American Royal is 'thriving,' president says

Posted at 6:59 PM, Sep 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-10 19:59:00-04

Although recent changes to its barbecue and parade have accompanied luring interest in other counties, the American Royal is “thriving,” according to President and CEO Bob Petersen.

"Our numbers were up. Our attendance numbers were up. We set aside a record number in recent years for amount of money we spend for mission,” said Petersen.

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According to the 2014 American Royal annual report, the non-profit raked in $5.93 million last year, with a net positive of nearly $350,000, all while giving more than $1 million to youth education and scholarships.

"The crowds have grown. There's been more people. I know the stalls are sold out this year,” said one exhibitor during Thursday morning’s opening day quarter-horse show at Hale Arena.

The competition has about 70 more horse entries than last year.

Petersen said the institution is financially healthy, with a majority of its economic impact coming from such exhibitors who travel from out of state. Add that incoming crowd and Petersen said the economic effects spread throughout the city, totaling nearly $60 million.

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"We feel a lot of time it's taken for granted,” Petersen said. “Sixty million dollars would be having the Big 12 football and basketball championships both here, times two."

The American Royal revenue in 2014 broke down as follows, according to the annual report:

  • 44 percent - Exhibitor Revenue (competitors)
  • 35 percent - Sponsorships
  • 12 percent - Admissions/Ticket Sales
  • 5 percent - Governor’s Program
  • 3 percent - Rental Income
  • 1 percent - Other

History of the American Royal

It’s the 116th year for the Kansas City tradition, which began in 1899 with a cow show inside a tent in the stockyards in the West Bottoms.

Three years after its inception, the name American Royal was adopted. The first parade was in 1926. Kemper hosted the event for the first time in 1975. Five years later, the barbecue competition was added.

The construction of the new American Royal complex across from Kemper began in 1991.

What’s happening in 2015

The World Series of Barbecue will be held at Arrowhead Stadium October 1-4. The American Royal runs through November 24.

Most events are free while the rodeo, barbecue and equine finals are ticketed. A complete list of scheduled events can be found here.


Josh Helmuth can be reached at

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