I've written before that urban centers, despite popular misconception, have historically been, and are still strongly connected to agriculture. Kansas City's West Bottoms are no exception, being a mixed bag of urban bohemia and agricultural history. With the numerous antique and vintage shops like Good Juju and Hickory Dickory, it might not seem like the kind of place that was once home to International Harvester and Advance-Rumely plants and the Kansas City Livestock Exchange, but it is.
This time of year, the district draws anyone looking for a good scare in haunted house attractions like Macabre Cinema and The Beast. However, the district is also known for another fall tradition, the American Royal livestock show, which began this week.
An economic driver for Kansas City
The show was first held in 1899 as the National Hereford Show in a large tent in the Kansas City Stockyards. It was the first nationwide event for the exposition and sale of purebred cattle, according to the American Royal website. The show also helped set the foundation for the economic expansion of Kansas City, showcasing improvements to the food distribution supply line and complementing the stockyards, a major employer in the area.
The name was changed to the American Royal in 1902, and over the years, different breeds of cattle, swine, sheep and goats were added. The event has hosted celebrities like Roy Rogers, Andy Griffith, President Eisenhower and Missourian's own famous horse trainer Tom Bass. Today, the show is a reminder of the significance the district has had in the past in connecting urban and rural, drawing over 69,000 visitors annually.
The American Royal Association remains a huge economic contributor. According to the American Royal website, it brings an estimated $60 million to the local economy annually with its events, including the livestock show and another Kansas City tradition, the World Series of Barbecue, which attracts over 70,000 people from around the world annually and is where K.C. Masterpiece barbecue sauce got its start.