Ben Russell, NBC 5 News
The annual Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is officially under way.
The 117th Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo (FWSSR) opened its gates for the first of 23 days celebrating agriculture.
The big event Friday night is the "Best of the West" Ranch Rodeo Show at 7:30 p.m.
The first day isn't the busiest when it comes to attractions and activities. Most of the day is spent moving in horses, cattle and other competitors ready to show and win prizes in junior and adult categories.
But organizers say they're ready for a good run, nice weather and perhaps a run at the million visitor mark established last year.
"That would be a good thing," said Brad Barnes, FWSSR President. "Of course, it's all weather related, we realize that and we were very fortunate last year with 23 days of gorgeous weather and we're off to a good start this year it looks like."
The Stock Show is a family tradition for Hal Summers and his 5-year-old son, Kruger, who spent most of the afternoon petting any animal calm enough to allow it.
"All through the year he asks, 'Can we go to the Stock Show?'" Summers said. "And (I say), 'No, son. It's in January,' so it's that time of year, and he's real pleased."
For the first time, the stock show has added a junior event where no livestock will win. That's because there are no livestock entered. The first ever Junior Agricultural Mechanics Project Show invaded the newest building at the Will Rogers Memorial Center on Friday.
The stock show says new Future Farmers of America and 4-H Clubs from across the state are making their first visits to Fort Worth as part of the show.
"We spent many weekends up at school," said Sarah Hoelscher..
Sarah and Maddie Hoelscher, of Garden City, were the first to arrive on Friday. Their entry into the competition is impressive, to say the least.
"This is our 16 row stack fold tool bar," said Sarah Hoelscher. "It is an implement to be pulled behind tractors on our farm."
This is Sarah's fourth ag mechanics project and her biggest. She said she told her dad for her last project she wanted "to go big or go home." The project, she, her sister and two other students, cost $11,000 with some prefabricated parts, but mostly built from scratch. A retail value tool bar would cost twice that much.
"I think it's great getting the feeling to use your own products that you built yourself," Sarah Hoelscher said. "Instead of going out and buying something someone else built."
However, most of the competitors involved in ag mechanics, an important part of agricultural work, is because building equipment is often cheaper than raising an animal.
"A lot of times kids can't afford to show the livestock and that kind of area and aspect of the FFA, 4H programs," said Dallas Walker, Palmer FFA's ag science teacher. "This is really a good way to get the kids involved and up here."
Walker also says it's another way to get more young women involved.
"It doesn't just deal with the cows, the sows and the plows all the time," Walker said. "You actually get into the leadership part of ag and do the FFA leadership and development events. Women are becoming very strong in this industry."
Ford says women make up 25 to 30 percent of the entrants in a show that organizers think will only get bigger.
"We hope so, we think so," Ford said. "It's almost inconceivable that this is created in high school by youth, Texas youth."
Participants are pretty excited about being here for the first time too.
"I think it's really great," said Maddie Hoelscher. "We were the first ones here, being able to be the first ones here at the first ag mechanics show in Fort Worth I think it's really special."
Ford says the reason it took 117 years to add this show is simple, not enough space. That changed however with the addition of a new equestrian building at the complex last year.
The stock show runs until Feb. 9. The ag mechanics show runs until Sunday morning. First prize in six divisions is $1,000.
NBC 5's Ben Russell contributed to this report.