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Chilly Start but Strong Finish for Forth Worth Stock Show & Rodeo
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Freakish weather events may be rare, but the timing of such incidents can often be more costly than the weather itself. Severe winter weather has become less uncommon in Texas in recent years, and the timing this year did not favor the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. The January event, considered by some industry observers as the first major fair of the new season, had a chilly start, negatively impacting midway revenue even though overall attendance down ticked by 9.9 percent compared to 2023, a record-breaking year.

Attendance reached 1,144,305 – a healthy turnout for the 127thedition, but catchup was the name of the game – frigid temperatures plagued FWSSR for the first two weeks. “We experienced below normal temperatures for the first 14 days of our 23-day run,” said Matt Brockman, Communications Manager, Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. “Luckily, we avoided freezing precipitation.”

The midway was down 35 percent, according to Mary Talley of Talley Amusements “The decrease was all due to the weather. We didn't really have decent weather until the last eight days. Basically we had to make up the whole 23 days. It wasn't snow, just brutally cold, 21 degrees. It was the worst weather we've had in Fort Worth in the 21 years we've played there. Our hydraulic motors wouldn't start, they froze up.”



 

Where The West Is Fun

While this year may not have been one for the attendance record books, other records were broken. “All things considered, the 2024 Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo was a big success,” said Brockman. “ (But) Not attendance related. The Junior Sale of Champions auction for 4-H and FFA exhibitors set a record for total revenue with $8.2 million in total receipts. This eclipsed the 2023 sale, also a record, by approximately $900,000.”

The entertainment lineup was equally stellar, with Motown legend Smokey Robinson being a major highlight, who along with Tanya Tucker, and Jamey Johnson, “were the biggest draws in our Auditorium Entertainment Series,” said Brockman. Other performers included Sammy Kershaw, Old Crow Medicine Show, Trace Adkins, and Pam Tillis and Little Texas.

“Attendee attitude was great,” said Brockman. “Our volunteer base is friendly and helpful to exhibitors, competitors and guests and that vibe of “welcomeness” seems to pay off in spades with a happy crowd.”
 
The cowboy and western heritage theme so essential to this Fort Worth event was epitomized by a snappy tagline, “Where the West is Fun.” While overcoming the freeze out may have been insurmountable, Brockman is apprehensive about this year's marketing campaign. “It's difficult to accurately analyze the effectiveness of a tagline on ticket sales. Local media seemed to embrace it as we saw numerous references on television newscasts. Obviously, we used it in a variety of applications including advertising, owned media platforms and scripts used in rodeo performances as well as news interviews, etc.”

The staid approach proved also the case for the FWSSR's 2024 social media campaign, which he described as “very similar to previous years. We maintain an active presence on Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and TikTok. We utilized a digital ad agency, Noise New Media, for implementation of our digital ad campaign, which included paid social advertising, with considerable success for ticket sales. We've remained consistent with our marketing and social media strategies before and after the pandemic. Obviously, the messaging shifted to address COVID concerns and challenges, but the strategies have remained consistent.”

 

Whole-Hog Burger 

Food & Beverage sales may have taken a dip but revenue was even, mainly due to inflation. Steve Coburn of Coburn Catering. the largest single food concessionaire at the event, serving beer & Rodeo cuisine at approximately 50 stands, said while he was able to hold prices down last year, this year the beer prices went up from $6 & $8 to $9 & $10, with comparable upticks on the hot dogs, burgers and the signature barbecue dishes which has been the must-have Rodeo cuisine since the Coburn family took over the concessions in 1946. 

“We kept the small hot dog at $5, it was the only thing that didn't go up, which I did on purpose because in my opinion, it was a low-price option for families,” said Coburn. “You can't chase every dollar, you have to give back. I'm keeping the prices lower than at concerts or Ranger playoffs. Some people take selfies, I take pictures of prices at other venues, and all my friends and family do too and they send them to me. I keep my prices below all the other sports venues.”

He added that the weather was “horrible, but in the end, we got some really good sunny days. People were pent up, and they came out in droves, and had a wonderful time. People came out and spent money, the increases didn't slow them down.”

Coburn Catering also saw an increase in catering, i.e., parties, receptions, private-events that occur during the Rodeo, including adjacent sites like the Cowboy Museum and Community Arts Center. Groups range from 30 to upwards of 500. “A lot more companies are holding events for their employees, that increased this year,” he said. 

He also introduced a new food item – a “Whole-Hog Burger” an 8-oz. Pork-Sirloin Steak which “Has a lot of marbling, so it's incredibly tender. It went over very well, better than anticipated.” 

What other trends did this veteran concessionaire detect at the FWSSR? Light beer is outselling regular and craft beers and soda's popularity continues decking. “Water is outselling soda, you're seeing it all over the country, but it's happening in Texas too. People drink less and less soda. They're drinking more tea and lemonade. We've converted more fountains from soda to tea and lemonade.” 

 

The Defender

Food & Beverage may have withstood the big chill better than the midway, but Talley insisted “The stock show was great, amazing. It's our hometown and we work a lot of shows in the area, like Grapevine and Garland, so people know us. We have a great reputation and a really great customer base.” 

Talley Amusement also introduced a new Super-Thrill Ride, The Defender, “It is a limited capacity ride. People liked it, it went over well. The kids loved it. I was a little concerned about the limited capacity, but it's a 140-foot tall ride. I wanted another tall ride.” 

The FWSSR may not have been able to catch up with its record-breaking 2023, but maintaining the tradition of the event remained firmly grasped. “Expectations didn't change from previous years,” said Brockman. “Our expectation, always, is to offer quality, affordable entertainment and fun for our guests and fair and rewarding competitions for our contestants and exhibitors. If we live up to our standards, expectations will be met because the people that come to compete and enjoy themselves will have had a positive experience. “

He added, “[the FWSSR] connects people with heritage, the western way of life and the livestock industry which helps feed and clothe the world. Stock shows, fairs and rodeos allow people from all walks of life to experience and embrace an authentic lifestyle and vocation that's unique to our great nation.”
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