I recently had the pleasure of attending the 122th annual celebration of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo — or if you prefer, the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, its other nom de plume. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s a great big rural-themed expo. Think of something like unto the State Fair of Texas, except smaller, and held in the wilds of downtown Fort Worth instead of Dallas. You can buy funnel cakes and jumbo corn dogs for astonishing amounts of money; you can see exhibits; you can check out new automobiles; you can even ride the Tiltawhirl and Octopus, and stumble around a funhouse.
Despite the associated carnival (which I didn’t waste money on), the Stock Show is unlike the Fair in that the focus is otherwise almost exclusively agricultural, and you can see it all in a couple of hours . Of course, how long you actually spend there will doubtless depend on how much you’re willing to ooh and awww at all the animals, of which there are many. I hope you like pictures of critters, because you’re going to see a lot of examples in this entry, especially in Part II. After all, this is a livestock show and rodeo we’re talking about here.
The event takes place within the confines of the Will Rogers Memorial Center, a huge complex in the middle of the city near the Kimball and Amon Carter Museums, that’s dedicated to this guy.
Good old Will Rogers, the cowboy humorist who never met a man he didn’t like. Wish I could be like him; though I wonder sometimes how he’d feel about some of the characters running the country these days… But moving right along, the actual non-livestock exhibits are mostly located in this fine structure to the rear of the complex, the Amon J. Carter, Jr. Exhibit Hall. That statue you see out front immortalizes Midnight, a famous bucking bronc.
Once you get inside, you’ll have the take an escalator down one floor and hang a sharp left to enter the aptly-named Texas Room, which takes up most of the building. Here’s a glimpse of what you might see.
Yep, that’s what it looks like: ranch equipment. Not much of a surprise, right? There was a lot of this stuff in there, but people were also selling tractors, cars, motorcycles, ice cream, candy, nuts, smokeless tobacco products, wiggly artificial pets called Squirmles, knives, salad choppers, cowboy hats, cowboy boots, bandanas, clothing, horse trailers, glass cleaners, gimcracks, newspapers, telephone and cable TV service, sunrooms, spas, water filters, food containers, and, of course, lots and lots of art. Like this:
If you can’t tell, that’s a horse made out of welded-together horseshoes. All I can say is, wow. All that work.
We ambled along and took our time, collecting all kinds of swag the entire way — including pens, pencils, a free Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper, various keychains, and all kinds of interesting brochures. It only took about two hours, if that, to check it all out. About halfway through the Texas Room you come across the Borden’s display, where you find this famous personage:
No, really! That’s Elsie the Cow! Read her blanket; it has her name right on it. She’s a lovely, if strangely quiet, Jersey cow who lives inside a giant crib. No, she is not stuffed; she’s just either really bored or tranked to the gills. Now, I’m sure she’s only one of a number of traveling Elsie the Cows, and her real name is probably something like Elsie #212D or something, but she was cool to see. Here’s an interesting bit of trivia, which I only learned because I asked. You can’t see it in this picture, but Elsie there has a chain around her horns that’s attached to a little padlock in the middle of her forehead. This is more than just stylish cow jewelry. Y’see, back in the old days, when you ordered a dairy cow from far away, you were sent a key first. When the cow arrived, you tested the padlock with your key, and if it opened, you could be certain it was your cow. That’s what I was told, anyway; I suspect what happened was that the new owner locked the chain around her horns, kept the key, and went on home. Then the cow was shipped later, and he made sure it was the same cow he bought by using the key. You can’t trust them furrin’ cow traders, ya know.
Incidentally, she had her baby Beauregard with her. Beau chose this time to take a nap, so this is all I have of him:
Once we’d seen all the goods exhibits, we went out to the next building, the Equestrian Center. This was a big, echoey cold pavilion full of stalls, most of which were empty. But they were having a llama sale that night, so a large section was full of, yes, llamas, usually one or two to a stall. Here’s one calm-looking fellow who didn’t mind getting his picture taken. My Mom, who was with me, was afraid they would spit at us, but they were like, mellow, man.
Well, we soon got tired of Central American camelids, so we headed outside to the other livestock pavilions to check out our other furry friends. I’ll tell you all about that next time, but I had to share this sign, which was posted just outside the doorway:
Indeed, I shan’t.
The 112th Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo continues through February 3, 2008. Parking is $6. General Admission Tickets cost $8 for adults, $4 or folks above 55 and under 16, and little kids under age 6 get in free. You have to pay extra for the rodeos, of which there are several; they cost $22 each. Even if you don’t make it this year, you can catch it next year. See their web site for details at http://fwssr.com/.