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Feb 17th
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Home Things to Do Festivals American Royal Celebrates the West’s Agricultural Heritage With Variety of Horse, Livestock, Rodeo Events

American Royal Celebrates the West’s Agricultural Heritage With Variety of Horse, Livestock, Rodeo Events

Kansas City’s Fall Classic Provides $1.5 Million for Education, Scholarships

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The American Royal is quite possibly America's greatest Western celebration, a collection of equestrian shows, livestock displays, entertainment and rodeo events that honor not only the best of the West's traditions, but the heritage of the people who built our agrarian economy.

With roots that go deep into Kansas City's history, for 110 years The American Royal's purpose has been to promote agricultural business, education and values, provide scholarships and awards to young people to encourage agrarian learning experiences, and have some fun along the way.

The American Royal Association, a not-for-profit corporation that puts on the 11-week fall classic, does it all mainly with volunteers. Each year about 250,000 visitors attend the American Royal and enjoy at least one of the organization's 40 events.

"Last year we generated about $1.5 million in scholarships and for education," Jim McNair, the group's president and CEO, told OldWestNewWest.com. "It's all about raising money for kids for education."

This year American Royal 2009 begins Sept. 12 with a two-day Youth Horse Show, presented by Bayer Animal Health. With young people ages 8 to 18 participating. Classes will include horsemanship, equitation, showmanship and pleasure riding.

The Youth Horse Show sets the stage for the American Royal's major events which include the 84th annual American Royal Parade on Sept. 26, the 30th Annual American Royal Barbecue on Oct. 1-4, the American Royal Pro Rodeo on Oct. 22-24,  the 2009 Livestock Show on Oct. 27 - Nov. 1, and concluding with the UPHA/American Royal National Championship saddlebred show on Nov. 17-21.

There's lots of activities in between the major events as well.

"We have about 2,000 volunteers, and 40 different committees in charge of 40 different events," McNair said. "There's a lot of pride and spirit about what we do, and it's all about raising money for kids for education."

Of all the events the American Royal puts on each year, perhaps the American Royal Barbecue draws the most attention - it certainly draws the most appetites.

"It is the largest barbeque competition in the world," McNair said. "We get 500 teams for the competition, and the next largest barbeque competition has about 220 teams. We get between 70,000 to 80,000 hungry fans coming here for the event, and we have around 900 judges."

This year the top prize for grand champ will be $12,500 and a $10,000 smoker.

"In total we will give away $100,00 in cash and $20,000 in prizes," he said.

Aside from the major competition events, one of the most popular features is the American Royal School Tours which takes place Oct. 19-23.

"we have around 20,000 kids that come through the program, most within 50-mile radius of Kansas City," McNair said.

The school program includes the ADM world of Agriculture experience, a mobile dairy classroom, a petting zoo, the Royal Rodeo University which includes riding simulators, an agriculture magic show, and the McDonalds Invitational Youth Rodeo.

There's a nominal fee of $5 per student, and teachers sign up their classrooms.

"The program focuses on the classroom," he explained. "The kids come in, we talk about eating healthy, being healthy, show them the importance of agriculture, give them lunch, then put them back on the bus."

The underlying theme of the American Royal is tradition and families.

"We are quite proud of our heritage," he added. "We have a lot of people who come here and share their family stories We hear that maybe they are the second or third generation off the farm. Maybe their grandparents came down for the rodeo, or watched the American Royal as a child. They tell us that the family didn't have a lot, but they always came to see the Royal. That's important to us."

The 2009 lineup includes:

  • - Youth Horse Show / Sept. 12-13
  • - Quarter Horse Show / Sept. 17-20
  • - Arabian Horse Show / Sept. 25-27
  • - 84th annual American Royal Parade / Sept. 26 starting at 10 a.m.
  • - 30th Annual American Royal Barbecue / Oct. 1-4
  • - Hunter/Jumper Show & Grand Prix / Oct. 9-11 and Oct. 14-18
  • - Equine Extravaganza / Oct. 10
  • - Wine Competition, Tasting and Auction / Oct. 15
  • - Invitational Youth Rodeo Series / Oct. 19 - 24
  • - American Royal Pro Rodeo / Oct. 22-24
  • - Family Fun Day / Oct. 24, 2009
  • - Championship Bull Riding / Oct. 30 and Nov. 1
  • - Livestock Show / Oct. 27 - Nov. 1
  • - American Royal Barrel Race / Nov. 5-8
  • - Cutting Horse Show / Nov. 11 - 14
  • - The UPHA/American Royal National Championship / Nov. 17-21

One of the new events for 2009 is barrel racing.

"It's three days where all we'll have is barrel racing for men and women, eight hours a day," he said. "We'll run 50 an hour and max out at 400 entries. It's going to be great for the public to enjoy."

Most events take place at the American Royal complex / Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri.

"If you've never been to the American Royal before, you've got to come and see it, bring the family and have some fun," McNair said.

For more information on event times, ticket prices and registration, visit the American Royal Web site at

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