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Rodeo Austin: Meet the women who run the show

This year, more than 300,000 people are expected to attend Rodeo Austin. At its headquarters, a group of women is running the show.

AUSTIN, Texas — Every year, Rodeo Austin brings excitement to the city with rides, animals, food and competition for rodeo-goers to enjoy. 

This year, more than 300,000 people are expected to attend the event over the course of two weeks. With the number of people expected at the event, in addition to the various attractions, Katie Richmond – a senior manager – said it is a year-long job planning the rodeo. 

Historically, rodeos are known for being a male-dominated field, Richmond said. Currently, she is a senior manager in charge of competitive events, acts and exhibits. 

“In terms of roots, the traditions and roots in agriculture, you have a lot of men," Richmond said. "People who have been farming, ranching, rodeoing as a lifestyle for years.”

However, Rodeo Austin stepped away from the norm and paved its own path. Currently, the rodeo staff consists of 16 women and three men, all working to create a successful, large-scale event.

Richmond said she feels empowered sitting at the table with many other women who also oversee the finances and operations of the rodeo. 

“The heart and soul for Rodeo Austin are our volunteers, but I think the power has come from the female managers," she said. 

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Katy Blankinship is the senior manager in charge of sponsorship, marketing and rodeo production. 

While she recognizes her team is filled with strong female leads, it is not something she thinks about often because she works hard to succeed in a field she is passionate about, just like anyone else.

“It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of long hours, and a lot of passion for what we are doing," said Blankinship.

These women hope their story inspires other women to pursue futures in agriculture and rodeo if that is what they want.

Rob Goudling, the CEO of Rodeo Austin, said the diverse and strong leadership at Rodeo Austin represents Austin's progressive nature.

“The western heritage of Texas, and rodeo specifically, is a very male-dominated culture, and I'm very proud of the fact that Rodeo Austin is the antithesis of that," he said. 

However, as more females enter rodeo competitions and showings, Richmond believes the industry still has a ways to go. 

WATCH: A day at Rodeo Austin

For the first time in November 2019, Rodeo Austin awarded three women for collegiate livestock judging. 

Leaders in the organization hope it will encourage more women to pursue livestock judging beyond college.

Richmond believes the judges also need to better represent the competitors they are judging, an increasing number of females.

"These little girls who are showing steers, who are showing hogs – they need to see a lady judge in the ring," Richmond said.

As a nonprofit, the leaders within Rodeo Austin, both women and men, recognize their common goal to raise money for the futures of Texas children, and by working collaboratively, they are getting it done. 

"The long hours, the partnerships of working together, the communication, the creativity, all the things it takes to put in to make an event successful, that’s how we operate here," Blankinship said.

Rodeo Austin is from March 14 to March 28.

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