The longest and largest entertainment event in the Rio Grande Valley is set to begin its 70th season with a jam packed agenda sure to please young and old.

On Friday, March 13, the Rio Grande Valley Livestock show begins a ten day run with a Santa Gertrudis Open Show starting at 8 a.m. and the Exhibit Hall opens at 10:30. Cattle judging continues all day with the Beefmaster Open Show at 2 p.m., Junior Commercial Cattle at 4 p.m. and an ABC/AOB Open Show at 6 p.m.

The big Reed Exposition Carnival opens at 4 p.m. and a $20 armband lets you ride till it closes at midnight. When youíre not riding, be sure to check out all the games.

Get ready for a big bang as the huge fireworks show sponsored by Budweiser lights up the sky at 7:30 p.m. Then proceed directly to the Rodeo Arena for a musical evening starting with the Tejas Brothers at 8: 30 followed by multi-platinum MCA recording artist Josh Turner. Tickets for the concert are $25, which includes admission to the Showgrounds. Season ticket holders may purchase concert tickets for $20 each at the Livestock Show office.

A full schedule of activities, highlighted by the annual Parade at 3 p.m., , take place on Saturday. Thousands of spectators line along the Parade route to watch the marching bands, floats, and riders that march from downtown Mercedes to the Showgrounds.

The abundance of free acts every year at the Livestock Show makes it one of the best entertainment values in the Valley. This year, thereís The Gunfighters, with their mock arguments and inevitable shoot-em-ups; Jump, ďa non stop, action packed canine thrill show featuring amazing dogs and their handlers performing to upbeat music; and encore acts like the Fearless Flores Thrill Show, sponsored this year by the Valley Chevy and GMC dealers. These daredevils perform death defying maneuvers riding motorcycles

at breakneck speed inside a steel globe.

Some other favorite acts back this year are the Robinson Family Chain Saw Artists and their sponsor, the Electronic Tax Center. These artists create amazing wooden statues using nothing but buzzing chain saws and talent. Also returning are the Robinson Puppet Theater sponsored by Children First Pediatric Rehab, the United Freestyle Stunt Team sponsored by Miller Lite, and two strolling acts, Rusty Gears, a robot sponsored by Payne Auto Group, and Fables of the West, a comedy team riding small horses. Two other favorites of the younger crowd are the Childrenís Petting Zoo sponsored by McDonaldís, and the Kidsí Pedal Tractor Pull sponsored by Ag Credit of South Texas.

A number of free exhibits are open daily for your enjoyment. One of the best is the Antique Farm Machinery Exhibit, with its daily tractor parades, a working blacksmith shop, even one cycle engines chugging away. The Mobile Dairy Classroom is located on the north side of the Event Center; Planet Agriculture exhibit sponsored by Knapp Medial Center, is open daily inside the Event Center; and across the hall in the Event Center is the RGV Livestock Show Museum, filled with memorabilia from past shows, and while you are in the Event Center, be sure to see the School Western Art and

Photography Contest Display sponsored by the Payne Auto Group.

Another must see is the FFA and 4-H Shop Projects sponsored by Ag Credit of South Texas. Pioneer Equipment and Allied Skills Training Center. The students skills are evident in the wide variety of furniture, elaborate barbecue wagons, and other

projects that fill the entire Youth Center.

Next door to the Youth Center is the Commercial Exhibit Hall, where you will find a wide array of products and services from western wear to chocolate covered strawberries.

One of the favorite vendors is the 4-H Clubís frozen ice cream novelties which hit the spot on a warm day.

What would the Livestock Show be without food? After all, Itís the reason many people come. Itís sometimes difficult to decide whether to have a juicy hamburger, a big Turkey leg, or a powdered sugar covered funnel cake, from among the dozens of other food stands scattered around the grounds. The beer garden located nearby is open at various times with entertainment. Check your schedule for days and times.

