There are two persistent statements that you will hear relating to the National Western Stock Show, which is held in Denver, Colo., each year in January. One relates to Stock Show Weather and the other to the Stock Show Crud, a respiratory infection. Are these truly fact, or have they just been repeated enough to be assumed to be true? Are they real or urban legend?
When people talk about Stock Show Weather, they are referring to miserable, frigid, snowy weather that arrives just at the start of Stock Show and continues throughout its two week run. Does this actually happen? Well, not really, but to some degree it depends on who you are talking to. The Stock Show happens in Denver, Colo., in January. Talk to a rancher from south Texas and he will wonder how people can live in this artic weather, while a rancher from Minnesota or Canada might compare the weather to a balmy spring day back home.
It can definitely get cold in Denver. Since 1872, there have been 29 dates with a recorded morning low temperature of at least -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Of those 29 days, 14 of them occurred in January, and the coldest temperature ever recorded in Denver was measured on January 9, 1875 when it was -29 degrees Fahrenheit.
But temperatures like that are the exception and not the norm. The average January temperature during the years from 1981 to 2010 is 30.7 degrees Fahrenheit. And weather records do not indicate that there is a huge amount of snow in Denver during January either. The average January snowfall during the same period is only 7.0 inches. There have been two recent notable exceptions — during January, 2007, the average snowfall for Denver was 15.9 inches and in January, 1992, it was 24.3 inches.
The Denver Post has reported, “... analysis of daily temperatures for the past 60 years reveals there weren’t that many really cold days during the National Western Stock Show. In fact, 76 percent of the days between Jan. 10 and Jan. 25 have had daytime high temperatures of 36 degrees or higher. Only 3 percent fall into the bitterly cold category, with daytime highs of 15 degrees or less.”
I think miserable Stock Show Weather can be safely relegated to the status of “urban myth,” but what about the dreaded Stock Show Crud? Not surprisingly, doing a Google search will show references to a respiratory infection called “the crud” or “stock show crud” in every city where a major stock show is held. Mentions in newspapers in Utah and South Dakota even called it the “Denver crud.”
In 1996 the City and county of Denver requested the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) do a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) report because of “reports of health problems repeatedly experienced by City and County employees after working at the NWSS. These health problems included a variety of allergic and flu or cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, congestion of the nose, throat and lungs; fever, and eye irritation. These symptoms had become so commonplace that workers and visitors to the NWSS had collectively termed them the ‘Stock Show Crud.’ The request specified assistance in monitoring exposures to carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide (as an indicator of ventilation efficiency), total and respirable dust, free silica, and bioaerosols,” as stated in the 43 page report.
NIOSH tested for various parameters throughout the Stock Show Complex and came back with lots of scientific data which boiled down to some common sense conclusions which can be paraphrased as — there is no mysterious, single source for “the Crud.” Many of the respiratory symptoms can be traced to allergies, and just because you are not allergic to hair or dander from your horse, cow, cat or dog does not mean that you are not allergic to alpacas, llamas or any of the hundreds of species and breeds at the Stock Show.
There are a large number of aerosol chemicals associated with grooming. Arena floors are sprayed to reduce dust, but there is still dust in the air. Even though biological waste is removed promptly, there is still some ammonia in the air. During colder temperatures all of this is exacerbated because doors are shut and air flow is reduced.
And then there is the “guilt by association problem.” A seemingly healthy person goes to the NWSS and comes down with a cold or the flu. Automatically, the Stock Show is blamed for giving them the Stock Show Crud, and not the fact that everyone in their office has the flu.
So is the Stock Show Crud real? You bet it is real, but it is only flu-like symptoms and you do not get it automatically when you enter a building at the NWSS. We have an incredible stock show in Denver which still has the history that shows like Fort Worth and San Antonio have long ago lost. Do not let the fact that you might come down with something that feels like a cold stop you from experiencing the last real stock show in the west. ❖