Culture / Entertainment

The Cotton ‘Q Club Rocks Houston Rodeo Tradition With Cowboy Caviar, a Posh VIP Salon, Slim Thug and Invite-Only Fun

Three Nights of Partying That Cost a Cool Million Plus and Are Worth Every Penny

BY // 03.01.24

We wade through a sea of bobbing cowboy hats as we make our way from the entrance to Cotton ‘Q Club, home of one of the 220 teams competing in RodeoHouston’s barbecue cook-off, to the back of the 10,300-square-foot tent where caviar and champagne await.

The Rodeo cook-off might be three nights of smoke-filled raucous partying and barbecue dinners, but here in the Gold Pony VIP salon, it’s terribly civilized.

Zinat Ahmed saluting the 50th golden anniversary of the World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest in a gilded gown at the Cotton 'Q Club. (Photo courtesy of Cotton Holdings Inc.)
Zinat Ahmed saluting the 50th golden anniversary of the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest in a gilded gown at the Cotton ‘Q Club. (Photo courtesy of Cotton Holdings Inc.)

Among the Very Important guests kicking back over the three nights on velvet-covered sofas in the swank no-photos-allowed salon were billionaire Tilman Fertitta and wife Lauren, Houston Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair and wife Hannah, Mayor John Whitmire, rapper Slim Thug, competing meteorologists Frank Billingsley and Chita Craft, Quanta Services CEO Duke Austin, and local television personalities Deborah Duncan and Derrick Shore.

RodeoHouston, Cotton ‘Q Club at Rodeo Cook-off; photo courtesy of Cotton Holdings, Inc.
RodeoHouston cowgirls pose for Instagram moments with the 7-foot tall mosaic horse statue in the Cotton ‘Q Club party tent. (Photo courtesy of Cotton Holdings Inc.)

This is the third year that Pete Bell, Cotton Holdings CEO, and his team have elevated partying at the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest to a stratospheric level. After all, the international disaster recovery, restoration and infrastructure support firm is Title Sponsor of the 50th anniversary of the cook-off and Cotton ‘Q Club simply must be the biggest and the baddest of all the contenders.

In the hands of the talented Zinat Ahmed — executive vice president of marketing for Cotton Holdings — and her team, the riches of the “tent” are enhanced each year. Case in point, the invitation-only private lounge that allows up to 50 guests to chill in 1,000 square feet of posh surroundings that are secluded from the main arena.

There, the scene can throb with as many as 780 Western dandies and cowgirls who know how to swing their fringe.

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Rodeo Houston, Bailey Bell, Zinat Ahmed, Whitney Lawson; Photo Credit Cotton Holdings
Bailey Bell, Zinat Ahmed, Whitney Kuhn Lawson in the Cotton ‘Q Club at the RodeoHouston barbecue cook-off. (Photo courtesy of Cotton Holdings Inc.)

In addition to top shelf bar service and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s award-winning Le Chemin Du Roi Brut Champagne, the Gold Pony hosts a caviar bar, courtesy of Ciel, where Kaluga Huso Hybrid is served in tins that are cleverly labeled Cowboy Caviar.

Setting the stage at the entry to the luxe salon is a dazzling silver saddle said to have been inspired by Beyoncé. Good timing as the singer’s “Texas Hold ‘Em” hit No. 1 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs at the time of the cook-off.

Amed’s lips are sealed on the names of the most discreet high-rollers, CEOs, professional athletes and entrepreneurs who populate the cushy Gold Pony, so named for the life-sized equine covered in golden mosaics.

Guests without the coveted wrist band permitting entrance to the lounge are left partying in the far from shabby surroundings of the main tent. The sophisticated elements include tartan plaid carpeting, chandeliers, drapes, animal trophies from Bell’s collection, two 7-foot-tall white mosaic horses draped in cascading rose saddles and 10,000 hand-painted gold roses.

The 50-foot-long bar guaranteed that none of the 2,000 folks that visited over the three days would have to wait for a drink. Throughout, golden decor celebrated the Rodeo cook-off’s 50th anniversary.

Cotton Rodeo 2024 Brandon Bourque, Derrick Shore, Rodeo Houston
Brandon Bourque & Derrick Shore in the Cotton ‘Q Club at RodeoHouston  (Photo by Ashley Patranella, Painted Peacock Photography)

“We like to be hospitable. It’s just a regular day at Cotton,” says the fashionably dramatic Ahmed, who midway through this night changes from all white, full-length elevated Western costuming into a flowing red gown, completing the outfit with elbow length black gloves.

All in, the three days and nights of wining, dining and entertaining (with live bands) for invite-only attendees sets Cotton Holdings back more than $1 million plus.

“It’s worth it for us because our clients, friends of Cotton, and media get to experience something that I can’t give them on a day to day,” Ahmed says. “Whenever I get to host and entertain like this, I get to touch and teach our guests about Cotton and Quanta when I normally can’t.”

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