The cold, miserable, snowy, “Stock Show weather” arrived a week early, so the kick-off parade for the 108th edition of the National Western Stock Show progressed the 14 blocks up 17th Street from its starting point at Union Station in downtown Denver under a sunny sky and temperatures at a seemingly balmy 40 degrees.
After the Stock Show discontinued the downtown parade for a number of years, the parade was revived in 1985, and the tradition of the parade has continued without interruption right up to the 108th National Western.
The Stock Show is part of the history of Denver. It is a reflection of the early days of the city, when Denver was a railroad hub, from which beef cattle were sent to feedlots and markets across the United States.
“The Stock Show is a huge cultural icon — we have been doing this in Denver for 108 years,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. “It’s very important to the fabric of our state. I’m excited about what is about to happen here, and I’m looking forward to everyone coming to Denver and enjoying it.”
Aside from being part of the tradition of the city of Denver, the National Western Stock Show is a huge money-maker.
“The Stock Show is responsible for over 60,000 people coming to Colorado over this celebration. Over $8 million will be infused into our economy as a result of these next couple of weeks,” said Mayor Hancock.
In addition to politicians, there was plenty of rodeo royalty on hand, as rodeo queens and their attendants from all over Colorado came to ride in the parade. There were antique trucks and wagons, a mountain man or two, the Greeley Stampede Riders, the Westernaires and a whole lot of silver encrusted Bohlin parade saddles.
But the stars of the show were the Texas Longhorn cattle that led off the parade.
“You could run 300 Angus down the street and it would create less excitement than three dozen Texas Longhorns, because that’s what people associate with the Old West,” said Stan Searle, owner of the Searle Longhorn Ranch in Monument, Colo.
“The first cattle into Denver were Longhorns,” added Searle. “Longhorns were the cattle in the trail drives from Texas up the Arkansas Valley around 1860, when Oliver Loving first brought them to Denver. After the Civil War, Goodnight and Loving hooked up and brought the cattle over Raton Pass to Denver, on what became the Goodnight-Loving Trail.”
Watching Longhorn cattle being driven through the concrete canyons of downtown is a reminder of the historical significance that the cattle industry has had on the city of Denver.
Parades are family events, although the kids seem to not care too much about the history — they just know that a parade is fun and a great way to kick off the National Western Stock Show. ❖