RGV Livestock Show Making Venue Improvements
The Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show is more than its annual event that draws over 300,000 visitors to Mercedes every March.
The RGV Livestock Show’s leadership has been focusing in recent years to improve its show ground facilities to attract activity and business year-round. There is a particular focus on music and entertainment with a new concert pavilion being constructed to make the RGVLS grounds a go-to venue regionally. There’s also a 6100-seat rodeo arena that can host more than cowboy-themed events and exhibit halls that can be ideal for weddings, quincaeneras, and meetings.
“We find ourselves in a unique position to use our venue as much as possible,’’ said Luis Saldana, the executive director and general manager of the RGV Livestock Show. “The venue has grown and become an even more valuable resource.’’
And for Saldana, a Mercedes native, it’s important to tie the livestock show grounds and its improvements to the community where he grew up.
“I think we’ve become an even bigger part of the community and connected to economic development in Mercedes,’’ he said. “Everyone in Mercedes is proud to have this facility in their community. We’re up there with the majors, (livestock shows in Texas), and it’s a feather in Mercedes’ cap.’’
`In My Blood’
Saldana took the leadership helm at the livestock grounds in April after previously serving on the RGVLS board.
He worked for three decades as a county agent and 4H youth development specialist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Saldana is a proud Aggie and Texas A&M graduate who after retiring from the extension service in March of this year had an unexpected opportunity come his way. His fellow livestock board members approached him with the possibility of the general manager leadership post.
“The opportunity presented itself and I couldn’t pass it up,’’ Saldana said. “I grew up on these show grounds. It’s in my blood.’’
He grew up as the son of an agricultural education instructor who worked at Mercedes High School. As a youngster, the future RGVLS general manager presented poultry, sheep and livestock on the grounds every March just as hundreds of Valley students do today. The decision to come out of a very brief retirement from AgriLife to run the daily operations of the livestock show was an easy one.
Today, Saldana oversees a staff of 11 employees and the GM and his staff work closely with over 600 volunteers every spring when the big show comes around. They need the help with the hundreds of thousands who come to the livestock show grounds every spring in what Saldana calls the single biggest event in the Valley.
“I’m looking forward to my first show,’’ Saldana said of the 85th edition to be held from March 7-17 of next year, which will be his debut as the general manager. “We want everyone who comes here to have a great experience.’’
The March 2024 edition of the RGVLS will have a big first ever feat when The Cowboy Channel broadcasts the livestock show’s rodeo events.
It’s a cable television network that reaches over 42 million cable and satellite homes and features Western and rodeo sports. Saldana said the national television broadcasts will provide Mercedes and the RGV with valuable added exposure.
“It will be huge for our community and for the Valley,’’ he said of The Cowboy Channel broadcasts. “People from all over the country will be able to see what’s going on in Mercedes and the Rio Grande Valley.’’