Let’s Rodeo! The 74th Annual Katy ISD FFA Livestock Show and Rodeo

COVER STORY | By Trish Johnson –

Gary Johnson, Kayla Powers and Dixie. Photo by Debi Beauregard/Custom Minds Photography.

Gary Johnson, Kayla Powers and Dixie. Photo by Debi Beauregard/Custom Minds Photography.

With plans for its record-setting 2018 Diamond Jubilee event already underway, the 2017 Katy ISD Future Farmers of America (FFA) Livestock Show and Rodeo kicks off this month when more than 500 Katy ISD students and members of FFA bring their hopes to the district’s L.D. Robinson Pavilion.

The Show That Keeps Giving

“The Katy ISD Livestock Show and Rodeo is generally believed to be the oldest event of its type in the state,” said Guy James, the Katy ISD agricultural specialist heading up the show for the past five years. The event has grown steadily since the first pigs, steers, goats and lambs were judged at the district’s only high school, Katy High School, nearly 75 years ago. “This year, we have about 32,000 students in Katy ISD who are FFA members, and every one of them sees benefits from the Livestock Show,” James noted.

Guy James.

Guy James.

According to the ag specialist and former ag instructor, profits earned from the Livestock Show and Rodeo are funneled directly back into the district’s FFA program. “Last year, we made $642,000 from the auction, barn sale and add-ons, which are non-winning entries purchased by individuals,” said James.

Added to that was the $65,000 in profits from the Katy ISD Rodeo, said Katy ISD FFA Livestock Show and Rodeo Association President Gary Johnson. “Using a formula which takes into account student participation at each school, the rodeo profits are divided among the seven Katy ISD high schools to be used on the FFA program, including paying for special programs for the student members and for discretionary use like student and ag advisor training.” Additionally, profits from the annual rodeo have been used for approximately five years to pay veterinarian bills incurred by animals being raised for the competition.

When Hard Work Pays Off

Mutton bustin’ is a Katy ISD Rodeo crowd favorite. Photo by The Photo Outlet - Rodney Copeland.

Mutton bustin’ is a Katy ISD Rodeo crowd favorite. Photo by The Photo Outlet – Rodney Copeland.

This year, Katy High School senior Kayla Powers is hoping for a Grand Championship for her lamb entry as her “swan song,” so-to-speak. “This is my fourth year to have an exhibit in the Katy ISD Livestock Show,” Powers grinned. “The first year, I got really lucky, and my lamb got Grand Champion. I didn’t do much my sophomore year, but I got Grand Champion Reserve my junior year.”


Powers, who is headed to Texas Tech University in the fall to be either a teacher or enter law school, joined the 4H Club when she was eight years old and segued to FFA when she entered junior high school. “I’ve learned that hard work really pays off,” said Powers. Her older sister, Kelsey, is a Sam Houston State College grad student and former FFA member, and her  younger brother, 13 year-old Brayden, is an FFA student at Katy Junior High.

Also a competitor in last year’s Houston Livestock Show, Powers gives much credit for her success to her ag instructor, Josh Vodehnal, as well as Kelsey. “I get a lot of support from them,” she smiled. “It really helps.”

Outstanding Community Support

Sisters Kelsey and Kayla Powers with Reserve Champion Lamb Big Momma at the 2015 Katy ISD Livestock Show.

Sisters Kelsey and Kayla Powers with Reserve Champion Lamb Big Momma at the 2015 Katy ISD Livestock Show.

James noted there were just over 200 show entries 12 years ago, compared to over 500 this year. “It really doesn’t matter what the economy is doing. Katy area people are just so supportive that the sale prices go up every year, and there’s no way to measure the benefits for the students.

“Involvement in FFA and the Livestock Show teaches responsibility, citizenship, leadership and builds character. It also teaches the benefit of hard work. The kids like to say they get lucky, but I think someone once said, ‘Luck is the end result of hard work.’”

Even with an animal menagerie of broiler chickens, rabbits, lambs, goats, pigs and steers starring in the Livestock Show, James said pigs are the most numerous animals at the show. “I really don’t know why, but we have more of those than anything else.  Maybe because they’re an extremely intelligent animal.”

200-livestockeventsAccording to James, students obtain their animals in the year prior to the year they plan to show the animals. Students begin selecting their steers this April, for instance, for the 2018 show. “The students have to figure out how to pay for their animal,” James explained. “Sometimes Mom and Dad pay for it, and their student may or may not pay them back. In many cases, students work to earn the money to buy their animal. Kids who have already shown an animal often set aside money from the sale of that animal to purchase the next one.”

Johnson’s family’s involvement in the Katy ISD Rodeo dates back to when his sons, David and Jacob, were Katy ISD FFA members. “I don’t think my sons would be where they are today without the FFA experience, and even though my kids are out of school now, I stick with it, because I just don’t think there is a better opportunity to raise money that is going directly to the kids who use it. There are no administration fees, and the organization is all volunteer, so all of the money goes to the students.”

Still a fervent rodeo fan, Johnson said he likes the whole rodeo but especially enjoys the events for the small fry. “The real little kids get so excited. It’s just precious,” he laughed. “The little kid events are what makes the Katy ISD show so special, like the mutton bustin’ and the stickhorse race. Everybody gets into the stickhorse race.”

Barrel racing takes place February 16th through 18th during the 2017 Katy ISD Rodeo.

Barrel racing takes place February 16th through 18th during the 2017 Katy ISD Rodeo.

The Katy Rodeo is sanctioned by the Cowboy’s Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) with professional rodeo cowboys for competitors. “We have a unique position by being the longest continuously-operated professional rodeo sponsored by a school district,” said Johnson, who also explained that the new livestock pavilion and multi-purpose arena approved in the last bond issue is expected to be in use sometime this year, creating more room for the growing event.

How many FFA animals are sheltered in the pavilion “depends on how many we have to make room for,” said James. “We use the pavilion for animals being raised by kids who don’t have a place for them at home. Rabbits and chickens are raised at the students’ homes, but the larger animals are often raised in the district’s facilities.”

This year, the Show and Rodeo’s parade is set for Saturday, February 18th and winds through the streets of Katy beginning at 9:30 am. The parade is held primarily to honor the students and community members who have been involved with the district’s agricultural programs. “The parade keeps growing too, and it does so on its own,” Johnson noted. “All we do is open the doors and say, ‘Y’all come,’ and they just show up. I know families who have passed down box seats at the rodeo from generation to generation. It’s just amazing how much support this gets from our community.”

The Livestock Show and Rodeo are to be held at the Katy ISD Fairgrounds on South Stadium Lane, located behind Katy High School. For information, visit www.katyrodeo.org.

Tickets to the Katy ISD Rodeo

Tickets are available beginning Wednesday, February 1st at Allegiance Bank, located at 722 Pin Oak Road in Katy. February 14th through 17th, tickets are also available at Tradition Bank, located at 550 Pin Oak Road in Katy. Tickets are also available at the gate the days of the Rodeo and from all Katy ISD FFA Booster Clubs.

Ticket Prices:
Ages 3 to 10 – $5 per night
Ages 11 and up – $10 per night • Under 3 – Free
For more information, visit www.katyrodeo.org.