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San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo pays for college hopes, entertains with colorful events

Pigs squeal out of the gates at the Pork Chop International Speedway at the stock show and rodeo
Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
Pigs squeal out of the gates at the Pork Chop International Speedway at the stock show and rodeo

The winning exhibitors and competitors at the livestock show and auction at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo will walk away with $6 million to help pay for a college education and entry into a new career.

The event continues through Feb. 27 on the grounds of Freeman Coliseum and the AT&T Center.

There are 25,000 participants this year, many of them are third grade through high school students in Future Farmers of America programs or in 4H. The competition has been newly opened to other students, too.

"This year for the first time we've actually been fortunate enough to extend our participation to CTE programs, so CTE programs within Bexar County, those kiddos have been invited to compete out here as well," said Sarah Franklin, chairperson of the livestock committee.

Some of the non-livestock competition, includes "agrobotics," ag mechanics, and public speaking — mostly on agriculture industry topics.

There are big bucks to be made in the livestock competition. Last year's grand champion steer sold for nearly $64,000.

Not far from the livestock show is the Muttin' Bustin' Barn, where young children don crash helmets and vests to ride sheep. Muttin' Bustin' announcer Steve Grams said the young contestants must be between the ages of 4 and 7 years old and weigh 55 pounds or less.

"You and I stand here, we look at those sheep, we say well they don't look that scary. But to a little kid that's only three and half, four feet tall, it can be a little crazy at times," Grams said.

Guardians of the children must fill out medical paperwork and sign a release form. Young Carlos Salaiz racked up a few seconds on one mutton. He compared it to riding a bike.

So, what was it like getting tossed of backwards into the dirt we asked? He says it was not that bad.

"It was like I fell out a waterfall," Salaiz said.

Young Carlos Salaiz takes a spill of the back of a sheep in the Muttin' Bustin' Barn at the stock show and rodeo
Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
Young Carlos Salaiz takes a spill off the back of a sheep in the Muttin' Bustin' Barn at the stock show and rodeo

A crowd of 100 or more watched several children do their best to hold on with all their might. Some made a thud right out of the gate and were quickly helped up by full-sized cowboys.

Among those looking on was guest commentator and Miss Texas Portland Tidwell. The former Miss San Antonio says mutton busting and pageantry have one thing in common.

"To see these children hop on there and have the bravest little faces on, just be daring and go for it, I admire it. I admire it and wish I could do it. But pageantry is a little similar to mutton busting. You just got to hold onto dear life and hope it works out in your favor," she said.

The children are judged on their personalities, the difficulty of the sheep, and the time and distance of the ride.

Up to 1,500 children will compete for one of eight slots to appear in a wildcard performance in front of a full rodeo crowd at the AT&T Center on Feb. 25.

Next door to the Muttin' Bustin' Barn is the Swifty Swine Racing pigs. Zach Johnson announces the races held several times a day.

Zach Johnson of Swifty Swine Racing calls the action during the pig races
Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
Zach Johnson of Swifty Swine Racing calls the action during the pig races

He said Oreos are used to coax the pigs across the finish line. Johnson said the Oreos replaced Hershey Kisses that would always melt.

"We thought what is chocolatey that they would love? We tried an Oreo cookie, and they went bonkers for it, so we have just been racing for Oreos ever since, for the last 23 years now," Johnson said.

So, what makes the pig races a favorite among stock show and rodeo visitors?

"They're so doggone cute. You just can't turn on the TV and catch a pig race, so...come on down because it's a squealing good time," Johnson said.

Pigs are featured in three races during one show. One race features pigs named after celebrities, like Kevin Bacon, Britney Spare Rib, Brad Pig, and Kim Kardashiham.

Another race features pigs named after politicians, including Nancy Piglosi, Hamala Harris, Donald Trump Roast, and Sleepy Joe.

The other race features pigs wearing the colors and logos of the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and the University of Oklahoma.

Food vendors as far as the eye can see are another attraction at the stock show and rodeo.

Many of them offer typical fare, such as turkey legs, corn dogs, and funnel cakes. And then there's the vendor who sells drinks with colorful names and creative backstories.

Melissa Shulz of Karnes City operates the Soda Stir Shoppe near the entrance to the Shops at The Rodeo at the Expo Hall.

"So Lightning Lizzy is kind of our rocker girl, she is a Mountain Dew that has some peach in it, a little bit of blue curacao and she's a really bright green color, super fun. And then on our toppings on hot chocolate we have Seriously Susan, she loves Christmas and Hallmark hopes she has seen every Hallmark movie made," said Shulz.

There's also Mean Girl Molly, a concoction of strawberry, mango, and lemonade with smashed berries on top.

The event also has carnival rides, including a huge Ferris Wheel, games, and concerts after rodeo events. There is also live music situated around the grounds.

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