When someone mentions the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, what comes to mind? Funnel cakes, livestock shows, carnival rides and rodeos? At first glance, it is easy to assume that is what this yearly event is all about. Take a closer look, however, and you’ll find an organization dedicated to agriculture, education and the youth of Texas.
Those who interact with the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo on a personal level describe the organization as passionate, giving, dedicated, perseverant, and caring. Established in 1949 by Joe Freeman, his motivations for creating the organization were youth and agriculture.
“Our mission is a volunteer organization that emphasizes agriculture and education to develop the youth of Texas – our mission is at the forefront of everything we do,” said Lauren Sides, communications and public relations manager for the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.
A History of Giving
In 1984, the organization awarded 15, four-year scholarships to students. Thus, began their history of supporting Texas youth through education and agriculture.
Two years later, Texas Tech University became a San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo educational partner, signaling the beginning of a long, prosperous relationship that has impacted thousands of students. There have been many influential people that have helped cultivate the relationship between the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo and Texas Tech. Mark Miller, Ph.D, professor of meat science, food processing and preservation at Texas Tech, is one of them. In 1991, Miller gave Kenneth Bell, a San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo volunteer and former Texas Tech student, a tour of the university’s meat science laboratory. Bell then made Miller a proposal.
“[Bell] said ‘Hey, maybe you could help us start a meat judging contest at San Antonio,’” Miller said. “So, I went to San Antonio and met with Keith Martin [former CEO] in his executive office, and we began the first San Antonio Livestock Exposition judging contest – and it was a meat judging contest held in 1992.”
Miller has since been very involved with the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo and serves in many capacities. He is a judge for the commercial steers, he serves as a superintendent for both the breeding heifer show and meat judging contest and he helps coordinate internships and student interactions. In 2004, the organization created the San Antonio Livestock Exposition Endowed Chair in Meat Science, which Miller now holds. That endowment has opened many doors for students and faculty at Texas Tech.
Continuing to Give
Since 1986, San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo has incessantly supported students, faculty and programs within Texas Tech’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. The Meat Science and Muscle Biology Food Safety Program, Texas Tech Therapeutic Riding Center and the Matador Institute for Leadership Engagement are three CASNR programs that currently receive support from the organization through grants and scholarships.
Heidi Brady, Ph.D., co-director of the Therapeutic Riding Center, said they have been an amazing supporter of the program since 2003.
“San Antonio has been so faithful and generous every year,” Brady said. “There were times, I can say, where if it hadn’t been for San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo, I don’t think our program would be here today.”
Prior to COVID, the center was serving around 70 to 80 individuals each week with services focused on hippotherapy, therapeutic riding and equine assisted mental health and counseling. Currently, San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo supports the program through “riderships,” which are scholarships given to children in the program. Brady said their support certainly makes a difference in the program, but more importantly, in children’s lives.
“[San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo] truly believes in our program,” Brady said. “We go down there every year and we tell them some of the success stories of our individuals and they’ve come up and seen the riders ride. They support us as a program, and they really believe in it as well. That has meant a lot to us.”
A Lasting Impact
Throughout the last 30 years, there have been 928 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo scholars at Texas Tech. San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo has given over $6.3 million to university students through scholarships, program gifts and endowments. Beyond Texas Tech, they have given around $223 million to kids across the state of Texas.
Amy Wise, chairmen of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo scholarship committee, said all of this is made possible by about 30 staff members and around 6,000 volunteers who spend countless hours fundraising, serving on committees and working the 18-day event every February.
“It’s thrilling to be able to work and raise money on a committee that benefits the scholarship fund and then actually meet with those students that are receiving those funds,” Wise said.
San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo’s impact reaches kids reaches far and wide. Aside from awarding funding to educational partners, they also award scholarships to students who win contests.
“Standing in an arena, hearing the grand champion winner and seeing a parent in utter tears, because their child who maybe couldn’t afford college is now going to be able to go [is amazing],” Wise said. “That’s the culmination. That’s it. That’s all of the hard work.”
Across Texas, there have been over 21, 200 students who have been educationally impacted by San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo in one way or another. Taylin Antonick, a junior agricultural and applied economics major at Texas Tech and a member of the second MILE Program cohort, has been impacted by their generosity in more ways than one. Aside from benefiting from their support of the CASNR MILE Program, she also received a scholarship from them in high school through a public speaking contest. Antonick said scholarships such as these made coming to college a reality for her.
“I know that for me, without the scholarships I’ve received, college wouldn’t have been something that was attainable,” Antonick said. “There are no words to describe how thankful I am for organizations like the San Antonio Livestock Show for all of the hard work they put into funding students’ educations and making it possible for us to grow beyond what we thought was possible.”
Though there are many ways San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo impacts students, the impression they leave on each is tremendous and long lasting. At Texas Tech, their generosity has allowed MILE Program students to develop leadership skills they will take with them into the careers. It has allowed children with disabilities to take first steps or speak their first words at the Therapeutic Riding Center. Miller, endowed chair in meat science, said the endowment has enabled him to impact students in a variety of ways.
“If you really want to know what the SALE chair does, it has an impact on students which then go out and have an impact on society, it’s like a ripple effect,” Miller said.
Miller said throughout his entire time working with San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, his favorite thing to reminisce on is the number of dedicated and selfless volunteers he has met through the organization. He said the relationship is special because you can see the passion, heart and genuine interest they have for the youth of Texas.
“San Antonio is a great friend, and we’ve has a great relationship for 30 years. Hand in hand, we’ve impacted thousands of students lives, forever,” Miller said.