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Celebrating America breaks records

The world famous Westernaires are a staple of the national Western Stock Show and 2023 was no different as big rodeo crowds on the opening Saturday were treated to patriotic displays from the trick riders of the youth riding organization.
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First weekend attendance records broken at 2023 NWSS

The first weekend of the National Western Stock Show in Denver saw massive crowds show up to take in rodeos, horse shows, livestock shows, shopping and everything else on the sprawling grounds. Lincoln Rogers sat down for a one-on-one with NWSS President and CEO Paul Andrews on Sunday afternoon to talk about the record attendance figures and some of the driving forces behind the surging interest and enthusiasm for the historic Denver-based stock show. Note: Questions and answers may be edited for length, clarity and updated attendance figures.

The 2023 NWSS set first weekend attendance records over January 7-8, 2023. On Saturday 58,901 showed up to beat the record of 57,386 in 2020. Sunday figures were 51,077 to beat the previous 2018 record of 50,577.
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Lincoln: I have been hearing talk of strong advance ticket sales and how good you were feeling about that.



Paul Andrews: Tickets are down to single seats for all the Mexican Rodeos and Freestyle Reining was sold out before the morning. It’s crazy good.

Lincoln: So it sounds like a record setting first weekend?



Paul Andrews: I can tell you it is a record setting Saturday. Opening Saturday was 58,901. Our previous record was 57,386 in 2020. To be almost 59,000 on opening Saturday is unheard of and this Sunday has started off phenomenally. The Mexican rodeo being down to single seats has happened before but not regularly. The Freestyle Reining was sold out before I came to work this morning and I was here at 7:30 a.m. (smile) And our highest sales ever for the Ranch Rodeo were yesterday. The Ranch Rodeo has never sold more than 2,500 tickets and we sold 4,000 tickets this year. So, things are off to a great, great start. Updated Note: Sunday official figures were later released at 51,077 to beat the previous 2018 record of 50,577

A huge draw every year, an annual sold-out crowd takes in the popular $25,000 RAM Inviational Freestyle Reining competition on the first Sunday of the NWSS. In this photo, Elliot Holtzman rode Ivys Jazzy Whiz to a dramatic routine set to music from the soundtrack of the blockbuster epic “Last of the Mohicans.”
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Lincoln: How much do you suppose the popularity of TV shows like Yellowstone and 1923 are bringing western and ranch more into the American consciousness, especially to urban and suburban audiences? Do you think that has anything to do with the increased interest and draw for the NWSS?

Paul Andrews: I think it has to be a factor. I do think people are starting to embrace western values, western heritage, and kind of our history in the west. And they like what they see. So, I think that would draw you to the NWSS because we do all of that for 16 days. So yeah, I do think those shows have heightened the sense to how you can have fun at the NWSS. 

Lots of Llamas (and Alpacas) socialized and drew a flow of constant crowds past their section of the Beef Palace over the opening weekend of the 2023 National Western Stock Show in Denver.
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Lincoln: The NWSS focuses on the traditional roots of the American cowboy and of the western culture. There were prayers before every rodeo performance yesterday –

Paul Andrews: Right.

Lincoln: It is very much a pride in our traditional roots and how strong these ranching and farming values are. Do you think that has an appeal to people that, sometimes in a world spinning round and round, it is kind of nice that there is a spot here that is not spinning out of control?

Paul Andrews: We are a place that celebrates America. If you think about America and how we were built, we love our police, we love our fire, we love our first responders here. We have had a relationship with the military since the day we were a new entity in 1906. When you think about our ranchers and farmers, a lot of their kids are serving in the armed forces. 

This is a place where it doesn’t matter what your belief system is, and it doesn’t matter what your ethnic group is. It matters that you want to come celebrate America. You don’t have to be in a cowboy hat or cowboy boots here. Come in your tennis shoes if you want, we are going to love you anyway. Maybe you will buy a pair of cowboy boots when you are here or a cowboy hat here (laugh), but we are not going to force you to do that. It is just fun to do that. I think maybe we ought to all step back for a minute and take a look at the traditional values that have built this country and celebrate them here.

Patriotic shopping options abound throughout the grounds of the NWSS. “We are a place that celebrates America. If you think about America and how we were built, we love our police, we love our fire, we love our first responders here,” said Paul Andrews, President and CEO of the NWSS.
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Lincoln: Looking at the future plans and construction occurring here, when you are talking about representing traditional America, it looks like you are talking about doing that well into the future.

Paul Andrews: Oh yeah. We are always about celebrating America here. We just think there is too much negativity out in the world. Come here, shed all that negativity and celebrate America with us and have some fun. Where else can you go to be in a petting zoo with about 20 different species of animals? Where else can you put your kid on a pony that just kind of takes them around and that kid has probably never seen a pony before? Or watch a great rodeo or a great horse show or see the super bowl of livestock shows? And there are 90 acres of shopping here. It is just like no other place for 16 days.

The petting zoo in the upstairs Hall of Education was a lively and popular location the first weekend of the 2023 NWSS. “Where else can you go to be in a petting zoo with about 20 different species of animals?” said NWSS President and CEO Paul Andrews.
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Prepping “No Way Skip” for the Mini Hereford show in the Market Steer — or what Lauren Baumgartner called the “Fat Steer” — class is her father-in-law Ron Baumgartner, left, and her husband Justin Baumgartner, right, out of Baumgartner Acres in Eaton, Colo. The Baumgartners have been “showing forever” at the NWSS and have their fourth generation now showing cattle at the historic venue. “We love it,” said Lauren about coming to the NWSS.
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Every inch of national western grounds seemed to be utilized to entertain the record-setting crowds showing up for the opening weekend of the 2023 NWSS. Next to the food vendors between the Coliseum and the Hall of Education was a new feature of dining tables in front of country music bands playing popular hits of the genre.
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The Colorado vs. The World Rodeo on the opening Saturday of the National Western Stock Show is made up of three high-octane and entertaining performances throughout the day and evening. The big rodeo, heavy on cowboy spectacle such as this fog-filled introduction, has been a huge draw since its inception in 2012.
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The Colorado Fiddle Champioships at the NWSS sees a constant stream of people in and out of the contest during the first weekend of every stock show. This image has a young Texas fiddler, back to camera, and accompanying musicians playing in front of a nice crowd in the Beef Palace auction arena during The Bob Wills Division of the popular contest.
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The world famous Westernaires are a staple of the national Western Stock Show and 2023 was no different as big rodeo crowds on the opening Saturday were treated to patriotic displays from the trick riders of the youth riding organization.
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Tom and Roxanne Lang of Hudson, Colo., had fun in the big opening weekend crowd as they posed in front of a large “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” sign located in the busy Hall of Education building at the 2023 NWSS.
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