The Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, known commonly as the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is the oldest continuously running livestock show and rodeo. It has been held annually in Fort Worth, Texas since 1896. A non-profit organization, the Stock Show has provided millions of dollars in grants and scholarships in its tenure and continues to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to assist the future leaders of agriculture and livestock management.
A local newspaper editor, Ray McKinley, suggested in 1917 that the event incorporate a competition among cowboys and cowgirls. Stock Show president Marion Sansom appointed a committee of men who were involved with the cattle and horse industry to define the new event. A member of the commission suggested using the Spanish name for these types of competitions, rodeo. Although the proposer used the Spanish pronunciation of “roh-day-oh”, after seeing the word written the committee chose to use a different pronunciation, “roh-dee-oh”, to refer to the new competition.
The contest was approved and was added to the Stock Show calendar of events primarily because North Side Coliseum was the only arena with a capacity to accommodate the production and crowds expected. The 1918 Fort Worth Rodeo is considered the world’s first indoor rodeo. It consisted of a total of twelve performances, two per day for six days. Contests included ladies bronc riding, junior steer riding, men’s steer riding, men’s bucking bronco, and a wild horse race—catch-as-catch-can with no saddle or bridle. The contestants were primarily Wild West Show performers, both male and female, who vied for a $3,000 prize. An estimated 23,000 people attended these first indoor rodeo events.
In 1927, the Stock Show introduced the first side release chutes for bucking horses and bulls, a development that is now a standard for the sport. As opposed to the earlier front-gate chutes, the side release allows the animal and rider into the arena when the gate opens. The chute has been termed as the safest method yet devised for protection of both cowboy and animal.
The Fort Worth Stock Show was also the first to feature Brahma bull riding. This contest originated in 1933, and is now one of the five major events in the sport worldwide. Bull riding is considered to be “the most dangerous and surely the most exciting event of rodeos.”
In 1932, NBC produced the first live broadcast of a rodeo as local station WBAP broadcast. During World War II, the Fort Worth Stock Show introduced the first “half-time” rodeo performance, as Gene Autry made an appearance. This type of performance is now standard at rodeos across the United States, and many times the degree of success of a rodeo has been determined by audience acceptance of entertainment specials. In 1958, the Fort Worth Stock Show also became the first to have live television coverage of a complete rodeo performance, as 8 million viewers tuned into ABC to see guest stars including Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.