Move over, Mount Rushmore; settle down, Deadwood; and take a hike, Black Hills.
For 10 thrilling days each winter, by far the largest tourist attraction in all of South Dakota and the Midwest is the Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo. Second only to the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally in event attendance, the stock show last attracted more than 330,000 people to Rapid City and pumped an estimated $22 million into the local economy.
What began in 1958 as the "Winter Show" born from a meeting of chamber officials at a local laundry — attracting only a few ranchers and three types of cattle for sale — has burgeoned into one of the premier rodeos and stock exhibitions in the nation. Kicking off Jan. 25 and wrapping up Feb. 3, the 55th annual stock show will feature 96 events at several local venues.
The main purpose of the show was initially only to sell steers and other livestock, but the event is also now home to one of the top five rodeos in the nation and a host of other ranching-related events intended to entertain and educate about a way of life that has played a central role in South Dakota for generations.
Real working cowboys and cowgirls will appear all over town in wide-brimmed hats and well-worn Stetson boots, as will nearly 700 competitive rodeo riders who try to tame the wildest broncs for national fame and $160,000 in prize money. New events include an international battle to provide the roughest rodeo stock between ranchers from Canada and America; the arrival of South Dakota's own Chuckulator, the top bucking bronco in the nation last year; and a meeting of agriculture commissioners from at least three states who will meet to talk agricultural policy and economics.
The stock show has also grown into a family event, with petting zoos, a stick-horse rodeo manned by the cutest of toddlers dressed up in full rancher regalia and contests that reveal the top sheep-shearer and sheepdog in the region. About 300 vendors come to sell their wares, and banquets honor those who have worked lifetimes to raise or tend cattle and keep alive the state's ranching history.
Welcome to the 2013 Black Hills Stock Show, and get ready for a wild ride. The Rapid City Journal hopes this Premiere edition and newspaper coverage throughout the event will help you navigate all there is to see and do and introduce you to a lifestyle and a legacy that are as deep and rich as the Dakotas themselves.