History of the Black Hills Stock Show®
In 1958, members of the Rapid City Chamber Ag Committee had a meeting at Rapid City Laundry to discuss a plan for the future– an idea that would incorporate rural lifestyles into the urban community of Rapid City. It was at that laundromat the first plans for the Black Hills Winter Show were formed.
At that time only 12 percent of the population lived on farms or ranches. The concern was that someday the rancher would be an endangered species as many were moving away from the farm and ranch and into cities such as Sioux Falls and Rapid City. With the hopes of protecting agricultural communities and lifestyles, organizers committed to preserving the western heritage in the state of South Dakota.
The first Black Hills Winter Show was held in 1959 at the Central States Fairground’s Soule Building. A total of 91 head of livestock entered in three breeds of cattle; Angus, Hereford, and Shorthorn. Ranchers from around the region were able to showcase their livestock with the unique show and sale format, socialize with fellow ranchers, and market their breeding program at the end of January.
The show was a testament to community support of the livestock industry. Multiple events were held throughout town such as a fashion show at the Arrowhead Country Club, sixteen vendors in the Alfalfa Palace, and a cattleman’s pancake feed at a downtown restaurant, in addition to the livestock shows. Businesses donated supplies and resources to support the event. The Ellsworth Air Force Base supplied engine heaters to heat the cold Soule Building during the shows.
The event was a quick success. The following year there were 112 head of cattle exhibited with 54 Herefords averaging $591.34. It continued to grow year after year, and the Shorthorn World predicted the future by writing, “The Black Hills Winer Show is going to grow because it is held in cattle country.”
In 1966, the first buffalo sale started in conjunction with the event at Custer State Park Buffalo Corrals. This was also the time the most noticeable change happened. The Rapid City Chamber Ag Committee passed the reigns of the Black Hills Winter Show over to the Black Hills Exposition (Central States Fair, Inc.). During the transition, the name changed to what we know it as today — The Black Hills Stock Show®.
Along with the success of the livestock shows, a horse sale was added to the event in 1973. By 1976, newspaper headlines were raving over the success of the horse sale as 33 head of horses totaled $17,945. Today’s horse sale grosses over a $1.2 Million with the 2017 top-selling horse selling for $25,000 to a buyer from Washington.
In 1978, Black Hills Stock Show® added a rodeo at the new Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Lacroix Hall would soon be home to the Horse Sale, and in 1980, the event officially moved all of the livestock shows, horse sales and vendors to the new facility. Through the years, the stock show incorporated horse events utilizing Hart Ranch’s indoor riding arena. Today the arena is now home to Rapid City Christian High School.
The Black Hills Stock Show® allowed competitors to become familiar with the Black Hills area, and soon event producers would take notice of the destination for year-round events. The Central States Fairgrounds became a hub for agriculture competitions. Thus, under the direction of the Pennington County Commissioners and the Central States Fair, Inc. a new indoor riding arena was created for the future of the Black Hills Stock Show and agriculture events in Rapid City.
Today the James Kjerstad Event Center is the horse capital of the Midwest. It houses national and regional shows year-round. These events prove to be an economic booster to the community as horse participants travel nationwide to the Rapid City destination to compete. In 2017, event producers that chose Rapid City as home paid out a total of $3.4 Million.
Subsequently, the building of the James Kjerstad Event Center also boosted the attendance of the Black Hills Stock Show. In 2018, horse events will start two weeks before the traditional stock show dates featuring horse shows, cattle cuttings, and a team sort. Main attractions will include the Official Ranch Rodeo, Broncs for Breakfast, North American Sheep Dog Trials, National Sheep Shearing competition, Boots and Beer Festival, and Stock Show Stampede concert. In 2017, the events at the James Kjerstad Event Center paid out $198,710 in total prize money during the Black Hills Stock Show®. Due to the addition of these events, the Black Hills Stock Show attendance has grown from the once 150,000 guests to approximately 300,000 attendees.
The business model of the stock show is simple; Create multiple events that support the integrity of the agriculture industry. The event that once started in the unheated Soule Building at the Central States Fairgrounds now hosts multiple events throughout the City. The community support allows for guests traveling from the 13-state region to attend an event at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, James Kjerstad Event Center, art exhibits at the Dahl and Journey Museums, seminars and business conferences at multiple hotels as well as socials at The Prairie Edge.
It’s not just a livestock show, a horse show, rodeos, vendors, or youth events; it’s the combination of all things Western and the cooperation of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Rodeo Rapid City and the Black Hills Stock Show® that makes this event successful. Individually, these events would not have the longevity, but together it is the recipe for the fourth largest Stock Show in the nation following the Houston Livestock Show, San Antonio Stock Show and the National Western Stock Show in Denver, CO; all which are located in population bases exceeding the state of South Dakota.
As we celebrate the 60th Annual Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo® we reflect on the past but celebrate the future. This year’s stock show brings new events and a new generation. The livestock shows are still the cornerstone of the stock show, with a total of 430 head of livestock selling in 10 different breeds. The sales that once totaled $65,650 now have a total sale gross of $1.4 Million in 2017. Events such as the Boots and Beer Festival and the Black Hills Stock Show® Stampede Concert are geared to entice the younger demographic to attend.
Please join us as we celebrate the 60th Annual Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo on January 26-February 4th. For a complete schedule of events, please go to http://www.blackhillsstockshow.com.
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