The History and Influence of the American Royal
First held in 1980, The American Royal World Series of Barbecue continues to be one of the largest BBQ competitions in the world. This contest along with its parent organization has had a wide influence, being the namesake and a historic streamlined train between Chicago and Kansas City and more impressively, the Kansas City Royals. The American Royal has gathered and inspired the creators of organizations like the Future Farmers of America, Kansas City Barbecue Society, and FireBoard Labs.
Birthplace of the American Royal
Starting in 1871 on 13 acres of river bottom land west of downtown, the West Bottoms of Kansas City were home to various companies that would become the second largest livestock distribution center in the US. The largest being Chicago’s Union Stockyards. The KC Stock Yards grew in size to over 200 acres, and at its most productive time would receive a combined count of 160,000 head of cattle, hogs, sheep, horses, and mules every day!
At one point sixteen different railroad companies joined in the Stock Yards that would deliver 300 train cars of cattle daily. Given industry and transportation changes, the age of the KC Stock Yards came to an end in 1991. In totality, an estimated 443 million head of livestock were brokered via the Kanas City Stock Yards.
American Royal History
The American Royal, a beloved institution in Kansas City, was originally started in the fall of 1899 as the nation’s first purebred cattle show and sale. This first show’s estimated attendance of 55,000 proved the popularity and necessity of an organization to represent excellence in agriculture. The Royal began to attract agriculture students and educators in growing numbers and eventually became the first meeting place of the Future Farmers of America in 1928.
The American Royal continued to promote excellence in agriculture by adding non-profit competitions such as their Rodeo in 1949 and BBQ competition in 1980. The agriculture world reveres the champion of any American Royal competition. AR continues to raise funds to promote agriculture education via scholarships and educational programs.
Over the years, the American Royal World Series of Barbecue continued to grow in popularity in both entrants attracting competition teams from around the world, and in attendance, as the event remains a popular event for Kansas Citians to celebrate our livestock culture and celebrate the end of summer.
After 35 years in the Stock Yards district, alternate locations were sought out by the American Royal Association to provide more room for attendees and competitions. In 2015 it was held at Arrowhead Stadium, and in 2016 the BBQ competition relocated again to its current venue, the Kansas Speedway.
What the Future Will Bring
In October 2019 the American Royal Association announced their acquisition of over 100 acres of land where they will build a new complex adjacent to the Kansas Speedway. Thus solidifying the Royal’s future with ample space for its signature events and developing the “premier, state-of-the-art food and agriculture showcase for discovery, learning, and engagement.”