October and November are very special months to the Kansas City, Missouri area. Thousands of people visit downtown K.C. every fall to experience the phenomenon that is the American Royal.
I have been to the American Royal every year since I was three. This year’s trip was my 20th visit to one of the most awe-inspiring, long standing agricultural traditions in the United States. It’s amazing how the Royal brings people together throughout generations; grandpas come and watch their grandsons show cattle in the same arena they once showed in. Parents wonder aloud how the times and shows have changed so much but the Royal and its halls still have the same feel and charisma as they always did. Children, between shows and rodeos and meals, run around with their friends pretending to fit cattle or rope steers. The excitement is contagious and it leaves you with a contented feeling long after you’ve left the grounds. It also brings people together that may only see each other once or twice a year. The camaraderie between different families and their children is priceless. There are very few industries in which such close companionship is seen between competitors in the same contest. I have been very privileged to be a part of two such industries: rodeo and livestock showing.
As I was watching the swine showmanship finals last night I heard the judge, Alan Duttlinger, bring up a fantastic point about the Royal. This year was its 110th anniversary — it was established in 1899 — and through the past three centuries it’s mind boggling to think about the massive amounts of people and animals that have passed through both Kemper and Hale arenas. People travel from all over the United States to be a part of the Royal – the majority will never make the Champions Drive but come back every year for the experience and to see their friends from the other side of the country. Once you leave, you can’t wait for next year to roll around so you can make the trek again.
No matter the age, background or general agricultural knowledge, the Royal leaves a lasting impression. Twenty years after my first visit I still anxiously await the trip every fall to admire the livestock and their exhibitors, watch the rodeo and peruse the trade show. If you haven’t been, you’re denying yourself the delight of a timeless agricultural tradition. Go forth and be amazed at the excitement, the wonder and the prestige of the American Royal.