This story originally appeared on Houston Public Media.
The sight of horses and wagons caravanning through parts of Houston is familiar to many of the city’s residents in late February. The trail rides leading up to theHouston Livestock Show and Rodeo are as integral as chili cook-offs and concerts, as hundreds of riders come in from as far away as Hidalgo in South Texas, more than 300 miles from Houston.
But some are also local, such as a new club called Keep’n it Kountry, (or KIK) founded by 34-year-old Deandre Stubblefield.
“It was a vision I had,” Stubblefield says. “I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid and I’ve always wanted to be the president of my own club.”
So, with a couple of other friends, Stubblefield formed the group in 2014. Anyone who thinks the trail ride scene isn’t young and diverse hasn’t met the African American members of KIK, ranging in age from 19 to 35 years old.
And they know how to party.
One night near the end of the ride, about 1,100 riders from different clubs gathered at the Silver Eagle in South Houston, a dive bar tucked in the back of a parking lot behind a bail bonds place. Inside, it’s hopping with live zydeco music by Marcus Ardoin and Da Zydeco Legendz, while pink and green lights cast colors on couples on the dance floor.
Most of the members of these riding clubs are African American and many look to be relatively young. Stubblefield says riding is a deeply rooted family tradition for a lot of them. He started with the Sugar Shack Trail Blazers, who formed in 1981. His grandmother, Mama Sugar, is in the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame.
KIK’s business manager, Denise Adams, joined a few months ago but says she’d been riding with some of the older clubs for about ten years.
“We come from the older generation and we’re just keeping the legacy going,” Adams says.
Part of that legacy is zydeco, which is what was blaring on the speaker from inside the wagon as the riders made their way up Kirby Dr. towards the South Loop on Friday. They’d been on the road for more than a week by this point and were just a couple hours from their final stop in Memorial Park. After the weekend’s parade downtown, they’ll start the journey home… and wait to do it all over again next year.