Like all centurions, the American Royal has a lot of stories under her big belt buckle.
The first hundred years are the hardest. The American Royal's spirit has been tested by three major floods and one major fire. In 1925, 34 fire companies fought the Valentine's Day blaze that engulfed and destroyed the American Royal building. Floods ruined valuable property and priceless records in 1951, 1993 and again in 1998--just hours after barbecue contestants had pulled out and days before the Arabian horse exhibitors arrived. Yet, the only year the show did not go on was 1944, when the war effort needed the Royal facilities for industrial production of military gliders. Thus, the American Royal earned the distinguished title "America's longest-running show!"
The early years included:
1899--Livestock show is held in a tent in the Kansas City Stockyards.
1901--The editor of the Daily Drovers Telegram names the royal in an editorial comparing Kansas City Stockyards' superior livestock to those he had seen at the Agricultural Royal in England. The title: "Call it the American Royal."
1905--The first true horse show debuts under one of the world's greatest saddle horse trainers and riders, Tom Bass, an African--American man born into slavery.
1926--The American Royal Parade is created.
1940--The Saddle & Sirloin Club is founded by local businessmen to help improve and perpetuate the American Royal Livestock and Horse Show.
1949--Cowboys, cowgirls and the rodeo make a grand entrance. The Belles of The American Royal (BOTARs) forms to foster support for the Royal among young adults.
At the American Royal, education takes place all year long. For example, in 1999 the Royal presented more than $300,000 in scholarships to area students and hosted more than 53,000 children in education programs.
The Royal also taught 7,710 students about animals through the Kids Ag Learning Fest (KALF) and 15,000 kids and teachers toured the World of Agriculture and learned about the role of agribusiness in their daily lives. More than 1,000 local elementary and high school students participated in American Royal art and photography competitions.
Numbers for fun:
--More than 2,800 tons of dirt are moved into Kemper and Hale arenas.
--More than 3,000 volunteers organize and present the American Royal.
--The American Royal Rodeo ranks in the top 25 of 800 rodeos sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
--Livestock exhibitors come from 48 states and Canada to participate in competitions for more than 30 different breeds of livestock.