Around the National Western Stock Show
If you want to take advantage of all the National Western Stock Show has to offer, you had better put on your ‘walking shoes’ and bundle up. Cold and snow in January are so predictable that it has been named “Stock Show Weather”. A lot of what is going on at the National Western happens out in The Yards. The Yards hold the real history of the Stock Show. The first show was held in 1906 when cattlemen brought their stock in on the now defunct Denver Union railroad to show and sell to buyers. The Grand Champion Steer at that first show sold for 33 cents a pound. Last year’s Grand Champion Steer was purchased for $80,000.
The Yards are still there and still in use 102 years later. Now, besides the Livestock Center and the Stockyard Arena, which are in the Yards, there is the Events Center, which is devoted to horses, and the Coliseum where most of the ticked events are held.
The other major building area is the Hall of Education, Expo Hall, Stadium Hall, and the Stadium Arena. All of these buildings are connected – in 1909 the National Amphitheater (called the Stadium Arena on most of the maps) was built and the Stock Show expanded by just adding more buildings to it. In any case, there is a lot to found here and a lot of walking to be done to find your way through what can seem like a maze.
The lower levels of the Hall of Education complex are devoted to animals. There you will find cattle, sheep, goats, swine, and poultry. There are plenty of purely show animals, but it is in the arenas that the real business of the Stock Show goes on – the sale of cattle and other animals. To make the animals attractive for sale, they are groomed constantly. Out in The Yards and the Hall of Education, there is the constant whine of blow dryers and clippers as animals are groomed. Kathi Creamer, of Montrose, Colorado, who brings registered Black Angus cattle to the Stock Show every year says of the grooming process, “We clip their hair. They are washed and blown dry daily. We also use a conditioner on their hair. We want just the right look – just like a beauty pageant.”
The upper level of the Hall of Education is where you will find all of the commercial vendors. Every nook and cranny is filled with a vendor of some sort. You could buy everything from squeeze chutes to barns and tractors. There were also the official NWSS souvenirs, and who could go home without a cowboy hat made from Coors six packs. You could buy a new hat or have your old one cleaned. For those who wanted to take a break from all the walking, they could sit with their feet in a pan of clear liquid and watch it turn a nasty brown color as their body was ‘de-toxed’.
There were plenty of horse events going on over in the Events Center Arena. There were class shows, including Draft Horses and Mules, and ticketed events such as the Dodge Invitational Freestyle Reining and An Evening of Dancing Horses. Over at the Coliseum, there were some outstanding ticked events such as Pro Rodeo, the Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza, and the PBR.
The National Western Stock Show is one of the last stock shows in the country to have outdoor carload and pen cattle shows. From its inauspicious beginning as a one-day event in 1906, the Stock Show was grown to a 16 day super-show. In 2008, the Stock Show Association announced that it has entered into talks with a private company to move the NWSS to a new complex east of Denver. While there would certain advantages to such a move, the history of the Stock Show would be lost as the National Amphitheater and The Yards would be gone.
Even if the Stock Show does move, it will take a couple of years. So next year, round up the kids and spend a couple of days at the National Western Stock Show. It will be fun for all and the kids can touch some history while it is still there.