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Rodeo con los Niños

February 14, 2014

Kendra Squeo and her tuckered cowpoke via

The key to surviving the livestock show with kids is to accept the fact that you are going to step in some shit, both literally and figuratively. Regardless of the matter of this shit–animal excrement, toddler tantrum, or long carnival lines–you’ve got to shake it off and keep going.

Yes, except for you, Super Parent of Exceptional Children. You might go about taking your children to the rodeo as my sister-in-law planned her wedding day: 7:55 a.m. In line to enter grounds, highlighted and annotated schedule and Chick-fil-A free passes in hand; 8:07 a.m. Commence walking to dock dogs demonstration via Marketplace; 8:47 a.m. Mandatory bathroom break, fresh diapers for all! As in all situations pertaining to childrearing, you are the exception, and yes, if your child had his own goat, he would be the one winning that scholarship. Read no further, for you clearly know what’s best.

This is for everyone else–maybe not for my friend Jenn who believes all large animal events exist in their own private circle of Hell, but for parents who are eager to share this San Antonio tradition with their little cowpokes but worry that their children’s behavior could earn them a spot in the wildlife exhibition.

Try to remember that you’re not at the livestock show with your kids, you’re taking your kids to the livestock show. While I don’t advocate for martyrdom for the sake of your children’s delight, you’re probably going to have to keep your kids reasonably entertained in order for you to have a good time. Here are some tips to help you do that.

1. Go on Dollar Days if you want to save your money. Go on a random full price day if you want to save your soul. On Presidents’ Day and every Friday of rodeo season, San Antonio descends upon the AT&T Center for dollar grounds admission and rides, popcorn, hot dogs, and sodas at the carnival. Large crowds also gather on Family Day, the final Sunday of the season, when a coupon from Chick-fil-A grants free admission and a $5 parking discount. That’s a big savings, considering that regular admissions prices are $10 for adults and $5 for children over the age of 3, but only you and your threshold for crowds can decide if it’s worth it. Go early to avoid the afternoon rush.

2. If you can’t leave the stroller at home, fill that beast with supplies! When the crowds thicken, you’ll want easy maneuverability. Push a stroller, and you’ll get stuck behind slow walkers and at the bottom of the bleachers. But if you’ve got to bring it, load up with kid snacks and drinks and wipes, wipes, wipes! Large farm animals equals poop everywhere, so you’ll also want those wipes when you get back to your car. Wipe down your stroller wheels or your car will smell like the inside of a Diaper Genie.

3. Pick two or three must-see events, but let your kids set the schedule. There are many engaging activities, especially in the Family Fair area: petting zoo, pony rides, wildlife exhibits and demonstrations, pig races, that carnival your kids have been pestering you about, and Little Buckaroo Farms, an interactive learning experience for kids that includes a milking area. If the Family Fair area gets overwhelming, go west to the Texas Wildlife Expo to see dogs flip through the air to catch frisbees over a swimming pool or blow your kids’ minds by introducing them to the miniature horses up north at Horse Discovery. Need a place to rest and give your baby a bottle? Grab some seats at the horse show or at any ofthe other livestock competition arenas. It’s all fun, so just enjoy wherever your toddler scrambles.

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