I recently finished reporting on the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo and one of the many things I appreciated about its organizing committee was their commitment to diversity.
The 2017 Fort Worth Stock Show (Jan. 13-Feb. 4) offered six different rodeos within its 23-day span. It began with the Best of the West Ranch Rodeo. After that came the Best of Mexico Celebración, which catered to Hispanic contestants. The Cowboys of Color Rodeo, which was held on the Martin Luther King Holiday, mostly catered to African-American competitors.
Mindful that bull riding has emerged as a popular and lucrative stand-alone sport, the Stock Show offered fans two nights of bovine busting. The show was called Bulls Night Out and was part of the PRCA’s Xtreme Bulls tour.
The Stock Show also offered a competition called the Fort Worth Super Shootout, which featured credentialed competitors pitted against livestock, all of whom appeared at the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. The cowboys and cowgirls vied for a total purse of $100,000. Each single event champion earned $10,000.
The main part of the FW Stock Show’s rodeo line-up was its traditional Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association/Women’s Professional Rodeo Association show. The 2017 edition began Jan. 20 and runs through Feb. 4. It consisted of 29 performances, more than any other PRCA/WPRA show. It concluded with a final round on Feb. 4 featuring the top 12 riders in each event from 28 preliminary, qualifying performances.
In more recent years, the Fort Worth rodeo’s organizers have committed to offer patrons a diversity of rodeo experiences. Since the early 2000s, they’ve added specialty rodeos such as the Cowboys of Color Rodeo and fans have responded by filling the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum to the brim during the two-hour shows.
“I think it’s very interesting that the first four events that sell out each year in advance of our opening day are the two nights of Ranch Rodeo, the Best of Mexico Celebración and the Cowboys of Color Rodeo,” said Ed Bass, the Stock Show Rodeo’s board chairman. “That says a lot about what we are in Fort Worth. We really value the heritage of all the people who are part of making this city where the West begins.”
One longtime competitor and rodeo organizer who applauded the Fort Worth organizing committee’s commitment to diversity is Cleo Hearn who lives in the North Texas City of Lancaster. Hearn, 77, began competing in tie-down roping in a darker era in American history when rodeos could be pretty racially segregated. He sometimes was shoved out of a rodeo’s main performance and asked to compete after the show because of his skin color.
However, Hearn says that never happened at the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo. He saddled up for the first time in the early 1960s and he’s always been slotted to rope during the same performances as cowboys and cowgirls of other races.
“I roped my first calf in Fort Worth in 1961,” Hearn said. “There were rodeos that I roped in [during that era] that I had to rope after the rodeo. But never have I come to Fort Worth and not have been part of the main rodeo. I never felt that I was discriminated against in any way.”
Hearn, who worked in management for the Ford Motor Co. for more than 30 years, currently heads the Fort Worth Stock Show’s Cowboys of Color Rodeo.
In January, we celebrated the Martin Luther King Holiday, and in this month of February, we are celebrating Black History Month to make sure that African-Americans are rightfully acknowledged and appreciated. The Fort Worth rodeo also is mindful of making sure members of minority races are acknowledged and appreciated by offering the Best of Mexico Celebración and the Cowboys of Color Rodeo in its line-up of shows.
“The Fort Worth rodeo is in a class by itself,” Hearn said. “It makes people of all races want to come. They know they’re welcome.”
Matt Brockman, the Fort Worth Stock Show’s publicity director, said the Stock Show makes conscious efforts to reach out to a wide variety of people.
“We recognize the diversity,” Brockman said. “While we pride ourselves in our Western heritage and the connection of the cattle industry to Fort Worth, at the same time we recognize that the Fort Worth area is very culturally diverse, so we try to respond to that.”
On the Professional Bull Riders circuit, Brazilian Eduardo Aparecido clinched the title at last weekend’s Built Ford Tough Series tour stop in Kansas City, Mo. After clinching the title, Aparecido is ranked No. 3 in the PBR’s 2017 world title race with 1,060 points. Jess Lockwood is ranked No. 1 with 1,678.
This weekend, the tour stops in Kansas City, Mo. The tour also will stop in Arlington this week. The PBR’s Iron Cowboy, a major Ford Series tour stop, is scheduled for Saturday (Feb. 18) at AT&T Stadium. The PBR show will be held in conjunction with the RFD-TV’s The American, which is Feb. 19 at AT&T Stadium.
San Antonio Rodeo
The San Antonio Stock Show Rodeo began Thursday (Feb. 9) and runs through Feb. 26. The rodeo is offering competitors a $1,480,500 purse. It probably will finish as the PRCA’s highest-paying regular season show in 2917 that will help competitors qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. The rodeo features a tournament format to determine champions. Barrel racer Kellie Collier, a former Texas Tech star who lives in Hereford, has advanced to the semifinal round after placing in the prelims.
Brett Hoffman, a Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame member, has reported on rodeos for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for more than three decades. Email him at email@example.com.