Stock Show and Rodeo keeps this cultured city connected to its roots – and boots
Fort Worth has come a long way from its early days as a cattle capital in the late 19th century, but those western roots still run deep, as the 119-year-old Stock Show and Rodeo demonstrates.
Each year this vibrant, sophisticated city puts aside business attire and formality and dons boots, denim and cowboy hats to celebrate Fort Worth’s western agrarian heritage at an iconic event that draws more than 1 million attendees over three weeks.
“When the show rolls around in January, people get really excited, come out and have fun and bring their families,â€ says Shanna Weaver, publicity manager for the Southwestern Exposition & Livestock Show, as it is officially known. “For folks that are true Fort Worthians, this is the social event of the season in a lot of people’s eyes.”
A Texas-Size Event
So much a part of the local culture is the show that locals refer to “Stock Show Weatherâ€ – an annually unpredictable whim of Nature that can mean lovely sunny days or blustery storms.
Naturally, this is a Texas-size event. The livestock show exhibits 25,000-28,000 head of livestock, not just cattle, but also horses, donkeys, goats, pigs, poultry, pigeons and even rabbits. Some 10,000-11,000 FFA and 4H members from across Texas exhibit their livestock. More than 200 vendors offer everything from tractors and trailers to western wear and ginzu knives. Exhibitors came in 2014 from all over the U.S., Canada and Brazil to take part in 16 auctions over the course of the show.
The rodeo, known as the World’s Original Indoor Rodeo (1918), hosts 29 professional rodeo performances and draws 1,200 professional rodeo performers, men and women, who compete for more than $600,000 in prize money. The annual impact of the event on Fort Worth’s economy, Weaver says, is more than $100 million.
Business Community Support
The city’s booming business community is actively involved with the Stock Show and Rodeo, serving on more than 14 volunteer committees as ambassadors, fund-raisers, parade organizers, safety experts, greeters, exhibit managers and more.
A large proportion of volunteer energy is devoted to raising money that supports the youth exhibitors, allowing them to earn over-market prices for their livestock as well as scholarship money. In 2013, a new group, Women Steering Business, launched an initiative to buy a steer from a young woman exhibitor at the show, raising $45,000 in just a few weeks. In 2014 that figure jumped to more than $140,000. And the group’s 125 members hope to make history again in 2015.
“These young ladies we help are the future business leaders of the world – they’re producing a product, then taking their product and selling it,â€ says WSB founder Becky Renfro Borbolla. “They’re learning so many skills.”
Why do so many Fort Worth residents have such a soft spot for the iconic event?
“People enjoy that link back to who we were and how we started, and that’s important to us as a city and a community,â€ Weaver says. “We are growing, and we have international business going on here, but we don’t forget how we started out.”
“People enjoy that link back to who we were and how we started and that’s important to us as a city and a community. We are growing, and we have international business going on here, but we don’t forget how we started out.”