, I like to win. When you win here at the Houston Livestock Show, you just can't get no better than that."

"My name is Fleming and I'm a shoeshine man."

He's not a cattle man, but he's still a big part of the unique atmosphere at the Livestock Show, with his shine stand alongside food booths, clothing stores, tractors, trucks and lots of boots.

"You run into a lot of old cowboys, old friends. You meet and greet different people everyday, and then shining shoes is an old art that's fading way. People are still excited about getting up during rodeo time and getting their boots shined."

"I'm Sherri Byrum and we live southwest of San Antonio in Atascosa, Texas. Houston is definitely the Super Bowl of cattle showing."

With broom in hand, Byrum is cleaning around her stalls, sweeping sawdust that provides a bed for her three heifers and a bull.

"I guess actually this is really our hobby. Some people have boats and some people have motorcycles and we just happen to love cattle. It's almost like a social club actually. Almost all these cattle breeders have known each other for years. None of them are afraid to share their secrets. It's just kind of like a big family."

Laura Zulim is from Hockley, Texas has been to livestock shows in Fort Worth and San Antonio. She says Houston is her favorite.

"We're usually here at 4:30, 5:00 in the morning. We go grab something to eat, come take care of our animals. They have great facilities to wash them. We wash them every morning and get a little break every now and then. You can go shopping. They have great food so it's all here."

There were around 32,000 entries in the Livestock Show last year. The Show and Rodeo wraps-up later this month.

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