Stock show extends to 12 days; adds free concerts

MERCEDES — Organizers of the upcoming Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show and Rodeo expressed enthusiasm this week over several new developments anticipated during its 78th year.

Among them are improved parking accommodations, the inclusion of a kids corral and the debut of a free week-long concert series, RGVLS General Manager D.J. Wernecke said Thursday.

The parking lot has been upgraded with asphalt and now stretches across 26 acres, providing up to 3,300 striped spaces as well as shuttles to transport attendees from their vehicles to the front gates.

“We’re just so excited,” Wernecke said about the show, which attracts as many as 250,000 people to Mercedes every year. “We’ll have handicapped parking and shuttle buses located in four different sections of the parking lot.”

The enhancements were made possible thanks to a $2.5 million project funded in part by the Development Corporation of Mercedes, which agreed to pay $300,000 toward the cause over five years.

What’s more, the show itself has been extended from 11 to 12 days with gates opening on Wednesday, March 8, and running through Sunday, March 19. This moves up the concert normally held on Saturdays to Friday evening, when Stoney Larue will open for Randy Houser. The country crooner’s received CMT Music Awards nominations for the hit songs “How Country Feels,” “Boots On” and “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight.”

The lineup for the new concert series, scheduled at the beer garden on March 11 and from March 14-18, is comprised of Coffey Anderson, Roger Creager, Cory Morrow, Cody Canada, the Powell Brothers and Sweetwater Rain.

Tickets were expected to go on sale as early as Friday.

“All those concerts at the beer garden will be free with the purchase of admission,” Wernecke said. “We’ll also have a kids corral, which is a new area designated for family-friendly entertainment. It’ll be free with a wristband, and it’s just for kids.”

Wernecke added that it’s among the stock show’s goals this year to increase the amount of scholarship money raised during the event’s competitions and activities, such as the Sale of Champions and various auctions, from $1.6 to $2 million.

“We are bigger and trying to be more efficient,” Wernecke said. “Whether it’s raining, sunny, cold or hot — we have accommodations for families to come out.”