Organizers are anticipating thousands of people to visit Robstown and the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds this weekend for the kickoff of the 73rd annual Nueces County Junior Livestock Show.

Planners hope much better weather than last year will attract more people to a weekend carnival at the fairgrounds and live music and team roping have been added to this year's schedule of fairgrounds events to round out the offerings.

Last year's livestock show netted $1,014,000 in show ring sales during its first year at the new fairgrounds and organizers are hoping for even more sales this year.

"We're all hoping that will happen, but there are no guarantees," said Show Office Manager June Pollard. "Everything is a factor, economics and like that."

The 72nd annual show boasted more than 1,100 participants and more than 3,200 entries. This year, there are 1,146 youths exhibiting, and 3,581 entries, Pollard said.

"The numbers are up from last year," she said. "These are our largest numbers recorded."

The weather forecast for this year's weekend kickoff is much better, compared to persistent drizzle and temperatures in the mid-40s last January, and organizers are hoping warmer weather and a lack of rain will contribute to higher turnout for the carnival and Saturday's Grand Opening Parade.

"We're hoping that if the weather will hold that the carnival will be a bigger attraction for kids this year," Pollard said.

The carnival begins at 6 p.m. Friday in the Fairgrounds Field parking lot and will continue through Sunday. Admission is free and individual ride tickets will be available. Parking is free all weekend.

Organizers expect Saturday's annual Grand Opening Parade to have the largest number of participants ever, with more than 100 entries and about 175 vehicles.

Ken Faughn, executive director of the Robstown Area Development Commission, said this year's parade would include several political candidates, potentially making it the largest livestock show parade.

"It might be since this year is an election year," Faughn said. "It's growing daily."

The parade begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and will proceed to the fairgrounds. The line-up begins at 9 a.m. at the corner of Matiana Ortiz Boulevard and Main Avenue in Robstown.

Abby Ray Loessin of Agua Dulce High School, the winner of the 2008 Nueces County Junior Livestock Show essay contest co-sponsored by Wells Fargo and The Nueces County Record Star, will serve as the parade marshal.

Abby, 16, of Bluntzer, says the annual livestock show is a family tradition that has provided her many opportunities. Her award-winning essay is reprinted in a livestock show special section this week, along with a feature interview with Abby.

Les Brandes, former Nueces County assistant agriculture agent who was instrumental in growing the livestock show 50-plus years ago, will serve as the parade's grand marshal.

Trophies will be awarded for best float, best band, best marching unit, best drill team and best mounted unit, best vehicle, best other vehicle, and judge's choice.

This year's livestock show also has some new attractions, music and team roping.

Live music begins at 4 p.m. Saturday with the Totally Texas show in the Central Pavilion, followed by El Balie Grande in the Grand Ballroom at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Separate tickets are required for each show. Tickets can be purchased online at www.rmbfairgrounds.com or by calling (866) 722-8844.

The Holt Cat Nueces Classic Team Roping starts at 8 a.m. Saturday. It will be the first event in the new Equestrian Center. Between 600 and 700 teams of professional cowboys are expected to compete well into the night. Admission is free.

Saturday's concerts and team roping are being hosted by Global Spectrum, the firm that manages the fairgrounds.

"I think the kickoff weekend events are going to bring out people who may not have come out to the livestock show sale in the past, and that it will bring an entertainment element that has not existed with the livestock before," Moore said. "If the weather holds out, it would not be unrealistic to expect crowds in excess of 5,000 coming through over the weekend."

The seventh annual Livestock Show Alumni Cook-off will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, with judging Saturday.

Cook-off coordinator Daniel Bluntzer said there are more than 60 cook-off entries this year, compared to 51 entries last year.

If last year's packed crowd was any indication, the annual queen's contest promises to be one of the highlights of the 73rd annual Nueces County Junior Livestock Show.

Around 1,000 people saw Skylar Carden, a then-senior at Flour Bluff High School, crowned queen for the 72nd annual livestock show held at the Robstown High School auditorium, in a contest of 26 Nueces County contestants.

Nineteen courageous and talented young ladies from Nueces County will take to the spotlight again in the Robstown High School Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, vying to become the 46th livestock show queen.

The young ladies represent local 4-H clubs, Future Farmers of America chapters, the Nueces County 4-H Council, and Family Career and Community Leaders of America.

The contestants will be scored for interviews, their introductions, and the talent and evening wear competitions, culminating in the top five finalists. Tickets are $3 for adults, $2 for children 12 and under, and will be available at the door.