The 81st annual Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show kicks off on March 12 and will run through 11 event-filled days of exhibits, rodeos, carnivals and live music. It’s the largest show of its type south of San Antonio.
The livestock show, as always, takes place at the livestock show grounds in Mercedes. The Valley iconic event has a reputation for its entertainment and fun times but at its heart is a mission. The rodeo supports area youth through scholarships and prize money for raising cattle, pigs, goats and other animals for judging and sales.
New year, new leadership
The livestock show’s new general manager Armando “Mando” Correa is well suited for that responsibility. He spent three decades as an agricultural education teacher bringing students to the livestock show to compete. Correa is a Willacy County native and has also been involved in farming and ranching all his life.
Correa became the general manager of the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show in June 2019. He has spent the months since planning and working with his staff to put on the 81st version of the livestock show and learning all of the business aspects of the event.
“I feel a tremendous responsibility,” Correa said. “Given my background in agriculture, I was willing to give it (GM job) a whirl. I’ve been busy learning that it’s much more than just the livestock show.”
A tradition continues
The livestock show has always been in Mercedes. Its origins date back to 1940 with the first show on a local livestock sales yard with makeshift pens and lean-to-sheds. It moved to its present location at 1000 North Texas in Mercedes in 1949.
From those modest beginnings comes a show that in 2020 will feature live music from artists and groups like country music stars Kevin Fowler and Lauren Corzine, a Valley native, along with conjunto artists David Lee Garza and Los Musicales. Rodeos take place throughout the week. Daily exhibits and competitions will feature agricultural students from throughout the Valley.
The sprawling carnival and many food booths have always been family favorites at the livestock show.
“The shows have been successful for many years and I want us to maintain that success,” Correa said. “Let’s keep it going.”