During most of March, the NRG Center seems more like an air-conditioned barn than a convention center. Rows of thousand-pound animals line up in stalls inside. The majority of the heifers are raised by high schoolers, but right next to the Calf Scramble check-in table in row J is a heifer tied to the railing with pink rope.
While the animal is sitting at-ease, Kiersten Priddy is busy making sure that every minute detail of their stall 1382 is perfect. Her pink shirt and pink tennis shoes match the heifer’s pink rope. Although their stall and even the animal may look like every other in the row to Rodeo Houston goers passing by, one thing stands out. Kiersten, at about 4-feet tall, is only 10-years-old. She is the youngest contestant in the heifer show.
The moment she notices someone stopping to look at her heifer, Kiersten stops what she’s doing to stand at attention, ready to answer any questions.
“I’m excited, and I’m worked up and ready for it,” said Kiersten about the show.
It’s Kiersten first time showing a heifer at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. She competed in the Calf Scramble Beef Heifer Show on Friday, March 17 in the NRG Center.
Kiersten is a member of Montgomery County 4-H, just north of Houston. She won her heifer by placing in the top thirty at a livestock judging contest last year when she was 9-years-old. She knows what makes a winner heifer. In livestock judging, she carefully analyzed animals and measured them against commonly accepted standards of ideal breed characteristics.
A heifer is a female animal that has never had a calf, once a heifer has a calf she becomes a cow. Kiersten named her heifer Sweet Caroline after the song by Neil Diamond.
Every day for the past year, Kiersten has spent two to three hours a day taking care of Sweet Caroline. She feeds her heifer twice a day, ensures she has enough clean water, and keeps her clean. Kiersten wrote monthly progress reports, created a scrapbook and composed an essay telling their story (these are requirements of all contestants).
Kiersten’s mentor on the Calf Scramble Greeter volunteer rodeo committee is Charles Graham, who has been teaching at Houston Community College for 21 years. Graham teaches global logistics for HCC inside of the Harris County Jail.
Graham praised Kiersten’s ‘fantastic’ showmanship. Graham said that what’s more impressive than Kiersten’s age is how she handles her 1,000-pound heifer. “This animal does what she tells her. That’s what makes her a winner.”
Long before the trail riders and the BBQ cook-off kick started Rodeo Houston, Graham said that he could tell that “she’s upbeat, she’s ready and she’s excited for the show.”
There are over 33,000 volunteers that make Rodeo Houston a success. With 107 volunteer committees to choose from ranging from the Wine Competition committee to the Directions and Assistance committee, one Calf Scramble Greeter committee volunteer chose to work for this particular committee because she gets to work directly with kids. “I wanted to get involved with kids who actually benefit from the rodeo.”
Each greeter is assigned two to four kids to keep up with throughout the year. It’s the greeters who remind the contestants to submit their monthly reports and ensures they are ready for the rodeo with their stall sign and scrapbook.