For 10 years, Lisa Lee has left her home in North Palm Beach, Fla., and come to Texas for one reason: the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.
“I never get to do anything but work the booths,” said the 54-year-old souvenir stand manager for Talley Amusements. “But I see every rodeo, because our stands are inside there, too.”
Over its 23-day run the Stock Show will present a variety of rodeos in the Will Rogers Coliseum, including this weekend’s Best of the West Ranch Rodeo and Monday’s Cowboys of Color Rodeo. On Tuesday and Wednesday there’s the always-popular Bulls’ Night Out, PRCA Extreme Bull Riding, which is followed later in the week by the World’s Original Indoor Rodeo.
The traditional rodeo, which runs Friday through Feb. 6, attracts the best-of-the-best athletes competing in bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding; tie-down and team roping; steer wrestling; and barrel racing. In its 120th year, the Stock Show will host about 1,200 competitors from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.
For all of those reasons and more, Lee put the rodeo at the top of her Stock Show got-to-see list.
Of course, there are plenty of other must-see and must-do events at the Stock Show. Here are a few, according to those who know.
Party on the Midway
Six acres of the sprawling Will Rogers Memorial Center are dedicated to the carnival Midway that features such rides as the 140-foot-tall Megadrop and a huge Ferris wheel.
There also are lots of tamer rides for youngsters and folks who don’t want to chance losing the corn dogs they just ate.
“Some people come to the Stock Show just for the carnival,” Lee said.
Barnyard not just for kids
Located between the swine and sheep barns is a Stock Show tradition that Dana Lewis said should be on everyone’s top-10 list.
“The 4-H and FFA Children’s Barnyard is a can’t-miss,” said Lewis, 64, a 36-year Stock Show veteran and administration manager. “I love seeing the baby animals and watching the children see the baby animals.”
One of the most interesting activities that has introduced Barnyard visitors to newborn piglets, lambs, ducklings and other farm animals is watching chicks break out of their eggs, Lewis said.
Every morning, 4-H and FFA students who run the Barnyard drop by the Stock Show office to pick up ready-to-hatch eggs that are kept in incubators secluded in a room that’s closely guarded by the show’s president and general manager.
“Brad Barnes personally sets them,” Lewis said. “No one else is allowed to mess with the incubators.”
It’s a Stock Show, after all
Becky Gibbs believes that what got the Stock Show started back in October 1896 on a bank of Marine Creek should lead the list.
“My favorite is the livestock,” said Gibbs, 68, who has been part of the show administration’s events staff for seven years. “I love to watch kids get ready to show.”
Showing the animals, crops and other projects they’ve been raising or creating for months is the payoff for hard work invested by hundreds of 4-H and FFA students. Indeed, Stock Show officials expect more than 11,000 junior show entries.
“This year the show will host over 29,000 head of livestock with exhibitors representing 41 states and three foreign countries,” said a Stock Show news release.
Cattle, of course, are prominently featured, highlighted by the naming of the grand champion steer on Feb. 5, followed the next day by the annual Sale of Champions, where hundreds of thousands of dollars are paid out to the top winners in the junior livestock shows.
New and improved Cattle Barn 2
More than $15 million in renovations to Cattle Barn 2 and surrounding facilities unveiled this year testify to the importance Stock Show and Fort Worth officials place on the livestock industry.
Folks who remember crowding onto little benches to watch a milking demonstration will be wowed by the new Milking Parlor in the recently renovated Cattle Barn 2. There's seating for 120 in the viewing area and shiny new equipment behind a glass wall that’s so big there’s no such thing as a bad seat for kids to discover where milk comes from.
The demonstrations begin most days at 10 a.m. and continue every hour until 6 p.m.
“We start at 9 a.m. on school tour days, and we’ll milk every time there’s a group of kids,” said Jay Crawford, 50, assistant to the director of events and exhibits for Southwest Dairy Farmers. “That’s our main goal, showing school kids how milk gets from the farm to the table.”
The Stock Show’s onsite honky-tonk rattles the canvas of a huge white tent just outside the coliseum’s front door. The Coors Light Roadhouse has become an after-the-rodeo ritual for folks who want to scoot boots, or just want to have a drink while listening to good music.
Fort Worth’s own Luke Wade, who gained national attention on The Voice, returns Jan. 26. Other acts include Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Cory Morrow, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robinson, Cody Canada and the Departed, and Charlie Robinson. The last night, Feb. 6, features Midnight River Choir.
Live music starts at 9:30 p.m. in the Roadhouse, which is open 6 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and noon to 1 a.m. Saturday. It’s closed Sunday and Monday. A general-admission ticket, that day's rodeo ticket stub, or a Stock Show souvenir pin or badge gets you in for free.
And remember, this is one of the areas where you can’t carry your handgun.
You can always spend money
Rodeo shopping is the domain of 200 vendors offering wares from tractors to teardrop diamonds, said Jay Blackmon-Yates, 51, commercial exhibits manager.
“There’s all kinds of equipment for ranches, farms and landscaping,” Blackmon-Yates said. “But it’s not all farm-and-ranch oriented. Instead, we try to appeal to the tastes of guests across-the-board. There’s also fine jewelry, clothing trends, home furnishings and virtually any brand of boots you can imagine.”
Indeed, Boot Barn set up a space just east of the coliseum that resembles the company’s regular retail outlets, Blackmon-Yates said.
More than 4 acres of the Will Rogers complex is devoted to shopping, including the Amon G. Carter Exhibits Hall, with about 94,000 square feet packed full of booths. There are several equine-related booths in an intimate exhibit hall called Brown-Watson South within the equestrian center.
Petting Zoo’s always popular
Bigger, more-accessible animals are Shanna Weaver’s favorites.
“You have to go to the Bank of Texas Petting Zoo,” said Weaver, 45, who’s been part of Stock Show marketing for 15 years. “It’s an opportunity to pet and feed animals. My favorites are the llamas, because they’re as curious about the visitors as the visitors are about them.”
Located in front of Will Rogers Coliseum, a pony ride next to the petting zoo is a real kid pleaser, Weaver said.
These folks open carry for real
“It’s loud, and it’s fun,” said Lauren Lovelace, the Stock Show’s horse show manager.
Lovelace is describing the wildly popular Cowboy Mounted Shooting event that requires cowboys and cowgirls to race around a pattern in a closed arena while firing pistols and rifles at balloon targets.
Scheduled for Jan. 27 in the Justin Arena, it is the only Stock Show event where ear plugs are passed out to the audience.
There’s some magic in these mustangs
Scheduled for Thursday through Jan. 23, Mustang Magic challenges horse trainers to take a wild horse and prepare it for show in the span of only several weeks.
This competition has become so popular that it is the only event other than the rodeos that requires a separate ticket for its final round.
Correspondent Punch Shaw contributed to this report, which contains information from Star-Telegram archives.