The Old Katy Rodeo Arena by Jacob Adams

6331 Highway Boulevard
Katy, Texas 77494

April 2004–While I was attending high school in Katy , Texas the end of February and the beginning of March has always been a very special time for the students and residents of Katy.  Dr. Leonard  Merrell, Superintendent for the Katy Independent School District spoke for the entire community when he said, “The show will go on,” (Kliewer,36) as it has in this community since the 1940’s.  After many months of preparation and anticipation the Katy Rodeo finally arrives, the waiting is over, and the fun begins with the sights, sounds, and smells that characterize the annual Katy Livestock Show and Rodeo.  Students in the Agricultural Mechanics and the Future Farmers of America programs in the Katy Independent School District spent months preparing for the week long events of the Rodeo.  The Future Farmers of America spent a year raising and preparing to show their prize winning cows, pigs, chickens, goats, sheep, lambs, and rabbits.  The Agricultural Mechanics students spent months designing and building the trailers, barbeque pits, deer feeders, bumpers, sprayers, animal chutes, and feed troughs that would be judged in the shows.  Visitors from the entire community, not just the students, eagerly await the coming of the Rodeo each year.  This year the “livestock show, rodeo, and carnival will be March 4-6,” (FFA Rodeo 1) and will feature a “bull-ride-only event at the new rodeo arena’ (FFA Rodeo 1).

The arena has recently been razed by the district in order to expand their administration facilities which had become too small for the rapidly expanding district.  A new arena is supposed to be constructed on the same property as the administration building, which is also a recent addition to the district facilities.  For the numerous students who spent many happy and productive hours at the old arena, this is a mixed blessing.  A new, larger arena with modern facilities is cause for celebration and I am sure future students will appreciate it  and create great memories there just as previous generations created their memories in and around the old arena.  However, the old arena served as a gathering place for the citizens of the Katy community for more then fifty years.

The arena was part of the original structures around Katy High School , the first high school to serve the Katy area.  Very little of the original buildings from the old Katy High School have survived the years.  Even the original Katy High School , with its narrow hallways, red brick entrances, and multi-pane windows, has been remodeled and the new schools are all modern structures without the design and old world style that characterized the original buildings.  Although the site of the building remains unchanged the surroundings have changed dramatically and the campus that was once “encircled mainly by rice fields and cow pastures” (Kliewer, 36) is now the center of a thriving business district.  The new arena that is currently planned will be a more modern structure capable of hosting modern day rodeo with all of its attractions.  Even though the old arena had hard, uncomfortable seats and everyone had to squeeze together to allow everyone to have a seat, it had character.  A visitor could tell just by looking around that the arena would have many stories to tell if only it could talk.

The new L. D. Robinson Pavilion will be a  “145,000 square foot” (Community 1) arena will include “5,600 stadium seats, concession areas, ticket booths, office space, locker rooms, and a full service kitchen” (Multi- Purpose 1).  Also included is a separate building that will have a scale designed to weigh animals which are brought to the arena for the various competitions.  In the past weighing many of the animals has been a difficult and time consuming process that involved weighing the animal in a trailer them removing the animal and weighing the trailer and them computing the difference to the determine the weight of the animal.  The new scale will speed up and modernize the process, however, it eliminates the time honored tradition that has long been a part of the Katy Rodeo and arena.  Many humorous situations have occurred while attempting to remove and control the livestock during this process.  The cows and pigs would often seize the opportunity to escape when they were removed from their trailers.  Students have frequently been called upon to chase and capture an escapee and many hilarious times have resulted.  Only someone who has attempted to capture a fleeing pig can truly appreciate their speed and cunning.  My friends and I were called upon to capture an escaping pig during last years weigh in for the livestock.  The escaping pig led us through the stock barn, around the petting zoo, by the ticket windows and then jumped the ditch.  We soon found ourselves chasing him across the track with the entire Katy track team watching us.  We finally caught him just short of the open gym doors and then had to struggle to drag him all the way back to the weigh in station thus providing additional entertainment for our audience.  Goats have been known to turn on their pursuers and the hunted became the hunter.  The new auction hall will include a new and improved sound system.  The auctioneer will now be able to be heard and understood and those bidding on the livestock will not have to guess what the auctioneer is saying.

For the old timers in the community, the arena was a reminder to many of them of their high school days and just driving by and seeing the arena reminded them of a time when they were young and their entire lives were in front of them.  Some of those old timers had children and then grandchildren follow in their footsteps and the rodeo grounds become a memory that they had in common.  The arena was a place where the young and old met on common ground.  It was a place where the gap between generations was bridged by their common love of rodeo and by their shared trials and tribulations at the arena.  In the past, when Grandpa told his story of how he lost the big competition because the gate stuck on chute number four, his grandson could empathize completely because that same gate stuck on his ride out of that same chute.  Now, these types of situations will no longer occur and future generations, while they may laugh at Grandpa’s story, will never know exactly how he felt.

I participated in Rodeo events every year of my four years in high school.  I designed and built barbeque pits, feeders, farm implements, and trailers as a member of the Mayde Creek High School Agricultural Mechanics team.  At the Agricultural shows our team frequently won ribbons and trophies for our exhibits.  During my senior year our Agricultural Mechanics team won Reserve Grand Champion and Grand Champion for the trailers that we designed and built for the show.  Our barbeque pit won Best of Show.  I have a great friend, Chuck, who shared this experience with me and I value the time we shared and fun that we had.

Students who participate in events there will not have to drop everything and run when someone screams for help because the cow, pig, sheep, or goat is escaping.  They also will not have the opportunity to laugh at the local rancher, who because he could not hear the auctioneer, thought he was bidding on a horse only to discover he has bought a crate of chickens or rabbits.

The new arena, which is to be built at the existing site, is no longer adjacent to Katy High School , but is to be built much farther back on the property thus making it less accessible.  This arrangement is less convenient for the transportation of the livestock and will provide little space for attractions and parking.  The new arena eliminates the small town atmosphere which ahs always been a major part of the event.  The new design of the structure eliminates the opportunity for visitors to attend the rodeo events and walk to restaurants, shops, and stores in the downtown area by isolating the visitors in an enclosed arena and preventing free travel from the rodeo to other local attractions.  In past years, visitors could easily walk to local restaurants and shops and then return to the rodeo.  Visitors will now have to drive to reach other businesses and downtown restaurants will no longer be an important part of the planning for this event.

The new building will cause the traditional carnival and the concessions to diminish in size.  The carnival is always a popular attraction for the community.  It is particularly popular among the teen age crowd who enjoy the thrill rides and the junk food available there.  Although the carnival always includes a number of rides appropriate for small children, the majority of the rides attract the middle school and high school crowd.  The carnival stays open well after the rodeo events have ended and many of the teenagers like to stay late and enjoy this time with their friends.  Along with carnival come the food vendors and concessions.  The traditional fare offered by the vendors is barbeque and more barbeque.  If you do not like barbeque then this is not the place for you.  Many of the vendors spend hours preparing their specialties and there is a great deal of friendly competition between them to decide who makes the best barbeque.

Although Katy is a small community and change comes slowly, change appears to be inevitable.  New students to the Future Farmers of America and Agricultural Mechanics programs will, without a doubt, come to appreciate the new amenities offered by the updated arena.  Students in the coming years will show their animals or display their building projects and hopefully create for themselves the same lasting recollections that previous generations did.  Future generations will create their own unique memories of the new arena and while they will be different from the memories of past generations they will be just as cherished.  Those young students may someday drive by the new structure and feel the same way about it as the old timers did when they passed the old arena.

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