To watch the Cowboys play in Sunday’s NFL playoff game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington will cost you a mortgage payment.
To watch the cowboys at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is more in line with a movie and bucket of popcorn.
Both events are well attended: The Dallas Cowboys drew more people this season (740,318 over eight home games) than any other NFL team, while the Stock Show is coming off another record year, attracting 1.26 million visitors over its 23-day run.
This year’s edition of the Stock Show begins Friday, and once again it promises to be popular with patrons.
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“I just like the overall feel of it,” says Edwin Hinojosa, 24, of Fort Worth, who has been attending the Stock Show since he was 8 years old. “The prices are reasonable, because you get a lot of bang for your buck.”
Stock Show tickets are among the most reasonably priced in town. General admission tickets are $10 for adults and parking is $10 per vehicle. Food and drink prices aren’t off the charts, and unless you’re buying a tractor or prize-winning steer, you can leave the checkbook at home.
You must see the animal competitions, particularly the rabbits. The kids just love the rabbits.
Chip Stewart, journalism professor at TCU
“We feel like, to the best of our ability, we need to keep it affordable,” says Brad Barnes, Stock Show president and general manager. “Sometimes it is not always about the almighty dollar. It’s about providing people the opportunity to have a good experience.
“If our prices were way out of line, it would be hard for a family of four to come out and enjoy the day, and learn something about agriculture. At the end of the day, that’s what we are here for. We are trying to teach people about agriculture.”
Affordability helps, but it’s hardly the only lure.
‘It’s the real deal’
“My wife, Sherry, and I started going together when we were in junior high school and I introduced her to the rodeo,” says J.B. Morgan, 73, an estate planning and probate lawyer. “Being a would-be cowboy, it has always been enjoyable to walk through the barns and see all the different types of cattle.”
Morgan, who’s been going to the Stock Show since he was an infant, said he and his family typically attend about 16 rodeo performances per year. And this year 21 friends and family members will be joining him to celebrate Sherry’s birthday, which falls during the event. Overall, the family purchased 121 rodeo tickets for this year’s show.
“It’s so much fun to watch our grandkids. They get so excited when the horses and bulls are buckin’,” Sherry Morgan said.
For others, the Stock Show can serve as an introduction to living in Fort Worth — or Cowtown — as it is often called at the Stock Show.
“It gave me some insight into local culture and traditions,” says Lisa Yarost, a professional quilter who moved here from Michigan four years ago. “It’s a chance to see authentic Western culture and actual cowboys. It’s the real deal.”
While the Stock Show has kept up with technology advancements over the years, it remains deep-rooted in family, livestock and ranching. Sure, kids who show at the Stock Show have iPhones and love Facebook and text messaging, but they also know that bacon comes from pigs, not the meat section at the grocery store.
“It is so family oriented. There are things that I take my son to see that I used to see that I remember from years ago, and there are things that we discover that are new,” says Sadie Wheeler, a ninth-grade math teacher who grew up with the Stock Show and still attends every year, even though she lives in Lovington, N.M.
We feel that it is something they need a taste of, that they need to see. And my husband [Carl] is really good at explaining to the kids about the livestock.
Carlene Mortensen, Stock Show patron
“You spend all day. And you are truly engaged with your kids. You are not just sitting there watching,” Wheeler says. “You are learning and creating experiences and memories that your kids are going to remember for years.”
It’s about the livestock
There are a lot of reasons people get in touch with their inner cowboy and head out to the Stock Show each year. The rodeo events are always exciting, kids love the carnival rides on the midway, many of their parents enjoy shopping in the exhibits halls and everybody loves the food, from barbecue to cinnamon rolls.
But, there is one enticement that exceeds all others.
“Year after year, for I can’t tell you how many years, the surveys show that the No. 1 reason people come here is the livestock,” Barnes said.
And it is not just the immaculately groomed steers and the stately steeds that draw patrons to the barns that line the grounds’ southern border.
“You must see the animal competitions, particularly the rabbits. The kids just love the rabbits,” says Chip Stewart, associate dean of the Bob Shieffer School of Communication and a journalism professor at TCU, who takes his three, school-aged daughters to the Stock Show. “It’s kind of part of raising a kid here in Fort Worth.
“It is our culture. This is what we do around here. It is where we come from.”
There are also pigeons, pigs, goats and chickens. And llamas.
A family that comes in from Lubbock shares the sentiment.
“We bring all the grandkids,” says Carlene Mortensen, whose family raises registered cattle but does not compete at the Stock Show. “We feel that it is something they need a taste of, that they need to see.
“And my husband [Carl] is really good at explaining to the kids about the livestock. He tells them stories about when he was little because he was raised on a ranch.”