Aggie Named President And CEO Of Houston Livestock Show And Rodeo
A Bryan native and Texas A&M University alumnus was recently named the head of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Chris Boleman ’96, a former Texas A&M AgriLife professor, also earned a master’s degree from the university in 2000 and a Ph.D in 2003.
Before Boleman became head of the livestock show and rodeo, he served as executive director of the Agricultural Educational Competitions and Exhibits Division, and helped reorganize the structure of the event. Before joining the HLSR, he was heavily involved with the Texas 4-H organization.
Below, Boleman shares information about the rodeo, his new job, and how it’s been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Q: What classes did you teach at Texas A&M?
A: I taught in the ALEC Department and had an appointment with AgriLife. I taught in the areas of program development and evaluation, community leadership and volunteer development. I also was the program director for Texas 4-H Youth Development from 2008-2017 through AgriLife Extension.
Q: You come from a family of Aggies, is that correct?
A: My wife Randi (who works for the Bryan Independent School District as a nutrition expert) and I have six degrees from Texas A&M. My dad (Larry Boleman) was a professor there in the Animal Science Department, and my grandfather, T.D. Tanksley, was also a professor in the Animal Science Department. Needless to say, we love Aggieland.
Q: Can you give some quick stats on the HLSR?
A: Established as the Houston Fat Stock Show in 1932, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has grown into the world’s largest event of its kind. The HLSR promotes agriculture by hosting an annual, family-friendly experience that educates and entertains the public, supports Texas youth, showcases Western heritage and provides year-round educational support within the community. Since its beginning in 1932, the rodeo has committed more than $500 million to Texas youth and education. In 2019, the rodeo drew more than 2.5 million visitors.
Q: What is the most fun part of this job, and what is the toughest?
A: The best part of the job are the great people I work with, the volunteers, staff, the whole team. They are awesome people fully committed to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo mission. The toughest part? Nothing yet, because I am still learning and loving all of it.
Q: It must have been very frustrating to be named head of the HLSR and have the entire event canceled because of the pandemic.
A: All of us at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo were deeply saddened to close early. However, the safety and well-being of our guests and our community is our top priority. We plan for 20 consecutive days, so without the remaining 12 days of grounds attendance and concert performances, the financial loss will be significant.
Q: Entertainment is a huge draw for the event. How are entertainers selected and who have been the most popular?
A: The entertainer lineup represents a wide range of musical genres. Each year, we strive to offer a star-studded lineup that reflects our country roots, as well as the diversity of our community.
The top three rodeo performances on the list of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s top 25 paid rodeo/concert attendance records include:
- Sunday, March 10, 2019 – Go Tejano Day – Los Tigres del Norte – 75,586
- Friday, March 1, 2019 – Black Heritage Day – Cardi B – 75,580
- Sunday, March 18, 2018 – Garth Brooks – 75,577
It is interesting to note that George Strait’s concert performance on Sunday, March 17, 2019, set an attendance record for any event in NRG Stadium with 80,108 people. The concert-only performance marked George Strait’s 30th performance in his 22 years at the rodeo.
Q: Volunteers are a big part of the livestock show and rodeo. Can you give some details?
A: The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo would not be the well-run success that it is today without the vision, dedication and hard work of its volunteers. The rodeo is powered by more than 35,000 volunteers and 135-plus full-time employees who work year-round to prepare for our annual event. Our total operating expenses were more than $146 million in 2019.
About the Houston Livestock and Rodeo:
- In 1942, the Houston Rodeo welcomed its first-ever entertainer, Texas native and Hollywood star Gene Autry.
- The board of the rodeo has 18 vice presidents elected to one-year terms, and they supervise the activities of the rodeo’s more than 35,000 volunteers serving on 108 different committees. Each vice president may serve up to three terms.
- In 1970, Elvis Presley performed at the Astrodome, and in 1990, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher attended the event during an economic summit meeting in Houston
- In 1974, the Houston Rodeo held the first World Championship Bar-B-Que Contest
- In 2002 the final rodeo was held at the Astrodome, and it was moved to what is now NRG Stadium.
- In 2003 rodeo awarded more than $1 million in scholarships to Texas FFA and 4-H clubs.