If you think the lessons learned in school are left behind, think again! The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Livestock Committee is comprised of nearly 1,300 hard working individuals, many with an extensive 4H or FFA background. Both organizations empower young leaders, so it’s no doubt that many of the program participants use what they’ve learned to impact the lives of others!
But by no means is such a background necessary to lend a hand to one of the 18 small “families” (better known as sub-committees) that make up the Livestock Committee. These sub-committees manage aspects of the annual San Antonio Stock Show ranging from welcoming contestants to setting up the show rings, and there is a place in their family for everyone from city slickers to agricultural leaders.
At the helm of this incredible team are Chairman, John Henderson and Vice-Chairman, Sarah Franklin, who gave excellent insight into the motivations behind this crew.
John Henderson’s 25 years of Stock Show volunteerism were inspired by his success here as a steer-showing 4H’er. After graduating from law school, he was looking for a way to get involved in the local community. A few calls was all it took to get him working on the creation of the Junior Commercial Steer Show, an event he went on to plan for many years. Sarah has spent her life around the agricultural industry as well, showing barrows and steers in her hometown of Pleasanton and at the San Antonio Stock Show. Her return as an adult was a way to give back to stock shows for everything they gave her growing up, including a S.A.L.E. School Tours Scholarship of her own.
It’s not just the Livestock Committee volunteers who come from diverse backgrounds; the student exhibitors do too! Sarah is quick to correct the misconception that exhibitors must show cattle or pigs, or live in the country to be involved in a Livestock show. That’s simply not the case! A diverse array of competitions from Agrobotics to Science Fair and Food Challenge to Skillathons allow students the opportunity to compete for scholarships without needing an animal.
What’s in it for a Livestock Committee volunteer? The satisfaction of supporting the “best kids in the state” says John, and “Knowing you are making an impact on their lives. Witnessing the amount of work they put into their commitment. The look on their faces when they win, be it a scholarship or a contest.”
Humbling, impactful moments are plentiful during the annual Stock Show. John recalls one of a few instances where a young child wowed the crowd. Junior Commercial Steer Show participants must give a three to five minute speech, with their voices booming through a microphone as their parents and peers look on. A rookie nine-year-old performed a perfectly memorized speech about his grandfather, epitomizing what 4H and FFA are all about, and remarkably won. Extraordinary kids like these exemplify why John stays dedicated to volunteering.
Most of Sarah’s important memories center on these competitive moments as well; particularly the scholarship presentations. Back in her days of leading the Ag Science Sub-Committee, she watched from a distance as a humble FFA member presented her Agricultural Science Fair project to the judges. This competitor in a tough field ultimately won her division, earning a scholarship. To cap off an emotional victory celebration, the student greeted Sarah with a hug and a heartfelt thank you, stating that college was not going to be possible without this scholarship. These moments of impact on students tug at Sarah’s heart and remind her why she’s here.
The celebrations are not all behind the scenes! The public are always welcome in the Livestock barns, and the Rodeo patrons even get a glimpse of the fun. John vividly described the excitement of the annual Champion Steer Drive. Sure, perfectly executing all of the timing and movements is nerve-wracking, but it’s worth it for the neat tradition of escorting steers into the AT&T Center rodeo arena. Participating in a drive himself in his heyday, John perfectly understands what this climactic moment means to the kids and parents alike.
Beyond the rewarding, challenging labor and tearful scholarship celebrations, this committee enjoys fun times together. John says, “The camaraderie, the process, the time spent together…you see the amount of fun this team has together. It becomes a part of your life very easily.” Sarah adds that “This group works hard and plays hard too, with many of them hanging out for fun outside of the Stock Show.” This committee just can’t get enough of each other…although a little birdie says that on the rare occasion John needs a retreat, you may find him in the Horse Show Office taking respite on their comfy couch.