Feature: National Western Stock Show

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This event marked the beginning of a career and then developed into a thriving company. So, what’s changed in the past 34 years?

Do you remember how you got into the industry? What about your first event? Have there been any that you’d still consider influential today?

Since 1983, their Citizen of the West event has been a fundraising gala supporting scholarships for agriculture, rural medicine, and veterinary science students. Each year an individual or family is selected from community leaders who exemplify the spirit and determination of a Western pioneer.

After supporting National Western’s Citizen of the West gala for over three decades, we caught up with Encompass’s CEO to talk about the anniversary of his first event, how things have changed, and what’s stayed the same.

Can you tell us a little about your first Citizen of the West event?

A little background is important for this story to make sense …

My dad is an accomplished technician who owned a very reputable technical services company in the 80s and 90s. His company had supported National Western for a few years prior to my involvement.

Back then, unpaid and under-aged internships were sought after and celebrated. Working from home in the evenings and in his warehouse on weekends, I learned to repair equipment and design graphics until my youthfulness wore off enough to be released into the wild.

At the ripe old age of 14, Citizen of the West was my first opportunity to be onsite in a paid position. I designed the graphics and was excited to finally see my work in a live environment. I was joined by my dad and another experienced tech who had supported the event before so it was unclear what my role would be when it came to show time.

Technology, expectations, and budgets were much different in the 1900s (albeit, late in the century). Even though the company was nationally regarded as being highly technical, I remember the budget dictated projecting on the wall instead of a screen and using a single spotlight for the whole stage!

They assigned me to be the camera and the spotlight operator … yes, at the same time. I suppose it made some budgetary and technical sense as one required the other and they shared a small riser. Other positions included one person to engineer, direct, advance graphics, operate playback, and monitor recorders while the other mixed audio, operated house lights, and managed dignitaries going to the stage. As I said, things were very different back then.

So, what’s changed in the last 34 years?

TECHNOLOGY is the first obvious difference …

Two 800-lumen projectors shining directly on the ballroom wall didn’t have the same “wow factor” as three stacks of 20,000-lumen projectors spanning 110′ of screen surface. The modern approach of using multiple cameras, multi-destination switching, and ultra-wide media canvases allows us to creatively utilize the width of their entire arena to visually engage everyone in attendance.

Audio and lighting have come a long way too. Clusters of point-source speakers pale compared to today’s line arrays which allow us to provide even coverage throughout much larger venues. Two main hangs, some front fills, and a handful of subwoofers are simple to deploy and sound incredible.

Although Encompass doesn’t provide the lighting for this particular event, moving LED-based fixtures are much more flexible and require a lot less power than lights back then.

Our entire 1990 BUDGET doesn’t even cover labor these days …

Unfortunately, even non-profit organizations are impacted by inflation. We know every dollar spent on production comes from the Scholarship Trust but an underfunded event is unlikely to retain its largest donors. It’s a delicate balance and we take our advisory responsibility very seriously.

Is there anything that hasn’t changed?

Logistics …

It’s still a one-day event but a much bigger lift than before. We have 20 hours for setup, rehearsal, show, and strike. Setup and strike are particularly challenging given the compressed schedule between the evening livestock show and the professional rodeo that bookend our event in the same arena.

Our Team …

I’m hovering around 3.5 decades but several of our teammates are celebrating 10+ years supporting this event! It’s a testament to everyone’s dedication and longevity.

Expectations …

The technical design doesn’t change from year to year but we always generate content that’s highly personalized to the honoree and their accomplishments (this is the only event Encompass creates content for). Stock imagery would absolutely suffice so it’s a detail that only the honoree and committee members notice that has become an underlying hallmark of the event.

What have you taken away from the past three decades with National Western?

National Western’s Citizen of the West event is a physical manifestation of our culture at Encompass …

We arrive oddly bright-eyed at 4:00 am, happily work in a dusty horse arena for 20 straight hours, and leave with an overwhelming sense of fulfillment.

So, how does that transpire throughout the year on other events?

Whether planning at the office or executing onsite, we show up with the same dedication and intensity every day.

We quickly develop an innate trust within and between our organizations and know what to expect from each other. Oftentimes, much of the planning goes unspoken/unnoticed without deviating from our normal process.

That intimacy is a game-changer as organizations grow together!

At Encompass, we have unique backgrounds that situate us perfectly to produce high-end and complex offerings. We’ve worked in broadcast television, touring entertainment, live sporting events, and countless convention facilities across the country.

We have technical design experience and a disciplined process in place that allows us to easily scale events and shift from in-person to virtual without angst. There isn’t much beyond our scope and we love the intensity of putting on events!

If you’re a planner working to create an event, seeking help with event technology, or simply want to learn more … we can help! Sign up below to receive our updates (we promise to keep your contact information secure and won’t “overshare”).

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