Ain’t My First Rodeo

I wonder just how many funnel cakes I have consumed over the years while walking the midway at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. Too many to admit.
But that wasn’t even my favorite part of our ritual visit. While I enjoyed viewing the livestock and always looked forward to the carnival rides, it was the rodeo that made the biggest impression, especially the bull riding. As a girl, I remember being mesmerized as I watched the riders being bucked and thrown by raging bulls and wondered how they were able to walk away in one piece.
In honor of the FWSSR and what it means to our city, this issue, including our cover, celebrates our Western heritage and culture. Running from Jan. 17 – Feb. 8, this year’s event hopes to bring in attendance of more than 1.16 million visitors, breaking previous years’ records.
In our main story (Life on the Ranch, page 54), writer Gail Bennison takes readers on a tour of five famous working ranches in the area. From the historic ranch headquarters in Parker County belonging to the Moncrief family to the multigenerational Bonds Ranch that runs cattle in 13 U.S. states and Canada, Bennison portrays how these working ranches require strong, smart men and women who make it happen “day-in-day-out, year-end-year-out, generation after generation.”
Steve Swenson, president of Swenson Land & Cattle Co., summed it up best when he said in the story: “Ranching is a business, but it’s also a way of life. You won’t find better people than ranchers. They’re smart, and they know their business. It’s not a hobby. We have to make money doing it.”
While Fort Worth embraces its recognition as a city of cowboys, let’s not forget about our cultural gifts as well. With all the action happening in the barns, arenas and midway, it can be easy to miss the collection of public art that flanks the grounds of the Show. Contributing Editor Alison Rich points out some of the vibrant artwork on permanent display in various locations around the Will Rogers Memorial Complex. (Stock Images, page 32) From bronze sculptures to ceramic tile murals, visitors should take the time to experience the Western art.
Another fan favorite at the Rodeo is the Palomino Flag Girl team that kicks off each night with an explosion of sparkle. We caught up with Kay Gay (Up Close, page 104), the woman behind the Palomino Flag Girls, who not only was a barrel racer and Flag Girl in the past, but also is one of the 212 women who have been inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame for her significant part in preserving Texas rodeo history.
At 75 years old, Gay organizes the Flag Girl auditions, picks the perfect horses from her ranch in Terrell, trains the women to ride and designs the glamorous Flag Girl costumes, brand new each year for nearly four decades. She’s tough, dedicated to perpetuating Western tradition and embodies everything you think a Texas woman should.
I know this Texas woman will be heading over to Will Rogers in the next few weeks, and it’s not just for the funnel cake. Until next month…happy trails!

Jennifer Casseday-Blair
Executive Editor