Long-time volunteers look at history and future with National Western | TheFencePost.com

Long-time volunteers look at history and future with National Western

If you ask Susie Wollert why she spends three weeks surrounded by farm animals every January, she'll tell you she does it for the people.

Wollert, the National Western Stock Show's livestock liaison, started volunteering at the show in 2005, five years after her husband died. One of her friends suggested it to her as a way to encourage her to get back out again after her grieving. The rest, she said, is just another page in the stock show's 110 years of history.

"I tried it, I loved it, and I've been here ever since," said Wollert, who lives in Hudson.

Wollert, 65, didn't miss a single day of the 16-day show this year, said Kellie Lombardi, director of volunteers for the stock show. Wollert reported for duty before the show even started for livestock check-in.

“It’s like a family ... (a) big family.

— Susie Wollert, National Western Stock Show livestock liaison

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Lombardi said there were 680 volunteers operating this year's National Western Stock Show, which started Jan. 9 and ended Sunday.

During the stock show, Wollert coordinates the volunteers who work with the livestock and the kids showing the animals. She said she often gets close with the families in the show and enjoys watching the children grow up. Every year, little things like how much taller the kids get or how much better they've gotten with their animals make her happy.

"It's rewarding," Wollert said. "It's like a family … (a) big family."

Brent Pick, the volunteer chairman for the stock show, said this has been one of the most exciting years in his more than a decade of volunteering. The volunteers were enthusiastic, largely due to Denver voters approving a new National Western Complex, which is expected to take at least a decade to complete.

Pick started volunteering in 2005, the same year as Wollert, after attending the stock show for about 25 years. He heard about how the National Western Stock Show gives back to the Denver community through its scholarship program and knew he wanted to be a part of that. Many of the volunteers have similar stories, he said.

Morgan Topolnicki, director of scholarship events, said the show gives away $400,000 in scholarships to 80 kids studying agriculture or veterinary medicine every year.

Even though Wollert and Pick have been volunteering with National Western for more than a decade, Pick laughs when he says they're still practically rookies compared with some of the other volunteers.

For both of them, the last day of the show always is a little bittersweet. Wollert laughed when she said she looks forward to finally getting some sleep, but in a few days, she already will be looking forward to next year.

Even though during their tenure, the show has seen some major changes and will continue to see more, Pick said the spirit of the show always has been the same. That's what keeps so many people coming, whether it's as volunteers or attendees.

"There always has been and always will be a mystery or feeling of awe toward the Western culture," Pick said. "There's a certain aura to that that draws people in and gets them excited."

National Western attendance

The 2016 National Western Stock Show beat 2015’s attendance to record the second-highest attendance in stock show history, right behind the 2006’s 100th anniversary year. This year, 686,745 people attended the show, an increase of more than 4,000 over last year. This year’s opening day brought the largest crowds in stock show history with 50,654 in attendance.

“This is the second consecutive year with more than 680,000 visitors, which is a tribute to our western heritage and stock show fans across the nation,” said Paul Andrews, president and CEO of the National Western Stock Show in a news release.

Vendors at the stock show had mixed observations about the crowds. Some, like Lexi Morris of Platteville’s Miller Farms, said about the same number of people stopped at the farm’s booth as had in previous years. Others, like Don Drew of Drew’s Boots, a custom boot store based out of Eugene, Ore., said his booth saw less traffic this year, something he attributed to the downturn in the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas professionals make up about 20 percent of their business. Conversely, Patty Lewis of Ouray, Colo.’s Rockin P Ranch, a clothing and accessory store, said this year seemed to be drawing much larger and more varied crowds than she’d ever seen in 18 years at National Western.

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Junior Livestock Sale results

This year’s Junior Livestock Sale on Friday set a stock show record with the eight grand champion and reserve grand champion animals selling for a total of $412,000. None of the grand champion animals were sold by Colorado kids. A portion of the proceeds of the auction go to the National Western Scholarship Trust.

Grand Champion Steer: Sold for $117,000 by Macey Goreteska of Korydon, Iowa to Ames Construction Company. The sale was the second highest in stock show history.

Reserve Grand Champion Steer: Sold for $70,000 by Jagger Horn of Anson, Texas to Transwest Trucks, Inc.

Grand Champion Hog: Sold for $53,000 by Blake Logan of Atlanta, Ind., to Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.

Reserve Grand Champion Hog: Sold for #35,000 by Cole Phillips of Bullard, Texas to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. The sale was a record.

Grand Champion Lamb: Sold for $50,000 by Bailee Amstutz of Richwood, Ohio to Brannan Sand & Gravel. The sale was a record.

Reserve Grand Champion Lamb: Sold for $28,000 by Kailen Urban of Gotebo, Okla., to Colorado Business Bank. The sale was a record.

Grand Champion Goat: Sold for $40,000 by Aspen Martin from Mason, Texas to PEI. The sale was a record, and more than double last year’s grand champion goat sale of $16,000.

Reserve Grand Champion Goat: Sold for $19,000 by Karly Castello of Tracy, Calif., to the STEPS Foundation.

Source: National Western Stock Show