Miss Rodeo Texas and a Texas Longhorn Cattle were in attendance for the welcoming of the 2016 Western Heritage Parade & Cattle Drive. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

Rodeo officials were joined by a Texas longhorn cattle named Boomer in Alamo Plaza on Tuesday morning as they announced plans for the annual Western Heritage Parade and Cattle Drive taking place this Saturday, Feb. 6 at 11 a.m.

The free parade is the signature kick-off event for the 2016 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo and is arguably one of the most quintessential and surreal Texan events of the year as more than 80 Texas longhorn cattle, including Boomer, will be herded through San Antonio’s downtown.

“Even my kids, my teenage kids, still get thrilled to watch the longhorns coming down the streets of San Antonio,” said Cody Davenport, president of the executive committee for the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.

Now in its ninth year, the parade also features a variety of rodeo-themed entertainment and organizations strolling down historic Houston Street.

“The parade participants include Fort Hood 1st Cavalry Division, sheep dogs herding the cattle, Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers Association, local high school marching bands and much more,” said Councilman Robert Treviño (D1).

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Attendees should expect a herd of 80-85 longhorns marching east on Houston Street from the Interstate 35 underpass to the Alamo, said Alex Peña, chairman of the parade and cattle drive.

“We’re also going to have at least nine babies there, too, with their mamas,” Peña added.

Before and after the day’s main event, visitors can sample genuine chuck wagon cooking, take part in family activities and enjoy other entertainment from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m in Alamo Plaza.

The parade is an opportunity for San Antonio residents and visitors to catch a glimpse of the history behind the cattle drives, Davenport said.

“If you look at the participants that are out there, they’re going to be on foot, on horseback or in wagons that are non-mechanized, which makes it a very unique and historical aspect of the parade,” he said “It’s amazing to me, the history, the heritage; it takes you back in time. … I could watch it over and over.”

Dave Krupinski, assistant executive director for the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), commended the rodeo for playing a key role in driving tourism to the city with its events like the parade and cattle drive.

“It’s little wonder that the rodeo hosts thousands of visitors from all over the world,” Krupinski said. “When the visitors are actually here in San Antonio we want them to not only enjoy the great rodeo but also enjoy the great hospitality – our attractions, our restaurants, the cultural and historical attributes that the city has to offer. We know that the role that the rodeo plays in that is a strong one.”

According to the CVB, the city is expecting about 1.7 million people to come to this year’s rodeo, with 45% of ticket sales coming from outside of Bexar County.

Established in 1949, the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo is one of the largest events in the city. Last year it was voted the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association‘s Large Indoor Rodeo of the Year, for the 11th consecutive year. Its 2016 season is from Feb. 11-Feb. 28.

The cattle drive held each year in downtown San Antonio is a nod to the city’s role in herding more than 20 million cattle from Texas to railheads in Kansas in the late 1800s.

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*Top image: Miss Rodeo Texas Kimberly “Nikki” Woodward  (left) stands with a Texas longhorn cattle and its handlers. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

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Camille Garcia

Camille Garcia

Camille, a San Antonio native, formerly worked at the Rivard Report as assistant editor and reporter. She is a freelance writer based in Austin, where she is getting her master's in Latin American Studies...