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Carnival & Fair News
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Ft. Worth Stock Show Attendance on Par with 2017
Friday, March 16, 2018
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At the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, a legendary Texas event adapts to the digital age.

The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo's 2018 event lived up to it's slogan, "this thing is legendary." The show celebrated its 122nd year from January 12 to February 3 at the Will Rogers Memorial Center with a theme of "Buck, Sweat, and Tears," bringing together livestock exhibitioners, cowboys, and carnival goers alike. This year's event attracted approximately 1,214,000 visitors, thanks in part to FWSSR's ability to honor the event's storied traditions while adapting to the digital age. "We put the cowboy in the City of Cowboys and Culture," says FWSSR Publicity Director Matt Brockman.

There was something for everyone at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. This year's event boasted more than 33,000 exhibition entries for the livestock show - an all time record - including entries from 44 states and three Canadian provinces, as well as thirty six rodeo performances, concerts from local musicians at the Coors Light Roadhouse, a carnival midway, and food from a plethora of diverse concessionaires. Throughout each aspect of FWSSR, organizers worked hard to meet the demands of the digital age while keeping the traditions of the rodeo and stock show alive.

Mr. Brockman notes the diverse audience to which the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo caters. "Regardless of whether this is where you were born and raised or you just moved here, the  opportunity to celebrate what makes Fort Worth unique connects our community to its identity and heritage." The show catered to all in the area, from corporate clients, to families enjoying a day on the town, to farmers and cowboys, each with different needs and expectations. This year the show developed an app to help make everyone's experience more enjoyable by helping visitors find parking and providing easier access to the schedules for various events. "We're always looking for ways to utilize digital technology as tool to enhance the experience or make it easier to get here and enjoy the event."

The FWSSR also utilized an app for the 7 acre carnival midway, organized and run by Talley Amusement. The Magic Money system allowed people to purchase ride tickets and concession stand goods via their smartphones or a wristband loaded with credits. Brockman notes that the Stock Show and Rodeo is "adapting to a digital world where people are paying for everything - whether at the grocery store or on a ride at a stock show - with new and different means." The utilization of the Magic Money system, he says, has inspired show organizers to explore further options of digital payment in future shows.

Changing needs and demands also affected the food offered at this year's Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. While the concessions in the carnival midway were provided by Talley Amusements, for the rest of the grounds the FWSSR turned to Colbert's Catering which then subcontracted catering to a variety of different smaller vendors. "When you have a venue like ours, you have a broad mix of attendees be it people on a corporate outing or a family on a budget. We try to offer both from an entertainment and food concession perspective." Brockman notes that as the world becomes more health conscious, more attendees sought foods like salads, while some came to the stock show for traditional foods like corn dogs and cotton candy. He also noted a need to cater to a more corporate demographic with steak dinners and a nice bottle of wine in a white tablecloth setting. Colbert's Catering provided it all, ensuring that every guest that comes to the stock show left satisfied.

Stock show exhibition entries were at an all time high this year, with 33,000 entries - a 16% increase from the year before - and boasted entries from 241 of Texas's 254 counties in addition to a majority of US states and several Canadian provinces. While a win at the first major livestock show of the season is a huge deal - Brockman describes it as akin to "winning the Superbowl" - many exhibitioners got even more from the experience. FFA and 4H junior exhibitioners from Texas had the opportunity to compete for scholarship funds, become more knowledgeable about their livestock's important place in the food chain, participate on a judging team, and learn from open show exhibitioners who were able to guide them in their pursuits of a career in the livestock business.

The open shows were also a fantastic opportunity for the public to learn about the superior parentage of the meat that ends up on their plates. Visitors had the opportunity to witness blue ribbon livestock from all over North America and then continue to the Texas Farm Bureau of Agriculture's section of the show where they had the opportunity to learn about everything from cotton farming to milking a cow, to vegetable farming and textile production. FWSSR worked hard to emphasize the farm to table aspect of many of the products utilized in everyday life from the milk that goes into ice cream to the steak that ends up on a plate. Another portion of this section of the show included Vine2Wine, a program designed to highlight the state's growing wine industry and allow visitors to learn about wine production while sampling the local product.

Competition met entertainment during the rodeo portion of the show. This year the rodeo saw 36 performances over 23 days with cowboys travelling from Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and across the United States for a chance at a chunk of the $800,000 purse. One of the largest professional rodeos in the country, this year's rodeo attracted nearly 1,100 contestants, many with sights on the National Rodeo Competition in Las Vegas. Many cowboys who fared well at FWSSR took home not just a purse of between $10,000 and $18,000, but the chance to perform on an even larger national stage. More than the opportunity at rodeo notoriety, though, was the tradition of the event. Matt Brockman notes that "our professional rodeo this year was 100 years old. There is a lot of tradition there. We like to say that our rodeo performances are like going to a baseball game at Wrigley Field."

The rodeo and stock shows weren't the only sources of entertainment for FWSSR guests. Each year the Coors Light Roadhouse brings acts from all over Texas and the Southeast, including themed performances such as soul groups for Martin Luther King Jr Day and a Best of Mexico celebration featuring a local mariachi band. "We don't have an arena or coliseum that seats the big numbers." So while big name acts don't necessarily fit the show's footprint, Brockman explains that the show focused on highlighting local and regional acts, further solidifying the stock show's celebration of Fort Worth culture.

To enjoy all that the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo has to offer, visitors had a choice between two ticketing options. A daily general admission ticket ranged from $10 for an adult to $5 for children under 16 with 5 and under getting in for free and provided access to the carnival, livestock, stocks shows, and rodeo shopping experience. However, the cost to see a rodeo was generally $22-$30 depending on the performance, but admission to the rest of the grounds was included.

Another aspect where the FWSSR crew - which was comprised of 20 full time employees, 916 temporary employees, and 1600 volunteers - made use of available digital technologies was in the marketing of this year's event. While the team utilized traditional marketing platforms like television and print, Brockman notes that they were more assertive on social media, reaching out to their more than 280,000 Facebook followers, 15,000 Twitter followers, and 22,000 Instagram followers with this year's marketing strategy. The team also implemented more geo targeted ads, spending an estimated $300,000 for their efforts.

Social media engagement didn't end before the FWSSR began, though. "We're only here for 23 days through the year so we're continually looking for ways - whether through mobile app or other means - to engage people while on the complex." This year that looked like sharing selfies that visitors took on the big screen during rodeo performances but Brockman notes that his team is looking for ways to further that engagement and to further enhance each visitor's experience.

The future looks bright for FWSSR. As the show looks forward to celebrating its 123rd year in 2019, they also look forward to cutting the ribbon on their new Dickie's Arena, a much needed addition to the grounds which will house all future rodeo performances, allowing the Will Rogers Coliseum, which has hosted rodeos since 1944, to be utilized for horse show events and other offerings. The new arena, which is built in the unique art deco style of the rest of the complex, is "a crowning achievement" for FWSSR, allowing the rodeo performances to adapt to the digital age as much of the rest of the stock show has, with modern bells and whistles. With all of these updates and changes, the tradition of the Stock Show and Rodeo remains of the highest priority. "People expect to come here and see the same thing. They like continuity and the comfort of knowing that they are going to come here and experience all that the FWSSR has meant to them for decades. But you still have to freshen it up." With 2018's changes and updates, the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is certainly on the right path.

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