FORT WORTH, Texas, January 16, 2015 — January is here and in North Texas that means it is time for the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. At 119, it is the oldest continuous livestock show and rodeo in the world. This year’s event runs until February 7.
Fort Worth is synonymous with cowboys and their culture — much of which grew out of this exposition. And now it is such a way of life here that we look forward to it almost as much as Christmas. Kids even get a day off of school to go.
On a side note, in my experience many people mistakenly think Fort Worth and Dallas are the same or close to it. Nothing can be further from the truth.
James Angus and Jamie Bolton, in their blog The Cavender Diary, in my opinion said it best:
“Dallas and Fort Worth may be only about 30 miles apart, but they are light years away in terms of atmosphere. I have lived in Dallas for over 30 years and have never seen a businessman in a suit and cowboy hat. Ever. (Except on TV) In Fort Worth, on the other hand, cowboy hats on the street are a pretty normal sight…even with chaps and spurs.”
Our Western heritage is a way of life here and we embrace it, world-class venues, dining, business; all of it.
The Stock Show started as an effort to grow business for the Fort Worth Stock Yards, a supply stop for cowboys on their way to the Chisholm Trail. Then, in an effort to garner interest in their cattle, rancher Charles McFarland and Charles French, marketing manager for the Fort Worth Stock Yards, came up with the idea for an exposition.
Ranchers came from all over Texas to show their livestock. Members of the Fort Worth Stock Yards company that included Armour & Company and Swift & Company meat packers as well as officials of the various railway companies serving the city joined them. That first show took place in March 1896, on the banks of Marine Creek in what is now north Fort Worth with no buildings or enclosures. It was such a huge success that they held another in October.
Since then the exposition has grown to be one of the largest of its kind in the world. Many dignitaries and personalities have appeared in or have been guests of the Stock Show, including Theodore Roosevelt, Will Rogers and Gene Autry. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans hosted the first ever televised coverage of any Stock Show or Rodeo in 1958 along with George “Gabby” Hayes and the Sons of the Pioneers.
Black cowboy Bill “Bulldog” Pickett invented “bulldogging” or steer wrestling and demonstrated it here in 1904. He was one of the first celebrities of the rodeo and worked with the 101 Wild West Rodeo, which is still in operation today. Fort Worth’s Stockyard area pays tribute to him by way of a big statue that shows Bulldog wrestling a bull.
In spite of what we have seen in movies and TV shows the Cowboy Culture came from Spanish influence and the Mexican Vaqueros. They represented about a quarter of all cowboys. After the Civil War many Americans came West and learned to “ride the range” from their Mexican counterparts. Many freed slaves went west as well with as many as a fourth of all cowboys being black.
Other notables moments of the rodeo include Chief Quanah Parker who led 40 Comanche and Kiowa braves in the Stock Show parade in 1909, Lucille Mulhall, whom Will Rogers named the first cowgirl, and another early cowgirl star Tad Lucas.
The show has expanded a lot since those early days. There is now a midway complete with carnival food and rides, a petting zoo, an all Western parade, Junior Agricultural Mechanics Project Show, hands on exhibits, Stock Show shopping, and Livestock/Barns. There are also many vendors selling everything from cars to eyeglass cleaner. And this is before you go into the rodeo arena.
In addition to these festivities, one has to visit the historic north side Stockyards. The area looks like an Old West town, complete with saloons and hitchin’ posts. There’s a cattle drive twice a day, plenty of shopping, delectable Tex-Mex food, the historic Stockyards Hotel, and you can’t forget the world’s largest honky-tonk: Billy Bob’s Texas.
The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is also a non-profit organization, providing millions of dollars in grants and scholarships, and continues to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to assist the future of agriculture and livestock leaders.
There you have it. If you ever find yourself in this part of the country at this time of the year, stop in and stay a while. There’s something for everyone at the Stock Show. We’re lookin’ forward to seein’ ya.
Read more of Claire’s work at Feed The Mind, Nourish The Soul in the Communities at The Washington Times, her blog Sustenance For The Mind, and the writing group she belongs to at Greater Fort Worth Writers Group.