When the chutes opened at the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo during the Tuesday afternoon performance, Neal Gay mostly took on the role of a fan.
He and his wife, Kay, watched the action from box seats near the iconic white bucking chutes at the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.
In 1979, Neal Gay became the Fort Worth Rodeo’s senior stock producer. But in recent years, he’s turned the main stock producing duties over to his son Jim.
Gay, 90, regularly rides in the Stock Show Rodeo’s colorful grand entry. After that, he heads to the box seat area to watch the two-hour performance.
It’s very fitting that Neal Gay is into watching the rodeo more from a fan’s perspective these days. He’s always been passionate about making sure a rodeo performance was a good experience for the fans.
Even when he was working hands on with his famous string of bucking stock during the rodeo performances, he was adamant about making sure rodeo fans witnessed a well-managed, rapid fire, two hour show.
Asked about his staunch commitment to catering to fans, Gay said: “That’s what’s it’s all about. If you don’t do that, pretty soon everybody will be out of business.”
As a rodeo producer, Gay paid attention to detail. For example, he prompted contestants ride in the grand entry to make sure that fans saw a very active and colorful opening ceremony.
“I understood that it was the people who were buying the tickets and they needed to be entertained,” Gay said. “That’s what it’s all about. If you don’t entertain them, they’re not going to come back.”
In addition to his important work in livestock production at the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo, Neal Gay, who lives in Terrell, is famous for founding the Mesquite Championship Rodeo (a weekly spring and summer Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association show) in 1958. He and his family managed the rodeo performances at the Mesquite Rodeo for a half century, from the late 1950s through the late 2000s.
In the mid-1980s, Neal Gay spearheaded the construction of the Mesquite Arena, which has luxury skyboxes above the arena floor. In 1986, Gay hired Jack Beckman to serve as marketing director for the weekly rodeo that traditionally ran every Friday and Saturday nights, April through September. Beckman had served as the manager of Reunion Arena in Dallas and was instrumental in bringing the NCAA Final Four Men’s Basketball Tournament to the Dallas venue in 1986.
Beckman, who attended the Stock Show Rodeo on Tuesday, said he was impressed with Gay’s passion for making sure rodeo performances were a great experience for fans.
“One thing that Neal does that most rodeo stock contractors do not do is he cared about the fans,” Beckman said. “When I worked for Neal for 20 years, my job was to market and get people in the seats. But if a rodeo producer doesn’t care about getting people in the seats, then it’s a big problem because that’s who were trying to entertain. That’s how we sell tickets.
“People ask, ‘Who do you work for?’ My answer is, ‘The people up there in the seats. That’s who we work for. Neal worried about the guy who bought the tickets and that made my job a lot easier.”