January 17, 2013

Fort Worth Stock Show gears up for another big year

It was all about records at last year's Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. More than 1.1 million people attended, the most in the event's 116-year history, and the price paid for the grand champion steer -- $230,000 -- eclipsed the previous record by $20,000. Stock Show officials say "bring it!" for this year's edition, which starts today.

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FORT WORTH -- It was all about records at last year's Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

More than 1.1 million people attended, the most in the event's 116-year history, and the price paid for the grand champion steer -- $230,000 -- eclipsed the previous record by $20,000.

So what do Stock Show officials have to say about this year's event?

Bring it!

"Our ad agency presented several different concepts, and everybody thought that said it best," said Brad Barnes, Stock Show president and general manager, explaining this year's slogan.

"It fits everything, whether you are talking about bringing your friends, bringing your family, bringing your livestock -- it fits everything that we are about."

The 117th edition of the livestock extravaganza, which sprawls across the Will Rogers Memorial Center, begins today with a short list of events, including the Best of the West Invitational Rodeo.

Barnes said last year's attendance record, aided by mild weather, also presented logistical challenges.

"It did test us at a lot of different levels. It tested us as far as parking, as far as staffing for ticket sales and general admission, and it tested us on cleanup," Barnes said.

"You have more than 1.1 million folks. That is a lot of trash. So we learned that we'd better be prepared on those good days like that and staff up and have more people just emptying trash cans.

"Not anything difficult. It's just that we never had that many days of that kind of weather to present that problem to us."

And although this show is shaping up to be just as big (almost 25,000 livestock show entries -- a new high) planners seem to be taking a largely "if it ain't broke" approach to 2013.

All the old standbys -- the parade, rodeo, midway, livestock shows -- remain unchanged, with only a few new events and attractions added to the proven mix.

New agricultural

mechanics show

One of those first-time offerings will be the Junior Agricultural Mechanics Project Show, which will be found -- appropriately enough -- in the new Equestrian Multipurpose Building on the east end of the complex.

The competition invites youths involved in 4-H and FFA to restore and refurbish agricultural machinery such as tractors, trailers, livestock equipment and horse-drawn transports and implements, like carriages and old plows.

"This show is all about youth. So this competition offers another way to incorporate kids who might not have the capacity or means to bring livestock here," said Barnes, who noted that such events are rapidly becoming popular at similar shows nationwide.

Despite being a first-time offering, the event has attracted 350 entries. And, should you decide to drop by to take a look, be prepared for a thorough tour.

"One of the things that is a bit different about this event is that the contestants don't know who the judges are," explained Shanna Weaver, the Stock Show publicity manager.

"So, since anyone who walks through could be the judge, the kids are happy to tell anyone who will listen all they want to know about their entry."

'More pedestrian friendly'

While the content of the show has not changed much, the grounds and layout of the event have been enhanced.

"We gained a little over 3 acres behind the cattle barns, which allows us to set up additional cattle tie-outs. So for the first time in our history, we will have the same number of tie-outs that we have cattle ties in the barns," Barnes said.

"And there will be no vehicle parking inside the fence. So it will be more pedestrian friendly."

All this attention to how and where the cattle and other livestock are presented is based on a fact about this event that grew out of Fort Worth's 19th-century Cowtown past: Despite the Stock Show's 21st-century urban setting, cattle still matter more than cotton candy.

"They come here for the livestock. It's not the rodeo, it's not the midway, it's not the shopping," Barnes said.

"Every time we survey, livestock is the No. 1 reason. So we need to make sure we are giving them the best opportunity to see all that."

'Two front doors'

Changes have also been made to make sure that people have a place to park and gain easy access when they come to stare at the steers.

A new entrance has been developed on the Montgomery Street side of the grounds, and entrances with full-service ticket offices are now found on Harley Avenue along the south side of the complex.

"This is no longer our back door," said Barnes, pointing to an entrance that formerly sold only general admission tickets. "We now have two front doors."

Also along that south end is a large section of new parking that is both spacious and nicely appointed with walkways lined with benches and street lamps.

"It's not just a big vast sea of concrete, which would have been a lot less expensive. There are a lot of nice amenities," said Barnes, waving toward the color-coded parking lots that will be served by trolleys ferrying parkers to the entrances. "It's about the overall experience of the Stock Show -- making it a destination and making people feel like they have arrived."

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