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Despite bad weather, San Antonio Livestock Show sees bright spots


By Mary Weber

Photo courtesy of SA Livestock Show

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The 2018 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, February 8th-25th, was hit with unfavorable weather this year. While grounds attendance and midway gross suffered, there was still plenty to be proud of according to Communications and PR Manager, Lauren Sides. 

"We had about 1.9 million in on grounds attendance this year. We were met with some cold, rainy, and windy weather. Cold fronts came through so some days it was 35 degrees and then the next it would be much warmer so it was hard to predict what the weather was going to be like," says Sides. "However, we broke our arena attendance records this year." 18 out of 21 2018 rodeo events were at capacity which means 16,500 tickets were sold for those events. font>

There were plenty of new and exciting things for Rodeo attendees to enjoy including additional rodeo events in the arena, more grounds entertainment, and more opportunities to hear live, local music. Sides says the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo team is proud of the product they put out for the community and focused on their mission of educating the youth of Texas. 

New this year in the arena was Freestyle Bull Fighting. "We partnered with Bull Fighters Only to produce this event and it was a huge success," says Sides. In this event, participants dressed similarly to rodeo clowns went up against a 2,000 pound bull for 70 seconds in the arena. The winner received $25,000. Sides said at least 15 people participated in the Freestyle Bull Fighting event. 

Normally, the Rodeo has one "high energy" entertainment act on the grounds. This year, they booked 3 high energy acts which rotated every 6 days. The first six days of the rodeo, the Pompeyo Family Dog Show was the featured act, then the XPogo Stunt Show, and then The Chicago Boyz. All of these acts were well attended and produced the high energy vibe the Rodeo team was looking for. Additional ground acts included the Butterfly Encounter and Longhorns 101. "The Texas Longhorn is the official mammal of the State of Texas. Longhorns 101 gives people a chance to get up close and personal with the animal and to learn more about the longhorns," says Sides.

Some new youth events were also added to this year's Rodeo. The Youth Rodeo included some roughstock events such as bareback horse riding, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding. A new junior livestock cross-bred gilt show was added to the other junior livestock events: junior breeding goat show, junior breeding heifer show, junior breeding sheep show, junior purebred gilt show, and junior dairy cattle show. The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo boasts the largest Junior Livestock Show in the world. In order to show animals in the junior class, participants must be in the 4-H or FFA organizations. 4-H and FFA students also helped in the "animal adventures" area of the rodeo where they helped explain farm and animal life in order to educate visitors as they came through the exhibit.

Open class livestock shows include breeding goat, beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine sheep, and poultry shows. There were also sheep dog trials during this year's livestock events which were well attended and very fun to watch according to Sides. 

Totals are still being tallied, but at this point, Sides can report that there were $6 million in Livestock Auction opportunities. The junior livestock sale market steer grand champion went for $110,000 and the reserve champion went for $80,000. "It's really exciting. Imagine being a kid and winning $110,000 for you education or other endeavors," says Sides. 

Youth contests for photography, fashion, and many other competitive exhibits were featured as usual. This year the Rodeo hosted a Western Art competition for students in the area. The top 25 entries were featured in the Rodeo's Expo Hall.

At the 2018 Rodeo, there were plenty of opportunities for attendees to enjoy live music. There were 5 live music venues on the grounds with performances starting at 5pm. The stages were manned by mostly local entertainment. One of the stages was devoted solely to Hispanic music and performers. "The stage focused on Hispanic music was always well attended. That was a really good decision and something we'll continue to do," says Sides. 

After the rodeo events, there were live concerts in the AT&T Arena. Rodeo guests purchased a $15 ticket which included admission to the rodeo and the concert. Artists that performed after the rodeo events this year included: Gary Allan, Brett Eldridge, Josh Abbott Band, Kip Moore, Midland, Chris Young, Casting Crowns, Rascal Flatts, Alan Jackson, Goo Goo Dolls, Luke Combs, J Balvin, Cam, Calibre 50, Brad Paisely, Jeff Dunham, Cody Johnson, Foreigner, LOCASH, and Brothers Osborne.

Several themed days throughout the Rodeo allowed people to attend affordably. Every Friday was military day during which military members could get in free with their IDs. During the rodeo arena events on military days, a military singer performed the National Anthem. Additionally, the Rodeo staff tamed up with the local army base to host an army swear-in on January 16th. Thursdays are college days; college students are admitted free with IDs. This year, they extended hours on Thursday for shopping and food in honor of college night. Senior days were on Tuesday; admission was free for anyone 65 and older. Also on Fridays and President's Day, admission was just $1. On the final Sunday of the Rodeo, people could turn in vouchers which were available at Chick-Fil-As locally for free admission to the Rodeo. 

The midway provider for the 2018 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo was Wade Shows. Frank Zaitshik, President of Wade Shows, echoed Side's sentiment that the rodeo put out a great product and there was plenty to be proud of this year but the weather took a toll. "This was the most difficult year we've had there. This was the consistently worst weather year we've had since I've been playing it," says Zaitshik. 

He recalled that they've had threat of snow and even freezing rain at the Rodeo but always managed to get at least one weekend of good weather. "All in all it was a really great event;. We had the best presentation and best mix and group of rides we've ever had there," says Zaitshik. Wade Shows added the Super Cyclone roller coaster to this year's ride lineup and partnered with some new independent ride companies that did a great job, according to Zaitshik. "If we had the weather I think we would've had the best year of all," says Zaitshik. The 2017 Stock Show and Rodeo was the second best year for Wade Shows while 2016 was their record year. "The weather was certainly disappointing but if you look back over the years we can be proud of the progression we've made at this event over time," says Zaitshik. 

Sides says that the Rodeo uses all the conventional methods to advertise their event. "We use a lot of digital, some print, radio, and television," says Sides. They also purchase lots of outdoor boards and those are usually digital. Sides also says the budget has changed a bit over the years with more money being allocated to digital platforms. "That's how people see their information and read things now," says Sides. "Luckily we have great media partners that help us a lot." The Rodeo does Facebook giveaways and contests for certain performances in order to create buzz on social media. They also use Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and their newsletter "Rodeo Insider."

When asked about goals the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo team had when planning the 2018 event, Sides said they always hope to hover around that 2 million mark for grounds attendance. "Our main goal is to make sure families enjoy themselves and that we're educating the youth of Texas," says Sides. The team is also proud to have received the PRCA Large Indoor Rodeo of the Year Award for 13 consecutive years. "We credit that award to our 6,000 volunteers who help us provide that Texas hospitality which goes a long way when being considered for awards like this," says Sides. 2018 scholarship numbers will not be available until about May according to Sides, but she can report that in 2017, the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo committed $11.5 Million to scholarships for over 1,500 students. 

The 2019 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo will be February 7th-24th.

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