It all started on the South Platte River banks in 1906 when the National Western Stock Show was born. The humble beginnings were led by cattlemen, political leaders, civic leaders, downtown Denver business leaders, and livestock exhibitors from all across America.
In year one, the show hosted more than 15,000 attendees and boasted livestock entries of more than 350 head of cattle, sheep, and swine. The show ran for six days, starting on January 29, 1906. Simultaneously, an entity was formed to manage the show as a 501c-3, a not-for-profit founded on education and the celebration of our western heritage, known as the Western Stock Show Association.
Today, our founders would be amazed at everything the National Western Stock Show has become. The 2020 “Best 16 Days in January” hosted more than 708,000 attendees.
The prestigious livestock shown on-site and in competition equaled more than 15,000 head, solidifying us as the Super Bowl of livestock shows. The twenty-nine rodeo performances featured the best professional cowboys and cowgirls in the world, plus world-class horse shows starring the best equestrian competitors, both human and animal. The acres of trade show shopping space marks the event as Colorado’s largest agricultural trade show.
The 16 days of the National Western Stock Show generates an estimated economic impact of $120 million for the Denver metro area. The Stock Show proudly supports over 100 students annually through college scholarships studying in the fields of agriculture and rural medicine.
If the Stock Show were to occur in 2021, today would have been the annual kick-off parade with the Longhorn steers leading more than 80 entries through the streets of downtown Denver to celebrate the start of the Stock Show. Likely more than 40,000 fans would have crowded downtown streets to celebrate with family and friends. However, the global pandemic and the risks to attendees’ health were too much to overcome, as Covid-19 continues to impact events worldwide.
Only two times in our 114-year history has the Stock Show not taken place. In 1915, an epidemic known as hoof and mouth disease broke out in livestock, which prohibited the animals from crossing state lines. The show’s organizers were heartbroken as we are today, but rallied together and put on one of the largest shows in America just one year later.
Although we can’t celebrate our 115th show this January, we will not be overcome by the pandemic. We are moving forward and are busy preparing for the 2022 show, January 8-23, when the National Western Stock Show will welcome more than 42 states and 35 countries to the Super Bowl of livestock shows, still residing along the South Platte River banks.
With the promise of the vaccine, we are optimistic that together with our Stock Show Nation, we will break the all-time attendance record set back in 2006 at nearly 727,000 attendees. It’s time for that record to fall, and no better year than 2022 to show the grit of all Coloradans.
As we look ahead, the 200th anniversary of the National Western Stock Show will be celebrated 86 years from now at the new National Western Center. The National Western Center facilities currently under construction will feature new yards for livestock; a new state of the art equestrian center and livestock center; and future phases will provide a new multi-purpose arena for rodeo and expo hall for large trade shows. It will take multiple years to complete but will be well worth the wait.
Let’s get back in the saddle and ready to ride in January of 2022 at the National Western Stock Show!
Douglas Jones is Chairman of the Western Stock Show Association. Paul Andrews is President/CEO National Western Stock Show and Complex.