The Best Wild West
This year, 2012, marked the second year in a row for the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) to produce its own Wild West Show after years of having it overseen by outside sources. Paying tribute to Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Shows from a century ago, the NWSS emphasized the west, its characters and colorful history to thousands of happy fans inside the Coors Events Center arena.
“We were glad we did it,” said NWSS VP of Operations Marvin Witt about producing their own show after last year’s success. “We wanted to build that show and we hoped it would take off. It will have a different twist every year.”
True to their word, 15 to 20 acts paid tribute to the western spirit, kept the action going and the applause rolling during the two-hour show. Cowboy singer Ron Ball set the mood with classic favorites, followed by western entertainers like Max Reynolds, Jerry Wayne Olson, Blake Goode and Anthony Lucia showing off gun skills, horse skills, trained bulls and trick roping to the delight of everyone present. While these performers are often on the road in solo acts before appreciative audiences, gathering together to perform a Wild West Show at the NWSS is something they all enjoyed.
“I love it,” said Jerry Wayne Olson, who made audiences laugh with his spunky pony Lickety-Split and then made them gasp with his horse skills on and off 18-year-old “JB” or Justin Boots. Olson started participating with trick riding “since I was just an infant,” and has been entertaining audiences professionally for decades. “Everybody shows up and you get to visit with one another,” he described with a grin about catching up with other performers. “It just makes it a lot more fun. We have so much in common. It’s fun to sit around and tell old war stories.”
Although trick roping whiz Anthony Lucia is younger than Jerry Olson, he enjoyed the professional camaraderie behind the scenes, as well.
“It’s something you can’t really explain,” replied Lucia when asked how nice it was to work with so many other professionals in a show. Lucia is 26-years-old, but he’s been around the business since he was four, as his father, Tommy Lucia, is the trainer for the world famous Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey. “Some of the best entertainers in the rodeo and western industry, they came together for this event. I grew up watching these guys perform. Whether or not they’ll admit to it or take credit for it, they’ve been my heroes growing up,” he added with a laugh. “To be able to come together now … it was an awesome experience.”
The awesome experience for the participants translated into great shows when the lights went down, as the crowds cheered and hollered throughout the events. The enthusiastic Denver crowds were another reason the professionals enjoyed getting together and showcasing their talents during the stock show.
“There’s none any better,” said Max Reynolds about the NWSS crowds. Reynolds made numerous appearances impersonating Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill Hickock; impersonations crafted with care ever since he was a stunt double for actor Peter Coyote in the CBS mini-series “Buffalo Girls” from the 1990s. “(The NWSS crowds) come in and pack this events center every year and they are very receptive,” added Reynolds. “That’s why they keep coming back is because they know they are going to see a good show.”
“The Colorado fans, there’s an electricity,” agreed Lucia, who pumped up the crowd with energetic roping tricks under spotlights and black lights. “It’s an amazing thing the NWSS has built, because their fans know they’re going to be entertained and when they are, they sure enough let you know about it. As an entertainer, you can’t live off the applause, but I tell you what, it sure does give you some goose bumps whenever they say your name and the crowd goes crazy.”
While the professional camaraderie and outstanding fan base helped make the show memorable, there was more to it than that. To make every performance sizzle, the spotlights and sound had to be right on the money; a detail the NWSS didn’t overlook.
“After (a) production meeting, we go in and have a regular rehearsal with the animals,” revealed Reynolds of the work put in before the show. “(We) make sure the spotlights and sound are the way we want it. With that computerized lighting, you have to get your marks set down to get the computer set. It’s an entailed type of a rehearsal, which you have to have in order to put on a good show, and the NWSS has the reputation of putting on a great show. And that’s why, because they are looking at every little detail and they bring in professionals to do this.”
“That’s one of the things the NWSS really impressed me with, this being my first year there, was their attention to detail when it came to light changes and the different aspects of the sound and the music,” added Lucia about the technical fine points. “It was such a professional event and it was so much fun to be a part of. It’s humbling to share a talent God has given you and people to appreciate it and enjoy it as much as they did this past week.”
With another year of Wild West success under their belts, the NWSS might be content to let the format coast, but that’s not their style.
“It’s a year-round project,” described Reynolds of how much work goes into making every show a winner. “We’ll finish up this year and they’ll already be thinking about what they want to do next year, because they do something different every year.”
Given that amount of care and attention, the NWSS Wild West Show sounds like the place to be. Just ask anyone involved.
“The National Western Stock Show is always one you want to work,” summed up the veteran Olson with another big smile. “It’s always a thrill to come to the National Western Stock Show.”