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1.27 Million Sets New Fort Worth Stock Show Record

Talley Amusements Midway Revenue Strong
Revenue was on par to break records, however, a ice storm hampered crowds during one of the weeks of the fair. Photo by Steve Hinz.

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The best way to start a new year and a fair season is to break records and Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo (FWSSR) did not disappoint. The 126th edition of this Texas tradition set a new attendance record, along with a record Jr. Sale of Champions auction benefitting Texas 4-H and FFA youth.

“Every year, we tell ourselves we can be better, and the fact is, it's our job to make it that way,” said Brad Barnes, Stock Show President and General Manager. “The enthusiasm, energy and excitement that people shared for this year's Show was reflected in the numbers and for that we say a huge ‘thank you' to all our guests, exhibitors, competitors, volunteers and donors that continue to make the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo legendary.”

Total attendance for the Show exceeded 1.27 million visitors, topping the previous record set in 2020 of 1.26 million. The show saw its greatest number of visitors on January 28, when nearly 163,000 fans passed through the gates. Attendance is calculated based on ticket sales and electronic scans at ticket gates. “By all accounts the 2023 Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo was a major success,” said Matt Brockman, Communications Manager, Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. Anecdotal observations indicated that attitudes were very positive. Out of our 23-day run we had 20 days of awesome weather with several days of above-average temperatures.”

Ice & Snow

The three less than awesome days was a near-freak snow and ice storm, a weather event that disrupted the show. The severe weather did result in extra news coverage with relevant and positive headlines such as “Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo exhibitors look to keep livestock warm, safe in icy conditions.”  

“Brief periods of ice or snow in north Texas during January and February have never been an anomaly,” said Brockman.” Receiving frozen precipitation is never a surprise for us and we're always prepared. Having said that, this region can also experience very mild weather conditions in the same months. This year was no exception. Livestock, many which come directly off expansive pastures on area ranches, are naturally acclimated to the colder temperatures in January and February. Many of the animals in our open livestock shows travel here from northern states with much more adverse winter weather conditions than what we experience here in Fort Worth. Nonetheless, our livestock facilities are specifically designed and constructed to allow exhibitors to provide excellent care for their animals here at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.”

“If it wasn't for the inclement weather, we would've broken records, but we are on par with last year,” said Mary Talley of Talley Amusements, which marked its 21st year with the rodeo. “It's typical weather,  it's always the stock show when you get the snow and ice storm. But it was a very good stock show, revenues are way up.”

“We had some bad weather, days  of ice and sleet,” said Steve Coburn of  Coburn Catering. Coburn is the largest single food concessionaire  at the event, serving beer & Texas cuisine  at approximately 45 stands. “But it was a good year, people's attitude was very good, enthusiastic, it opened very strong. Rodeo is a global sport. People were very happy to have moved on from COVID.”

According to Brockman, there was 1,271,250 estimated grounds attendance, a 69,050 increase over 2022. “Our Jr. Sale of Champions auction for youth livestock exhibitors set a record for total revenues at $7.5 million,” he said. “The Grand Champion Steer sold for a record $440,000 topping the mark set last year by $130,000. The ground attendance number was a record, eclipsing the previous record set in 2020 by 3,750.”

Economic Impact

Local News reported that the website “Dallas Innovates,”  using event data analyst PredictHQ claimed that the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo ranks third nationally in local impact to its community, “bringing in an estimated $142.1 million (official city/FWSSR figures have yet to be released). FWSSR officials said a survey in 2022 indicated this year's event would bring in around $115,617,190.”

Most prices at the event were held to 2022 levels, although it's worth noting that many of those prices had increased from pre-pandemic rates. The FWSSR is a bellwether for midways and concessions of the season to come and of keen economic interest this year is how will inflation impact the season?  Brockman preferred to postpone speculation. “That's difficult to gauge. We're still reconciling financials and won't have a complete picture until March.”

The inflation question is not just about the event holding down prices but how has an inflationary environment affected fairgoer spending? Many prices may be in line with last year, but what has been the impact of inflation throughout the economy has on household budgets, particularly levels of disposable income and entertainment spending?

With revenues up, as far as Talley's concerned, inflation did not curb fairgoer enthusiasm. “The news is all about inflation and prices rising on all the outlets. We are all spending more for things, prices are up everywhere.  I was pleasantly surprised to see no signs of inflation affecting spending.”

Two other concerns that industry observers are watching are workforce and supply issues. On both fronts, Talley said those two areas have shown much improvement from last year. Talley debuted a new Tornado at the FWSSR as well as a Haunted Funhouse and a Jukebox Funhouse. “These were equipment upgrades, to maintain a safe environment and keep up with the competition.”

Coburn also did not increase the prices from last year. “I'm still leery about the economy, last year I had to increase my prices, but I kept the prices (the same) because working families need a break. We were up in sales and people were happy to be out. People have moved on. The only people wearing masks were the cleanup crew.”

Show Life

The fair's marketing budget remained similar to the previous year with a campaign centered around tagline encompassing an upbeat message, Show Life. “It's difficult to accurately pinpoint the effectiveness of a tagline or slogan on ticket sales,” said Brockman. “However, it seemed to be embraced by local media. It was used in a variety of applications including advertising, owned media platforms and scripts used in rodeo performance commentary, etc.”

In addition to a continued presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, “We enhanced our advertising efforts on social media with the assistance of a digital ad agency, Noise New Media.”

He added, “Any impact from COVID was minimal. Hopefully, our success is a harbinger for a great rodeo and fair season for the nation. We never try to set expectations too high. We work hard, try to stay modest in our attitude and hope for the best. We continue to be blown away at how the local community embraces the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. From the guests that come to enjoy the many offerings, to the exhibitors, competitors, volunteers and donors that make the Show come together, our success is due to the thousands of amazing individuals that unselfishly dedicate their time, energies and financial support to making the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo truly legendary.”
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