Annual event celebrates blend of history, future.

Beef production has been an economic force for many years in southwest Kansas making it a strong local tradition, to say the least.

A look around delivers plenty of proof, from grazing cattle to feedlots and meatpacking plants. And it's all been cause for a grand celebration every year since the late 1960s, with local residents and visitors honoring the industry during Beef Empire Days in Garden City.

Count this year's Beef Empire Days "Beef ... The Taste of Tradition!" as another opportunity to celebrate the significant impact of an industry that for generations has energized the regional economy with cattle ranches, feedlots, packing plants and related businesses.

The local event, which runs Friday through June 9, offers an impressive menu of educational and entertaining events for all ages, and helps people understand what happens behind the scenes in beef production.

When it comes to tradition, the history of an industry that has done so much to drive the local economy always warrants attention.

At the same time, its future matters even more. Look for Beef Empire Days demonstrations, events and other information to address innovation and related developments in a state that repeatedly turns out impressive numbers.

Kansas ranked third nationally with 5.85 million cattle on ranches and in feedyards as of Jan. 1, 2013, according to the Kansas Livestock Association.

The Sunflower State also was third in commercial cattle processed in 2011 with 6.4 million head all the more notable at a time painfully dry conditions have exacted a toll.

Feedlots and meatpacking plants in particular have been feeling the heat of severe drought for years. Soaring grain prices driven by drought meant more expensive livestock feed costly enough to affect cattle numbers as feedlots found it tougher to operate.

While the business always presents challenges, people in the industry have shown a willingness to improvise and make changes when necessary in order to prosper. As a result, the successful past and future of beef production in a region known for delivering a quality product will remain cause for celebration.

Enjoy this year's offering of Beef Empire Days.