Hazel Langley sat near the cages of the 20 Flemish Giant rabbits she and her husband, Jack, brought from Glen Rose for the Fort Worth Stock Show.
As the outsize bunnies munched and napped, Langley did what so many exhibitors, fans and even competitors do in every barn, concourse, shop and show ring — she focused on her cellphone.
“I’m looking at a video of some pigs my friend showed recently at another show,” she said, giving a visitor a look at the squirming swine. “I have my iPad and my phone, so I’m connected all the time.”
Even the venerable Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo has had to keep up with the times and its audience, officials said.
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Cowboys are reguarly spotted texting from horseback as they wait their turn. Bull riders update their Twitter feeds minutes after their eight-second rides.
“In a way it’s been a big struggle with new media,” said Jordan Simons, the Stock Show’s social media manager. “We’re very traditional here at the Stock Show, but we add tweaks.”
A big enhancement for rodeo fans: the ability to compare their own interactive scoring to the judges’ ratings, Simons said.
The Score It! function on the Stock Show app’s home page lets rodeo attendees rate every third and sixth ride as they get a close-up look on the big screens inside the arena, Simons said. She averages all incoming responses to come up with an audience score and instantly compares it to the judges’ score.
The crowd can use the coliseum’s free wifi, though there is no free wifi elsewhere at the show.
“Everybody is on their phones anyway, so we want to give them something to do to connect with the rodeo,” Simons said.
She also curates the pictures fans post on social media using the hashtag #fwssr, and puts them up on the TV screens that line the Will Rogers Coliseum’s concourse outside the arena.
“It’s really great, the diversity of people using the hashtag. I get photos of people shopping, eating, feeding cattle, getting ready to ride in an event,” she said.
She also posts fan videos of a rodeo performance’s most exciting moment, such as at the Thursday night performance when a cowboy was bucked off onto a rail. Luckily, he was OK.
Human kids, goats
The top most shareable subject?
“Kids and goats,” Simons said, adding that people love baby goats as well as human “kids.” The show’s petting zoo and baby goat photo setup make a Facebook-worthy post a cinch.
Keeping up with all the social media platforms is a big part of Simon’s work.
“Facebook is for information, such as each day’s schedule and maps and directions,” she said. “Instagram is for the more composed, professional pictures taken by the public, Twitter is for quick fan cellphone shots and for keeping up with rodeo cowboys’ tweets since they all have accounts. Snapchat is definitely the kids in the barns.”
A few barns away from the rabbits, Kevin Emberson of Bartlesville, Okla., scrolled through Facebook, while his daughter Jaycee, 9, read a book called The Empty City on her 7-inch tablet. The family is in town to show Maine-Anjou cattle.
“I was just checking email on my phone,” Emberson said. His wife’s 10-inch tablet sat in her chair nearby, ready for her own reading session, he said.
It’s a way to pass the slow hours of waiting, he said.
“I’ll bet there are plenty of people streaming movies out here,” he said.