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History comes to life at Cowboy Breakfast

Annual event kicks off rodeo with free food, country music.

Claudia Grisales
Trick roper Kevin Fitzpatrick hog ties Raquel Friedman, 9, of Austin. The Cowboy Breakfast lets children 'learn what the rodeo is all about,' rodeo board director Hap Feuerbacher said.

Martin Middle School teacher Michelle LaRocque found the perfect field trip for a real-life lesson on Texas history for her students: the annual Cowboy Breakfast at Auditorium Shores.

LaRocque, who teaches history, and other Martin teachers and their seventh-grade students piled into two school buses Friday and hit the road for the 6 a.m. breakfast that marks the start of the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo .

"It brings what we are teaching to life," LaRocque said. She added that the students would return to their East Austin school Friday to hold their own cowboy festival, complete with line dancing, lasso roping and branding. "What better way to teach them about cattle drives and Texas?"

The Martin students joined thousands of others — from moms to children to workers coming off the night shift — enjoying the free cowboy breakfast, which included classics such as biscuits and gravy and coffee served from black kettles. Attendees also had the chance to sit on a registered orange longhorn, watch a lasso lesson and dance to country music.

Adrian Puentes , 35, a juvenile detention officer , came off his night shift to take in the cowboy breakfast for the first time, joining two of his colleagues.

"We talk about it every year," he said. "I love it. You got the music, the people, and the food is good. It's a cool thing."

Round Rock mom Wendi McKenzie , 40 , said her family made the trek Friday also for the first time, drawn by the "fun and free food."

"It's probably the best crowd we've ever had," said Hap Feuerbacher , a board director for the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo, who estimated that thousands attended Friday's event. "At 6 a.m., it was jam-packed. You could hardly walk."

Feuerbacher said the most inspiring part of Friday's event was the number of children who attended. Other students who attended included those from Cowan Elementary in Southwest Austin and Blake Manor Elementary in Manor.

They "get to learn what the rodeo is all about, which is raising money for kids," he said.

Last year, the rodeo raised $1.5 million that went toward youth-related programs, including scholarships, he said.

cgrisales@statesman.com; 912-5933