Stock Show brings dollars and cents – along with cowboy culture – to Fort Worth 

Ride ‘em cowboy: Mitch Pollock in action at the 2020 Fort Worth Rodeo and Stock Show. (Photo by KPW)

Michael Thomson, owner and chef of Michaels Cuisine on West 7th Street, is preparing for the holidays. 

Don’t think he’s a few weeks late. For Thomson and similar businesses, the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is Christmas in January. 

“The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo brings us the most business that we get all year long,” said Thomson, whose restaurant is just a few blocks from Will Rogers Memorial Center and Dickies Arena, the location for the storied event.

The 125th Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo begins its 23-day run Jan. 15 with a parade downtown. The show opens the year with a large helping of Fort Worth’s historic cowboy culture along with plenty of rodeo action. It also provides millions in scholarships and livestock premiums, as well as a purse of more than $1 million during the FWSSR PRORODEO Tournament. 

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This year will be vastly different than last year when the Stock Show and Rodeo was canceled due to concerns over then-raging COVID-19 infections. 

That meant no holiday season for Michaels or many other businesses that cater to the show and its estimated 1.2 million visitors. 

This year Thomson and the restaurant faces supply and staffing issues related to the pandemic, but he prefers that to no rodeo at all. 

The contemporary ranch cuisine restaurant is hardly alone in looking to the Stock Show for an economic boost. The cancellation of the event in 2021 – for the first time since 1943 – put the economic impact of the Western-themed event in stark contrast, as Thomson and other area businesses know. 

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According to a report to the Fort Worth City Council in 2021 on the impact of the canceled event, city officials cited a 2017 Economic Impact Study by Highland Market Research LLC. That report estimated the economic impact of the Stock Show on Fort Worth and surrounding community to be just over $110 million. 

Breaking that down further, the report said the Will Rogers Memorial Center lost about $630,000 in revenue because of the cancellation, and the loss from tax revenues from the ticket tax, parking tax and stall tax was estimated at $1.7 million. The loss in revenue from the hotel occupancy tax was estimated at $500,794 during the event. 

“It’s great we’re back in business,” said Mike Crum, director of public events for the City of Fort Worth, “Thanks to the long-running Stock Show and their run of 23 days, they are our largest clients both in terms of event days in the building and in attendance.”

While the Stock Show has an economic impact for the city and businesses, it is also a marketing and branding opportunity for some of the museums in the area. A general admission to the Stock Show includes access to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and Cattle Raisers Museum.

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Diana Vela, associate executive director Exhibits & Education at the National Cowgirl Museum, said the museum loses revenue from ticket sales during the show’s run, but notes it also sees revenue from groups that hold dinners, lunches or award receptions at the David M. Schwarz-designed museum. 

Those events, as well as the free admission to Stock Show attendees, have another benefit. 

“It certainly drives people into our gift shop, which is also great,” said Vela. 

She also noted that, even though the Cowgirl Museum has been located in the Cultural District since 2002, the Stock Show exposes the museum to a new audience.  

“You would be surprised at the number of folks who live in Fort Worth and have never been to the museum,” said Vela.

While the 2021 cancellation of the event hit business hard, it also impacted the many students who raise and sell their animals to fund further educational and vocational opportunities. The big sale is the last day of the show, this year on Saturday, Feb. 5. The Junior Sale of Champions has seen most of the sales go to the Fort Worth Stock Show Syndicate, which has raised more than $50 million for the youth exhibitors since 1980. At the last sale, in 2020, the Grand Champion steer was sold for a record $300,000.

In 2013, Women Steering Business, a 125-member organization was founded by Renfro Foods Senior Vice President Becky Renfro Borbolla primarily to fund livestock sales from young women at the Stock Show’s Junior Sale of Champions. 

The organization has raised over $1.6 million since its founding, according to Borbolla, supporting the scholarships of more than 27 young women. 

2021 was difficult as the organization was unable to purchase animals at the Fort Worth show, though it did purchase some animals at the Tarrant County Junior Livestock event, Renfro said. 

“That’s a much smaller event and there just weren’t many events last year due to the pandemic,” she said. 

 “We’re looking forward to being there in full force this year,” she said. 

Thomson, of Michaels Cuisine, expects to do well this year despite supply and staffing issues. He knows there will be pent-up demand following the shows cancellation last year. 

“We did a mock Rodeo Menu for the people that wanted to pretend like the rodeo was going on,” he said. “Some dressed up and came in and had dinner. They didn’t go to a rodeo, but at least they got out. This is big for us and for Fort Worth.” 

Bob Francis, a former editor of the Business Press, is business editor of Fort Worth Report. His articles continue to appear in the Business Press.

This article was originally published by Fort Worth Report.