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Mader: My memories at National Western

Though I'm always bummed when the Christmas season is over, I get over it pretty quickly when I think about January. Not only is my birthday in January, but there was also the farm show and the stock show to get excited about.

When I was a kid, National Western Stock Show was one of my favorite events of the year. My dad's birthday is in January like mine, so we usually ended up going to the show multiple times. We'd catch a bull riding event on his birthday and then go again to look around for my birthday. One year, my folks even bought a bull at one of the auctions there — that was exciting.

As a fan of the show, I never realized how much work went into putting on the event until I worked for them one January when I was in college.

I won a scholarship from the NWSS during the fall of my senior year. One of the scholarship requirements was to intern at the NWSS for 3 weeks.

I was pretty excited about working at the NWSS and couldn't wait for January. I reported to work five days before the show officially started. I was a little bummed that they placed me in the ticket and press offices — I wanted to be in the middle of the action somewhere — but I figured that it would be an easy (albeit boring) job.

I was wrong.

When I showed up for work I could barely get through the door of my boss's office. Dozens of photographers and journalists were lined up to get press credentials for the show. Many others were calling in or emailing for the same thing. In fact, the phone never seemed to stop ringing.

My boss, a cheery white-haired man named Bill Saul, never stopped moving. He rushed from media event to radio interview to press conference. When he was in the office he put out all kinds of fires — press who weren't happy with their credentials, journalists who wanted free rodeo tickets, news stations who had questions.

I answered dozens of calls per day, typed up event schedules and responded to emails. My favorite part was delivering rodeo programs to staff and performers before each rodeo. I had no idea that the coliseum had so many dressing rooms and offices.

When I wasn't working for Bill, I helped ticket manager Kyle Baun. The phones in his office seemed to ring even more than Bill's did. People called with questions ranging from the price of tickets to how to enter their pet chicken in the NWSS. People also called about refunds, discounts and replacement tickets. I had no idea that replacing tickets took several pages of paperwork and that each and every show discount coupon had to be individually counted and bundled.

Selling tickets also involved way more work than I thought it would. There were so many function keys used to navigate around the screen that I couldn't keep it straight. Everyone who came to buy tickets wanted fast service and I had no idea what I was doing. Before working there I used to get angry with people for being slow at the ticket window, but now I have a lot more respect for how stressful that kind of job can be.

Working at the NWSS was an incredible experience. I haven't been able to go for quite a few years since I've been living far away, so I'm excited to get to experience it again this year. I will definitely be thinking of the hard working Bill Saul when I am there. He was a big part of the NWSS and unfortunately passed away a few years ago. Bill was a spokesman for the NWSS for 38 years and worked there for several more after he retired. ❖