Ah, rodeo, that smorgasbord for the senses, with its Texas-sized turkey legs and tilt-a-whirls and Tim McGraw. There’s so much to see, hear, taste, touch, and, yes, smell at NRG this time of year, but we’re here with a reminder not to neglect the shopping opportunities.
It’s true that most folks are drawn to the carnival to see what food can now be consumed on a stick and to the stadium for mutton-busting or—in the record-breaking case of 75,580 last week—Cardi B. But there’s plenty more worth checking out inside NRG Center, too, besides the baby piglets and mini Herefords in Agventure (though you should also definitely see them).
The marketplace is virtually jam-packed with vendors from around Texas and beyond, selling everything from saddles to saltwater taffy. The full list is exhaustive and deserves at least half a day of in-person perusal, but here’s a taste of what you’ll find by way of a few gems we spotted on our most recent visit this week. You’ve got 10 more days to scout out your own treasure.
Nostalgic Favorites You Can’t Find on Netflix
Must Have Movies, D13086
I scoured the well-stocked shelves of vintage movies and TV shows on DVD for early Olsen twin titles and delightedly discovered three among the inventory (It Takes Two; Double, Double, Toil and Trouble; and To Grandmother’s House We Go). There are hundreds more to suit your fancy, from John Wayne Westerns ($10 and up) to the 1976 version of A Star is Born with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson ($20).
One-of-a-Kind Boho Bags
Two Bar West, D15076
The brand from Hill Country-raised sisters (and fifth-generation ranchers) Stacy and Laurie McFadin has long found favor with celebrities—stars from Kim Kardashian to Kate Hudson have been photographed carrying McFadin pieces over the years. We’re partial to the Navajo blanket-inspired bags ($155 and up), each one completely unique, that pay homage to the sisters’ Southwestern roots.
New Boots to Break in Before George Strait
While there are plenty of worthy boot purveyors this year (Cavender's, Boot Barn, Pinto Ranch, and the list goes on), it’s worth mentioning Tecovas. It’s the first rodeo for the Austin-based western brand, which launched in 2015, and the only physical touchpoint for the e-tailer of the fine leather boots designed in Texas and crafted in Mexico. Brand reps tell us there are plans for five brick-and-mortars around the state, including one in Houston, to which we say, “the more the merrier.”
Trucker Hats That Speak Your Truth
Gina “Girls in Action,” D4090
It’s hard to miss the candy-colored, marquee-style sign announcing this booth that’s built out like an actual little boutique. It’s filled with girly goodies—cat-eye sunglasses, pop culture-referencing graphic tees, leopard-print jumpsuits—but the brutally honest trucker hats peppered throughout the space are worth a visit alone. Emblazoned with all-caps messages like “Keep Your Kid Away From Me” and “I Washed My Hair For This?,” they speak so you don’t have to.
A Dress to Remind You of Rodeo All Year Long
The Crystal Ranch, B4044
When the horse and pony show packs up on the 17th for another year, you’ll want something to keep the magic of the experience top of mind. What better way than with a whimsical, ruffled sundress ($98) covered in barnyard animals? The charming garment printed with horses, ducks, bunnies, pigs, sheep, and more caught our eye at The Crystal Ranch, a boutique rodeo staple since 2005, and we foresee it making an appearance at an Easter brunch near you.
A Pony For Your Kid Who Won’t Quit Asking
Pony Pal Stable, D12079
It’s inevitable at a certain age, and especially after their first rodeo. The next best thing might just be a child-sized plush version (or, if your kid prefers The Jungle Book to Black Beauty, a tiger version) on clear roller-blade wheels that won’t scratch the floor. Get one in the larger size ($350) and try it for yourself—”medium” ponies hold up to 185 pounds.
Rockin’ P Ranch, D6102
“Put a rhinestone on it” is to western-wear as “put a bird on it” is to Portlandia. It’s common knowledge ‘round these parts that just about everything is more appealing when it’s covered in crystals—Bible verses, keychains, and cowboy hats are all fair game. A glinting, glittering T-shirt with such sassy Southern aphorisms as “I’m fixin’ to pitch a fit, y’all” ($25) is simply a rodeo must-have.