Rodeo presents educational experiences

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Rakin Maredia, 11, plays with a plasma globe Feb. 11 inside the Innovation Station at the rodeo. Sasha D. Robinson

Exhibit provides agricultural scholarship opportunities for farmers of tomorrow.

Dillon Holloway

The 69th annual San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo is underway and promises to immerse visitors in a full cowboy experience.

In addition to pony rides and pig races, there are educational activities for children and the young at heart to enjoy.

The Innovation Station is making its second appearance at the annual event.

In a big, black tent protected from the wind and cold, drizzly skies, Innovation Station boasts activities involving science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

Activities include a dinosaur fossil excavating sandpit, a giant light-bright board and microscopes to examine materials.

Brian Fitzgerald, chief front officer and co-founder of Innovation Station, said the station isn’t just for kids.

“It’s a hands-on immersive experience for kids of all ages, 1-100,” he said. “As long as you’re a kid at heart and have curiosity, well, that’s what we’re all about.”

Fitzgerald said the Innovation Station team selects activities based on what they discover at science museums around the country.

“We’re igniting the imagination. We’re encouraging them to explore, build and maybe pick this as a future career,” he said.

Fitzgerald said one of the goals of his team is to give children from rural and inner-city communities the opportunity to experience a variety of scientific information.

Another exhibit, the Little Buckaroo Farms, is devoted to teaching the importance of agriculture to children.

The Little Buckaroo Farms is a series of exhibits sponsored by H-E-B.

Leslie Butterworth, a volunteer with Bexar County Master Gardeners, said the program teaches children where eggs, vegetables and fruits come from.

Sales from products sold at the exhibit go toward agricultural scholarships for children and teenagers, Butterworth said.

Things were abuzz at beekeeper Gary Rankin’s booth, where rodeo-goers got an up-close encounter with about 5,000 European honey bees as they buzzed about inside a small wooden and glass observation hive.

Rankin, representing the Alamo Area Beekeepers Association, said the group’s goal is to educate the public on the necessity of bees and help keep the population stable.

“There’s a lot involved in the beekeeping industry,” he said. “I keep a few hundred hives myself.”

The association helps raise bees to replenish hives lost to disease and pesticides, Rankin said.

At the booth, Rankin sold locally sourced and manufactured honey, beeswax lip balm, beeswax soap and lotion made from powdered honey and beeswax.

Rankin said all proceeds from products at the exhibit are used to buy tools for teenagers who want to start beekeeping.

The tools include a bee-suit, beehive, gloves and smoker, Rankin  said.

“100 percent, it’s all for the kids,” he said.

Rankin said his company, The Bee Place, offers one-day training sessions on how to properly handle and care for bees.

The class costs $50 and lasts about four hours, he said. People 18 years of age and younger may attend free.

Rankin said he became involved in beekeeping at a young age thanks to his uncles, Dan and Jimmy Rankin, who were also beekeepers.

“It’s in the DNA,” he said. “And, like most people, I’m addicted to this liquid gold so it’s worth getting stung over every now and then.”

For more information on the Innovation Station, visit

More on The Bee Place and class information can be found at

The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo runs through Feb. 24.

General admission for unlimited access to the rodeo grounds and carnival is $20.

Visit for ticket information and a schedule.


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