A contestant greets a judge during a livestock competition at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo
Attendance was up 4.46 percent to 1,740,154 at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, compared to last year’s 1,665,747, but some bad weather on weekends as well as a Presidents' Day that saw school children in session to make up for previously missed time, meant the midway did not perform as well as last year.
“The first weekend was chilly and carnival revenues were down a little bit,” said Pam Rew Colaw, the rodeo’s assistant executive director, of the Feb. 6-23 event.
“We normally have good weekends.”
On President's Day as a makegood, she said, “We were a little concerned about that. We couldn’t make up the ride revenues. There are only so many rides you can get on. The grounds were packed. That first Friday really hurt the carnival.”
Spring Hill, Fla.-based Wade Shows placed 50 rides on the midway, said Ellen Andrus, the rodeo’s exhibit director. Popular rides included the giant wheel, Polar Express, the Vertigo and Power Surge, she added.
The Power Surge was new, along with the Enterprise and the Nitro/Fireball, according to information provided by the rodeo.
Pay-one-price wristbands cost $25 Friday-Sunday with a $20 presale, and $20 Monday through Thursday with a $15 presale, Andrus added.
Also, Colaw said, fairgoers could purchase a $50 megapass that allowed them access to the carnival every day of the 18-day event, or a $70 season pass that also granted them admission to the grounds.
Ride coupons could be purchased for $10 for 20 tickets, Colaw added.
Other than the first weekend, temperatures warmed up and ranged between the 50s and 80s, Colaw said, and the event was situated between the big storms that have plagued the country this winter.
Another bright spot was attendance at the PRCA-sanctioned rodeo and concerts, which was up 1 percent. Seventeen of the 21 rodeo concerts, held in the just under 17,000-seat AT&T Center – when configured for rodeo – sold out, including those headlined by the following musical acts: Jake Owen, Tim McGraw, Big Time Rush, Alan Jackson, Kacey Musgraves, Heart, Dustin Lynch, Josh Turner, Randy Houser, Pesado, Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker, Pitbull, Dierks Bentley, Martina McBride, Montgomery Gentry and Billy Currington.
McGraw played two shows, with one sellout and another near sellout, and some weekend days featured two concert/rodeo events, accounting for the 21 concerts in 18 days.
Acts that did not sell out include Brett Eldredge, Jeremy Camp and Thomas Rhett.
Rodeo officials do not release exact rodeo and concert attendance figures, but some sellouts were bigger than others, Colaw said.
“There are some that go clear to the roof with the SRO and there are those where it’s not SRO to the top, but they are still considered sellouts,” Colaw added.
The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo offered $1.5 million in purse money and has been named the Largest Indoor Rodeo of the Year nine times by the PRCA, Colaw said.
Ticket prices for the concert/rodeo events ranged from $12 to $75. The lower price was raised from $10 last year, Colaw said. Also, a couple hundred $200 tickets are available for each show that include dinner and access to the arena floor, she added.
Also, adult gate admission cost $10 this year, up from $7 last year.
“We’re an extremely good value already and fairgoers can access any of the other entertainment on the grounds,” Colaw said.
Tickets for adults over 55 and children 3 to 12 cost $5 and under 3 are free.
The rodeo does not release budget or gate revenue figures, Colaw said. She also did not release the marketing budget but noted that more had been spent on digital media this year while maintaining traditional media buys.
Embracing both older and newer forms of advertising is important for the rodeo, Colaw added, especially with the fact that San Antonio is home to several military bases and a military hospital.
“We find from surveys that it’s a tradition that people come to the show, but the city is growing and the military is one-third of our attendees. They may be moving in and out. With the military, we have to continue to educate and make new fans. We have to look at a variety of ways to reach them.”
Also, the local ABC affiliate, a fair sponsor, did a one-hour special about the rodeo that aired locally during prime time, Colaw said.
“Educating people about the rodeo, that in itself makes people feel like they are more in the know and know what to expect,” Colaw said. “That is something a little out of the box that we did.”
The rodeo also made more media buys in satellite radio and also aimed to advertise more during drive time, she added.
More of the budget also was spent on social media, said Jenny Nagelmueller, the rodeo’s PR director.
Fairgoers can sign up to win concert and rodeo tickets on Facebook and then the rodeo captures those addresses.
“I would venture to say we tripled our mailing list,” Nagelmueller said. “People sign up like crazy and then they are enrolled into our newsletter database and emailed blasts.”
The rodeo also increased the Google AdWords buys for the January time period leading up to the start of the rodeo, Nagelmueller said, as well as purchased ads on YouTube during that time period.
“We usually just run those AdWords in January,” she added. “It serves for helping people search Google and it helps with our YouTube views.
Interviewed for this article: Pam Rew Colaw, Ellen Andrus and Jenny Nagelmueller, (210) 225-5851.