National Western part of busy month for the Sidwell family |

National Western part of busy month for the Sidwell family

Cal Sidwell, 11, of Gill, Colo., blow-dries his lamb, Von Miller, Jan. 14 at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. January is a busy time for the Sidwell family, as it is not only stock show time, but also lambing season and wrestling season for Cal and his 15-year-old brother, Jed.
Photo by Nikki Work |

Market Lamb Show results

» Grand champion market lamb —Makensie Goggin, McLoud, Okla.

» Reserve grand champion market lamb — Bailee Amstutz, Richwood, Ohio.

Junior showmanship

» Grand champion — Connor Anthony, McLoud, Okla.

» Reserve grand champion — Hudson Franklin, Shallowater, Texas.

DENVER — Every January, the Sidwell family starts cracking jokes about the thin line between dedication and insanity.

That’s because, according to Casey Sidwell, mom of 15-year-old Jed and 11-year-old Cal, you must either be very committed or very crazy to compete at the National Western Stock Show.

The Sidwell boys brought seven lambs and one market steer to the NWSS in Denver, which runs through Jan. 21. On Jan. 14, both boys spent the entire day either showing their lambs or washing, blow-drying and brushing the animals in the hopes of bringing home a grand champion banner.

Despite a hectic day, and a busy schedule at National Western in general, the members of the Sidwell family have a lot more on their minds this time of year than just ribbons and show rings. When they’re not helping raise lambs and cattle and preparing them to show, both Sidwell boys compete in wrestling.

It’s also lambing season at the Sidwell ranch in Gill, Colo., where new babies are born every day.

Some of those lambs likely will make their way to the National Western stage next year. One of last year’s babies, an almost-black lamb named Where’s the Food?, competed with Cal in the light-weight blackface lamb division this year, where he finished third in his class.


Cal bonded with Where’s the Food? immediately after he was born. The lamb was a surprise — none of the Sidwells expected him to come out with dark wool, and as soon as Cal saw him, he knew he wanted to show the little black sheep.

“He’s Cal’s best buddy,” Casey said. “Cal has loved him since he was a day old.”

Ever since his first show, Where’s the Food? was a fan — and judge — favorite in the show ring, bringing home reserve grand champion crossbred sheep at the Weld County Fair and first-in-class at the Colorado State Fair this past summer.

Plus, he was a smart little lamb, Cal said with a sad smile and wet eyes. Moments earlier, he’d said goodbye to the lamb he raised and loved.

The NWSS is what’s known as a terminal show, which means all the market animals that come onto the premises go to slaughter immediately after their shows, except for grand and reserve grand champions and other auction-qualifying animals. Since Where’s the Food? didn’t qualify for further competition or for the auction, he was one of the animals that left for harvest right away.

“It was really hard for me to let go of him,” Cal said.

But Cal didn’t have to say hard goodbyes to every animal he brought to the show. His heavyweight Dorset lamb, Wingnut, won grand champion in his breed and went on to compete against the best of the other sheep breeds in the market lamb champion show on Jan. 14.

“It’s really fun,” Cal said, gesturing to the lambs lazing in the pen behind him between show rounds Jan. 14. “I wouldn’t rather do anything else.”

— Work is a freelance writer from Lakewood, Colo. She can be reached at


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