Cowboys and chuck wagons took over city roads Saturday as a group of trail riders from around Texas arrived in the city to trot, gallop and meander on horses as part of a practice run for next year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Almost 160 riders from the Texas Independence Trail Ride Association participated in Saturday’s trail ride, said Larry Myrick, a La Marque native and the trail boss for the event.
“It’s a carry on of a long tradition of the pioneers when they crossed this country on wagons and on horseback,” Myrick said. “It’s a tradition to keep that way of life alive.”
Saturday’s ride brought the association past city hall and other landmarks, where people waved and greeted the riders. Scouts clad in orange safety vests helped block streets and appease blocked drivers as the quarter-mile long caravan wound its way through town.
The association moved its annual ride to La Marque this year after spending the previous year in Angleton.
Saturday’s ride was a warmup for the premier event of the trail riding season, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which will begin Feb. 25. During that event, the trail riders will take five days to ride between La Marque and Houston, ultimately joining hundreds of other people coming from different directions in the middle of the city.
“Everybody is testing their equipment, getting their horses ready and networking with each other,” Myrick said.
True to tradition, the group brings everything with them in wagons, from food and camping equipment, to speaker systems, barbecue pits and toilets.
The weekend ride also serves as a fundraiser for February’s event. The group camped over night at La Marque’s Highland Bayou Park, where some people participated in a karaoke showdown.
Many of the people participating in the weekend ride said they had been with the association for years, and have watched their children and grandchildren grow up with the group.
“It’s all about family,” said Kelly Hughes, of Needville, who was driving a wagon during the ride. She was joined by her 31-year-old son, Clayton, who had been going on rides since he was 2 years old. “When we come together, it’s a family from start to finish. We help each other.”
The riders will take to the streets again on Sunday on a ride that will take them up the feeder roads on either side of Interstate 45 in La Marque. The ride begins at 9 a.m.