Almost every small south Texas town annually hosts a local event which helps foster community in that town. Most events are either rodeos or festivals which emphasize what the town is known for, like the Watermelon Festival in Luling, Texas or the Poteet Strawberry Festival in Poteet, Texas. The three largest rodeos in Texas are the Ft. Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, and the largest in the world, The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Because these events attracted thousands of people from across the state and nation, the local beer companies would compete to buy the grand champion livestock. Schlitz, the largest selling brand for years, always bought the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo champion, and at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, either Lone Star or Pearl purchased the champion livestock since these breweries were headquartered there. The animals typically were raised by local high school kids who used the money earned from the sale to pay for college tuition. The animal was typically donated to an orphanage.
The Rio Grande Valley Livestock show was the biggest event in my area, and annually, in conjunction with the Pearl Brewing Co., we purchased the Grand Champion pig and would donate it to the boys’ home in the Valley. Every year I’d get a letter from the young owner of the Grand Champion pig thanking me and Pearl for helping finance his/her college education.
I never sponsored any of these events with the thought of “selling” more beer, I did it because it was the right thing to do for the community that we embodied. I believe that almost all distributors feel this way when sponsoring an event of this nature. It is the right thing to do when we can help people in the community we serve.
The three-tier system provides many services for our industry. As we know, the three-tier system is under attack from many critics either directly involved in the industry, politicians or the media. In defending the three-tier system, the industry has emphasized such benefits as: quality control for fresher beer; efforts to eliminate under age drinking and DUI enforcement, and, of course; effective service to the retail trade. While all of these planks support the three-tier system, perhaps the community support distributors provide is the most important platform for the three-tier argument.
I once knew a Miller distributor who had, for the second time become the dominate distributor. He first success was with Falstaff. This gentleman refused to support anything in the community. In his opinion, supporting community events was not important. He assumed Miller would die, as had Falstaff and why waste the time and money. He has been long gone from the business. It’s funny how those who support the market are ones usually doing very well.
Whether it’s a rodeo or a festival, or even a German Oktoberfest (best kind of special event), the local distributor involvement makes it special. I look back with great fondness on those letters from the young future farmers who thanked me for buying their livestock. Those letters are really a small act of kindness!