Folks who have zero interest in live animals shouldn’t be vexed by the name Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show and Rodeo.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone going to the Stock Show and not wanting to see some of the almost 30,000 animals that will parade, prance or perform for judges between now and the Feb. 9 Sale of Champions. But enjoying a day at Fort Worth’s annual homage to agricultural culture is quite doable without coming within nose-shot of the beasts.
“There are almost 300 vendors, counting nonprofits and the radio stations,” said Ashley Davis, commercial exhibits manager for the Stock Show.
“We try to make sure that they’re all unique. For instance, there may be a lot of clothing vendors, but they’ll carry different styles and brands.”
Megan Park and her crew go to lengths to make their miniature Cavender’s Boot City store — one of about 150 vendors in the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall — look like the big store and carry items representing the complete Cavender’s inventory. On the opposite side of the Will Rogers Memorial Complex, Nat McEwen helps run the Fenoglio Boot Co. booth in the new Go Texan Market in the Brown-Lupton North Exhibits Hall, part of the Richardson-Bass Building.
“This is the best thing the Stock Show could have done for us,” McEwen said. “We make the Cavender’s Collection. But you won’t find our brand at Cavender’s. We’re as traditional as you can get, still made by hand in the original Nocona way.”
Handmade in Texas is the passphrase for vendors who want to be part of the 20-year-old Go Texan Market program, said David Kercheval, who manages the program for the Texas Department of Agriculture.
Go Texan was created in 1999 to support and promote Texas agriculture and the related entities, Kercheval said.
“It helps the consumer get fresh products made in Texas and benefits the small businesses involved by identifying them as Texas businesses, so people who like to deal with Texas producers can find out about them,” he said.
Susan Svec has been in the program with Susan’s Soaps and More for a dozen years.
“Being able to let the Fort Worth market know about our products is great,” said Svec, who in the past has taken her creations to the State Fair and other venues. “But it’s exciting to finally be part of the Fort Worth Stock Show, too.”
Big Creek Farms has been making and selling products from their Texas honey for 30 years. Clodia Jett and her beekeeper husband, James, have 600 hives on their property near Shepherd — an hour and a half north of Houston — producing a raw treat that’s made into a variety of products that include a creamy spread that will sweeten anything from toast to tea.
Davis said there are about 60 vendors combined in the Go Texan Market and an even larger space on the other side of Richardson-Bass in Brown-Lupton South. A shirt-pocket-size souvenir schedule that can be found virtually anywhere at the Stock Show includes an easy-to-figure map of the Will Rogers Complex.
Even with that map, some of the neatest vendors may be a little hard to locate. Take Wild Rags by Lois, a kind of horse-related merchant tucked in a space surrounded by horse stalls in the Burnett Building. Amber Flom said most of her customers are competitors and rodeo performers (Will Rogers Coliseum is right around the corner) so they know where the shop and its highly prized silk scarves made by Lois Parmenter can be found. But she’s accustomed to lots of surprised exclamations of “What’s this?” when people stumble over it.
There are a couple of dozen vendors outdoors and another dozen or more in the cattle barns, Davis said. The variety of offerings run from heavy farm and ranch equipment to tiny houses, custom belts, knives and lighted signs.
Brother and sister team Brittany Downs and Mitchell Felty brought their Badass Sign Co. down from Oregon and set up their trailer near the Richardson-Bass Building entrance.
“Business has been good,” said Downs, while doodling a design that her brother will turn into a one-of-a-kind decoration. “We’re looking forward to warmer weather to get even more traffic.”
Across Burnett-Tandy Drive, Bill Thweatt has been selling top-of-the-line livestock grooming equipment from Fort Worth Shaver for decades in one of the cattle barns. He likes being near the animals, because that’s where you find people who will spend upwards of $400 for one of his industrial-strength shavers.
Davis said there are many vendors who will appeal only to agriculturally cultural folks. But her primary motivation for picking the majority of vendors is “for diversity because our clientele are more than farm and ranch families. You absolutely can enjoy a day at the Stock Show even if you don’t like livestock.”
Vendors are open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. most days, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.