Looking Back on a 120 Year Old Tradition and its Future

October 21, 2019

What began as the National Hereford show under a circus tent, has now blossomed into one of the largest livestock shows in the country. The American Royal is a tradition that has been rooted in Kansas City history for 120 years.

Along with being a livestock show, the American Royal hosts over 27 events annually including the Livestock Show, a Pro Rodeo, the World Series of Barbecue, 6 equestrian events, educational events, scholarship opportunities, livestock judging contests, and more.

Much of the American Royal’s early success is connected to the existence of the booming Kansas City Stockyards at the time. During its peak activity, the Kansas City Stockyards were second only to those in Chicago.

The origins of the American Royal began in 1899 as the National Hereford Show. The show featured 541 registered Herefords. A permanent structure that was the first home for the American Royal was built in 1908 by the Kansas City Stockyards. In 1922 the first permanent structure dedicated solely to the American Royal was built. From 1925-1991 there was a complex for the American Royal and in 1992 it was torn down for the current American Royal complex.

Progress and changes have occurred along the way. For instance, the Hereford show started out as a male only show. Additions to the events that were held over the years included the first official American Royal Horse Show which occurred in 1905, as well as a rodeo being added.

The first American Royal Barbecue Contest was held in 1980. In 1998, it officially became the “The World’s Largest Barbecue” with 340 teams competing. Today, The World Series of Barbecue, serves as the largest fundraiser for the American Royal.

Plans are in place to move the American Royal to a new event center in Wyandotte County, Kansas, from its notable home in Kansas City, Missouri. The new home of the American Royal will be a purpose built, state of the art agriculture showcase with bigger facilities.

A new chapter is in store for the American Royal. For the past 120 years the American Royal has served to educate and promote agriculture. That same dedication to agriculture and the people involved in it will follow the American Royal into the future.

Written by Amber Johnson, 2019 Livestock Media Intern