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2013 National Western Stock Show and Rodeo


2013 National Western Stock Show and Rodeo

Christy Loflin and Mary Walker talk backstage during the 2013 National Western Stock Show and Rodeo.

Photo © Andy Cross, The Denver Post
January in snowy Colorado may not seem like the ideal time to host a rodeo, but the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo is one of the most prestigious in the country. Thousands of people flock to this historic event to watch the best cowboys and cowgirls in the country compete for thousands in cash and prizes. However, the National Western Stock Show is more than just a rodeo; it's a celebration ranch life, livestock, and the spirit of competition.

Early History

The National Western Stock Show and Rodeo was born in the great cattle stockyards of Denver in the late 1800's. Cattlemen and livestock merchants came together to show off the best of their herds, in the hopes of attracting new buyers and higher prices. While they made numerous attempts over the years, the first official NWSS didn't come to fruition until 1906. This event ran for 6 days, with stockmen and cattle enthusiasts coming from as far away as Chicago to see some of the best cattle in the country. The grand champion steer sold for 33 cents per pound, 23 cents above the current market price. The show was such a success, organizers constructed special seating and touted the show a "must-see" event, adding entertainment, food vendors, and merchants to appeal to the masses.

The Fun Continues

The 25th anniversary of the National Western Stock Show, held in 1931, promised to be a big event. Organizers constructed the Lamont Pavilion, a massive cattle barn, as a place to house the prized cattle that were the foundation of the show. They also introduced the first rodeo in 1931, an event that is still one of the NWSS's biggest draws. 1944 marked the first Quarter Horse show and sale, which continues to be a popular attraction. More events and animal attraction were added with each passing stock show, and attendance grew across the board. Organizers opened the Hall of Education in 1973 in order to teach the public about life on the farm and in the fields of cattle and horses. The National Sheep Shearing competition was moved to Denver in 1975, and has been hosting their annual competition at the NWSS ever since. One of the biggest controversies during the NWSS is the lack of space for the increasing crowds. Organizers were adamant about keeping the events at the original location, and dozens of improvements were made during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s to accommodate the growing number of spectators.

The Modern Stock Show

As the world of stock shows and rodeos has progressed, so have the events at the NWSS. Attendance has surpassed 500,000 people most years since 1988, and people still anticipate the stock show as much as they ever have. New events, including dog trials and mutton busting, amuse the crowd, and youngsters compete for thousands of dollars in scholarships in a variety of competitions. The 2013 National Western Stock Show and Rodeo promises to be the most exciting to date. More than 15,000 individual animals, including horses, cattle, dogs, rabbits, alpacas, yaks and llamas, will flock to the fairgrounds to compete and show off their skills. The 16-day extravaganza also features a slew of rodeo events, and is slated to be one of the richest regular season rodeos of 2013. This year's stock show also offers more than 350 vendors for those inclined to shop and partake of traditional fair foods. Young and old alike will enjoy this year's event, as organizers have placed special focus on making the NWSS a family event. Many vendors will be offering child-friendly fare, and there will be petting stalls and informative booths to show the young ones just how much fun stock shows, and the rodeo world, can be.

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