Exploding from the chutes " National Western shatters attendance records
It’s safe to say the word is out. The National Western Stock Show (NWSS) experienced record attendance over the opening weekend of rodeo action, exploding from the chute with near sell-outs in the first two PRCA performances and hosting sell-out crowds for both Mexican rodeos, a first for the historic venue.
“We’re very pleased,” said Marvin Witt, NWSS V.P. of Operations and the man in charge of its high-profile rodeo. “It was the first time we’ve ever sold out both Mexican rodeo performances and we came close to selling out both PRCA rodeos.”
When asked, he had a few explanations for why the opening weekend’s attendance was so strong.
“I think it’s a combination of, starting in 2004, we began to revamp and change the rodeo format,” explained Witt with business-like enthusiasm. “We brought in a lot of different specialty acts and we have multiple stock contractors supplying quality roughstock. We’ve also gotten a lot better at the production since 2004,” continued Witt. “There’s a lot of action and the time of each performance was tightened and decreased.”
One of the main weapons in the production arsenal is the rodeo announcer, and Denver has one of the best in Boyd Polhamus. He’s seen a lot of quality rodeo action while announcing the Wrangler NFR every year, and he counts Colorado fans as some of the best in the business.
“The thing about Denver is, you always have a vocal, active crowd,” began Polhamus on the subject. Answering questions immediately after the first performance on Saturday afternoon, his energy level was in high gear. “Part of the good crowd is the building. The Coliseum captures a lot of that, so we don’t lose enthusiasm through the sky,” he added. “Because the Coliseum is such a great place to watch a rodeo, the fans are always active ” they’re not complacent at all. For our first opening day, I thought it was outstanding.”
Not only was the crowd and production outstanding, the bucking broncs and bulls held up their end of the bargain, as well. It seemed like every other animal in the chutes took a few minutes for Polhamus to extol its high-flying accomplishments. That lead to tense anticipation from the crowd, and a loud decibel level every time the gate swung wide. While the cowboys most often ended up on the short end of the stick, the ones who managed a successful ride could count on a pretty good score.
“If people come out, they’re going to see great names in Pro Rodeo and great names in the stock contracting business,” said Witt about the quality of eight-second battles expected on the sand of the NWSS arena. “We have a lot of good stock contractors. There is Kesler Rodeo, this is the first year we’ve had them here at the NWSS. There is the Calgary Stampede, Birch Rodeo, Big Ben Rodeo, they’re out of Washington,” he added as just a partial list of quality rodeo names on top of Cervi Championship Rodeo, which has supplied stock to the Denver event for decades. “We took out all the stops this year.”
It wasn’t just the roughstock supplying adrenaline rushes for the gathered spectators. Witt also thought the timed events did their fair share to impress the ticket-buying public.
“People are enjoying the timed events, as well,” he said. “We’ve had some fast times so far. Somebody’s going to have to be pretty quick to win the finals.”
With everything going full-bore from the start, what can rodeo fans expect for the final round? Witt had a ready answer.
“For the final round on Sunday, it is going to be unique,” he offered with conviction. “The Calgary Stampede will be bringing their top stud horses, including Grated Coconut, to buck for the finals. They’ll also be bringing in their top bulls, including a couple that have never been successfully ridden. It’s going to be good.”
With multiple award-winning stock contractors and a passel of big-name cowboys hoping to grab some impressive prize money, taking in a rodeo at the NWSS is pretty close to watching a round of NFR action ” and you don’t have to put up with Las Vegas crooners or organized crime bosses to do it.