The resurgence of the Cattle Industry, the continuing growth in popularity of Rodeo traditions in the Southwest, and the generally healthy economy in Texas can all be counted as factors contributing to the success of this year's Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. Believed to be the longest running, continuous stock show and rodeo in the United States - the first one was reportedly held in 1896 - the 23-day event ran January 16 through February 7, and from attendance to the actual stock show, it seems 2015 was an all-round record year.
"With the exceptionally good weather experienced during the 2015 Show, most previous year's Show records were shattered," said Brad Barnes, Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo's president and general manager. "From general grounds attendance and rodeo ticket sales, to gross receipts from our 16 livestock auctions. We had a very successful 23-day run and we appreciate the support of our community."
One Million Mark
According to Shanna Weaver, Publicity Manager, Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo had a 2015 attendance of 1,248,500 - 2014's attendance was 1,137,100. "We have broken the million mark for four years running now," said Weaver, adding that the "record" prior to this year was 2012 with an estimated 1,116,000. In addition, 100,100 attended the last day of the Stock Show - which is 33,400 ticket buyers more than the previous final day record (66,700); according to the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo 15 new daily attendance records set, out of 23 days.
The most noteworthy promotion for the event was Groupon. "We had our highest grossing year since we started our Groupon offer- partly because we ran the offer one day longer," said Weaver. "In 2015, we had the second highest total of Groupon sales since 2012. In 2015, 5,558 Groupon sales were made (in 2012- 6,019, difference of 461).
She added, "We offered a selection from seven performances during the Show. Groupon has been very successful for us over the years and has assisted with rodeo ticket sales. Our offers have a 98 percent review rating on Groupon."
Regarding social media promotions and platform, Weaver sees this new media as part of the overall promotion and marketing of the event. "I don't know that we can technically count on social media as a means to increase ticket sales directly,: she said "We look at it more as a part of our overall picture of our campaign and feel like it serves more of a supportive role for all the other campaign media.
Weaver estimated that the advertising mix for the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rode breaks down roughly as Collateral - 12 percent; Newspaper - 18 percent; Magazine - 5-7 percent; Radio - 30 percent; TV - 20 percent; online/social - 12 percent ; while that is essentially the same spending proportions as 2014, "...like most other venues and businesses, we do find our online/social media side of the budget keeps growing over the recent years," she said.
Unusually chilly winter weather hit the Fort Worth region just following the fair and for the most part the Fort Worth Stock & Rodeo was spared. Temperatures generally lingered in the 60s for most days, although a few nights dipped below 40.
"It is a weather driven midway," said Mary Talley of Talley Amusements. "For us, the 2015 show was better than many in the past, and we did better this year than the year before, there were a few rain outs but the weather was comfortable. The most important is that the freezing temperatures didn't come until after the stock show."
Talley has provided the midway for six years, but was unable to confirm if the record attendance days the organizers recorded were reflected in midway spending. "I'm not sure if we had record days, but spending and ridership was up this year compared to last year." She added that unlike other fairs, the midway at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is a side attraction. "At the Stock Show, people come for the auctions and rodeo," she said. "When the weather is nice, they'll go on the rides."
The Talley Amusements midway featured 48 rides and 30 games, and the company subcontracted with about a half-dozen other operators and vendors. The most popular rides were the Gondola Wheel and Fast Track Slide, and the Kiddie Land area "included a few new rides and a new merry go round," said Talley.
Although the stock show organizers were unable to provide information regarding food sales, Barnes said "Our food vendors and commercial exhibitors all experienced growth in sales as well."
According to Weaver, while there were no noticeable new cuisine trends or food items evident at the Forth Worth Event, she said "- the newest change was that Nolan Ryan Beef was a new partner for 2015 - so beef served throughout the grounds was Nolan Ryan Beef."
The main event of course is the stock show and rodeo, held indoors at the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum and unlike other rodeos, there are no nightly concerts held in conjunction with the riders.
"The heart and soul of our Show is the livestock aspect," said Weaver. "our indoor rodeo coliseum only seats about 5,800. We are a very traditional rodeo and want to pay respect to the cowboys and the sport of rodeo itself."
She added however, that as part of the show, the Coors Light Roadhouse hosted local and regional entertainment and was well attended. "It is a small venue for live entertainment, the capacity is approximately 500," said Weaver. "This is a place where people who want to be entertained can go enjoy themselves after a rodeo."
Stock Show High
The stock show generated $3.7 million, a record high for the show and a sign that the local livestock industry continues to grow. Local business owners, executives and individuals were responsible for purchasing 286 head of steers, barrows, lambs and goats.
Just as attendance records were shattered, many auction sales reached record prices, such as $240,000 for a Grand Steer - 1,344-pound European crossbred; $150,000 for a Reserve Steer - a 1,215-pound European crossbred; The Grand Barrow was sold for $55,000; and the grand champion lamb, sold for $40,000.
Sale proceeds were raised by the Fort Worth Stock Show Syndicate, a group of Fort Worth area business people dedicated to enhancing agricultural education activities of Texas youth. Since its establishment in 1980, the Syndicate has raised just over $42,500,000 in sale funds and scholarships.
"It's remarkable to see the kind of support provided by our area leaders and organizations," said Barnes. "They realize these students have put in countless hours of dedication to their livestock projects and are willing to reward them with above market price."
According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, local leaders boasted about the success of the Fort Worth Stock & Rodeo. "In view of the records and the huge paydays for the junior livestock exhibitors, Mayor Betsy Price proclaimed that "we are on fire right now... This says Fort Worth is the place to be right now, and that we care about these kids who come to show..."
Unfortunately, one minor incident that sparked a social media outcry among some circles in the Fort Worth area occurred. Each day of the 23-day event opens with nondenominational prayer - the prayers are non-faith specific and ready by leaders of various faiths. This year, Imam Moujahed Bakhach of the Islamic Association of Tarrant County was scheduled to read the nondenominational prayer on January 29th and February 2nd. Bakhach, a Fort Worth resident for 32 years, and a member of Mayor Betsy Price's "Faith Leaders Cabinet" - voluntarily cancelled his second reading after a nasty and negative reaction rang out on Twitter and Facebook. The mayor and other local officials declared support for the cleric and it seems the social media incident reflected negatively not on all Fort Worth residents, but only the few who made their prejudicial sentiments public.
Or as an editorial in the Dallas Fort Worth Star Telegram stated: "While no one protested Bakhach's invocation during the rodeo, the backlash on social media was mean-spirited, and many people said they will never attend again. Based on this year's attendance figures, it appears that they won't be missed."