For those who love to dance, there will be dances nightly in the H-E-B Action Spot, with bands furnished by various radio stations including KKPS 99.5 FM, DIGITAL 101.5 FM, KBUC 102.1 FM, KGBT, La Ley 102.5 & 92.7, and other sponsors. Once again, check the event schedule to seer what bands are playing each night.

Rodeo action kicks off this year with the Whataburger Ranch Rodeo on Saturday, March 14th, at 8 p.m. and the Boot Jack Ranch Rodeo follows on Sunday, March 15th, at 2 p.m. For a $5 admission fee, you can watch cowboy teams competing in such hilarious events as steer tying, calf branding, wild cow milking, steer loading, wild horse saddling, and shovel races.

Rodeo fans are in for a special treat. In addition to three big PRCA Rodeos, thereís PRCA Extreme Bull Riding scheduled for Thursday, March 19th.

With a $10,000 added purse, this even is sure to draw top cowboys from all over the country. All the action starts at 8 p.m.

The three big PRCA sanctioned Rodeos, sponsored by CPL Retail Energy,are scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

Be sure to get there early to see the All American Cowgirl Chicks perform their thrilling patriotic opening. This fantastic trick riding group sponsored by Stripes, will have you on your feet cheering. They will also be opening the PRCA Extreme Bull Riding

on Thursday.

Mutton Bustiní, sponsored by State Farm Insurance again this year, is scheduled at all rodeo performances, including the Ranch Rodeos. You canít help laughing as these 5 and 6 year old youngsters try to win trophies and belt buckles by hanging on.

to the back of galloping sheep

Other events scheduled for the Rodeo Arena include an Open/Youth Horse Show starting at 8 a.m. on Monday, March 16, sponsored by American College of Real Estate, 1419 Ranch, B & J Dozer Work, Bryant Industrial Services, Cavenderís, Hidalgo County Farm Bureau, Rios of Mercedes, and San Jose Whitewing.

Another popular Livestock Show event is Youth Team Roping, sponsored by Ag Credit of South Texas. Cavenderís, Cytech Heating & Cooling, Goodwyn Trailer Sales, Helena Chemical Company, Land Rover Rio Grande Valley, Magic Valley Electric Cooperative, and Pan American Producte Co., Ltd. Youth Team Roping begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17, in the Rodeo Arena, and will continue long into the night.

The Budweiser Clydesdales are back again this year. These enormous gentle creatures are stabled in the Event Center where they are pampered by a large staff of handlers and attract crowds of admirers. The Clydesdales hitch and beer wagon will appear in the Livestock Show Parade, the Extreme Bull Riding, and the PRCA Rodeos on Friday and Saturday.

Senior citizens are given special treatment at the RGV Livestock Show with a Seniorís Day on Wednesday, March 18th. A Special Senior Citizensí Program with Door Prizes and Entertainment sponsored by Magic Valley Electric Co-op will be held in the H-E-B Action Spot from 10 a.m. to Noon.

Two events of special note held during the Livestock Show are the Lilí Miss Cowgirl Contest, on Saturday, March 14th, at 7 p.m., sponsored by Boots ĎN Jeans Western Wear and Bullrider Western Wear. The event will be held this year on the second floor of the Event Center. The All Valley Cotton Style Show, sponsored by the Harlingen Cotton Committee and the Lower RGV Cotton Ginners, will be held at 2 p.m., Sunday, March 15th, in the same location.

With all the activities going on during the ten days, letís not forget one of the primary purposes of the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show: to educate youth in the care, grooming, management, showing and marketing of livestock. The judging of cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits, horticulture, photography, western art, photography, and shop projects are the heart of the entire event. FFA and 4-H members spend untold hours throughout the year working on their projects with the hope of winning scholarships and prize money plus the opportunity to sell their projects at the Sale of Champions on Saturday, March 21, in the Event Center Show Arena.

This yearís Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show Theme ď A 70th Birthday ExtravaganzaĒ , takes note of the many thousands of volunteers who have given of their time and talents for seventy years to make this organization the best it can be.