January 25, 2012

Forklifts keep those dogies rollin' at annual rodeo

Nearly 100 donated lift trucks move everything from hay bales to concert equipment at the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

By DC Velocity Staff

The annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is not your average rodeo. The 20-day event is the largest rodeo in the world. It's also a non-profit venture that raises money for livestock research and education, and provides scholarships and research grants—more than $280 million since the show began in 1932.

The show and rodeo are run almost entirely by volunteers, and they depend on sponsors who contribute money, labor, and materials. Among those sponsors are Cat Lift Trucks and its Houston-area dealer, Adobe Equipment. Each year, Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. (MCFA) manufactures nearly 100 Cat lift trucks of various sizes especially for the rodeo. Volunteers use them free of charge for setup, breakdown, and during the event—about one month all told, according to Kent Eudy, MCFA's vice president, sales and marketing.

The lift trucks' capacities range from 3,000 pounds to 36,000 pounds. They're used to haul everything from hay bales to ticket booths to stage equipment for the nightly concerts in the rodeo arena.

With so many pedestrians, animals, and volunteer drivers, safety is a concern, Eudy says. Accordingly, Adobe's staff makes sure pedestrian areas are carefully fenced off and volunteers are trained on specific pieces of equipment. Years of experience contribute to a solid safety record, he notes, adding that one of Adobe's employees has been volunteering on the rodeo's equipment committee for almost 30 years.

So what happens to all those forklifts when the rodeo is over? Adobe purchases the trucks at a discount from MCFA and resells them. The forklifts, each with a special Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo decal, are especially visible when carrying equipment into the arena for the evening concerts, Eudy says. "A lot of potential buyers see them then and want them ... most trucks are sold before the rodeo is even over."

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