Garry Holder climbed into his F-350 pickup at 10 a.m. Sunday and was still calling it home 24 hours later.
And he’s not done yet.
Holder and hundreds of other Fort Worth Stock Show participants can’t move their steers into the cattle barns until 7 a.m. Tuesday — an annual rite of passage (literally) known as move-in day.
Holder arrived in Fort Worth about 10:30 Sunday night and sat patiently at the intersection of Trail Drive and and University Drive, waiting for 7 a.m. Monday, when the staging area to Farrington Field’s east parking lot opened. And although a handful of other drivers had beaten him to the parking lot, a savvy Holder slipped past them into the No. 1 spot for the move-in.
“This is not my first rodeo,” said Holder, 64. “Six or seven people beat me here. But they were stopped along Trail Drive, not knowing what to do. I just pulled up to the gate, and they lined up behind me.”
Holder drove 326 miles from the West Texas town of Andrews to Fort Worth, hauling a 26-foot-long gooseneck trailer filled with 14,000 pounds of feed, shavings and equipment — enough to support more than two dozen steers.
Hundreds of 4-H and FFA students and the grown-ups who work with them are descending on Cowtown for this week’s steer and barrow shows. Pig raisers started taking their projects to the swine barn Monday afternoon. Youngsters showing steers in the Junior Livestock Show will begin filling the cattle barns on Tuesday.
The junior shows are the premier events at the Stock Show, capped by Saturday’s Sale of Champions, which last year resulted in a record $3.7 million raised for the exhibitors.
‘Looks like a disaster’
Being first in line is such a coveted spot that people like Holder are willing to spend two nights in their trucks and trailers to get it.
By 10 a.m. Monday, there were about 40 rigs in line behind Holder.
Ultimately, there will be between 800 and 1,200 rigs lined up at Farrington Field and the blue parking lot, just south of the barns at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, said Ronnie Grason.
“It will be bumper to bumper right up until 8 p.m.” Tuesday, said Grason, who has been helping coordinate the move-in for 13 years.
To the newcomer, the controlled chaos of move-in day “looks like a disaster,” said Danny Lewis of Fort Worth, who has been working move-in days for 15 years.
However, to Billy Samuel, who oversees the movement of vehicles for the Stock Show, turning chaos into choreography is “a piece of cake.”
“This is my 34th year with the Stock Show,” said Samuel, a retired Fort Worth police officer. “We’ll have about 11 officers directing traffic” at Farrington Field and surrounding streets.
“The police officers have been doing it so long that we have the flow very even and the situation controlled,” Samuel said. “One advantage we have is that it’s Tuesday, the middle of the week, so there’s not a lot of [non-Stock Show] traffic.”
Samuel said he hasn’t heard any complaints from residents of the Cultural District, which surrounds the Stock Show grounds.
“We keep the vehicles in a single lane and keep the flow of traffic open,” he said.
Officers patrol Farrington Field and the blue parking lot all night to keep the families, agriculture teachers and their rigs safe, Samuel said.
That’s a good feeling for folks like Holder, who taught agriculture in the Andrews school district until he retired three years ago.
He brought his children and their projects to the Stock Show for 26 years. This year, his only blood relative among the more than two dozen 4-H and FFA students he’s helping is his grandson, 10-year-old Graden Alan of Lynn County 4-H. As long as kids from Andrews, Midland, Lubbock and other towns near his home need him, Holder will keep making the drive.
“I can’t outgrow it,” Holder said. “Come the first of February, I’m going to be in Fort Worth. This is my hobby, and I love it.”