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National Western Stock Show has high hopes for a successful 2010

Bill Jackson Greeley, Colo.

Despite the nation struggling to get out of the recession, which also has hit agriculture hard, entries are up in the 104th National Western Stock Show.

Pat Grant, president and CEO, said he and his staff are now working hard at marketing this year’s show to get urban folks to visit one of the nation’s oldest and world-renowned livestock shows.

“We are all feeling the challenges and difficulties in the economy, and that’s particularly true for the ag sector,” Grant said in a telephone conversation. “The people who I have talked with are struggling. Their operating costs and taxes designed as fees keep increasing.”

As a result, those in the livestock business are a little more aggressive in marketing their product and are coming to the National Western, where they realize they can get a lot of exposure from others in the business.

Entries, Grant said, are up 8 percent to 22 percent in open breeding cattle, junior breeding heifers, open competition down in the livestock yards, pens of prospect animals, junior ewes and even junior showmanship, along with llamas and alpacas. Only poultry, open sheep and the Boer goat show have declined from a year ago, he said, and that is only minimal.

“When you look at the big picture, most exhibitors are digging down deep to help market their animals. Given the prestige and prominence of the National Western Stock Show, they all want to come to Denver,” Grant said. He said the entry numbers were “encouraging.”

Meanwhile, Grant said negotiations between he and his staff and the city and county of Denver continue concerning the future of the National Western.

“We continue to review our options, but it’s important to say that the city and county of Denver have been and continue to be strong supporters of the National Western,” Grant said.

There’s a “however” there, however.

The coliseum, where the National Western conducts rodeo performances and where several vendors are housed each year, is starting to show its age. It was completed in 1951, used by the stock show for the first time the following year and has had virtually no renovations or remodeling since. The Hall of Education, built around the original stadium complex, is 40 years old. The Hall of Education, Grant said, “has served us well, but in some areas it’s like walking around in a cave,” because the lighting is so poor.

The last time there was any major work on the yards, some of which have been part of the National Western since that first year in 1906, came in early- to mid-1970s, under the direction of the last two general managers of the show, Willard Simms and Chuck Sylvester. The combination waste water/sewer system that serves the complex was built nearly 100 years ago.

On top of all that, the show has had to deal with the realignment of Interstate 70 which splits the Coliseum from the rest of the complex. In recent years, the Rural Transportation District has talked about expanding its right-of-way along the Burlington-Northern Railroad that runs along the east side of the Hall of Education/Stadium complex and near the yards for its planned Fast Track rail service.

No decision has been reached on that, but it remains a concern for Grant and the governing body of the stock show.

So those are the reasons Grant said the stock show “continues to look at options.”

One of those is the construction, somewhere in the north Denver metro area, of an agriculture campus, first run up the flag pole by the late Kenny Monfort some 25-30 years ago. That has been revitalized in the past few years under the leadership of the Colorado Livestock Association, present and former state commissioners of agriculture, the stock show and others.

That campus could be used by the stock show, as offices for the state’s major agricultural groups, as an ag education center, and for state, as well as federal, agricultural agencies.

But the economy has also put that plan on the back burner.

“We are excited about the possibility of an ag campus that could showcase our Western heritage, but we (stock show) have not had any discussions about that recently because of the economy,” Grant said.

Bill Jackson has covered agriculture in northern Colorado for more than 30 years. His column runs every other Sunday. If you have ideas for this column, call him at (970) 392-4442.


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