In 1906, Colorado’s first National Western Stock Show opened on January 29 and welcomed around 15,000 visitors over six days. National Western’s President and CEO, Paul Andrews, thinks the show’s founders would be proud of what their event has become: “A nationally recognized Super Bowl of livestock shows,” as he puts it. Today, the event draws 630,000 attendees with twelve horse shows, Colorado’s largest agricultural trade show and nearly thirty rodeos.
“There are about 40 things every day that are free with basic admission,” says Andrews. That includes the first-ever Ranch Rodeo on opening night. Come early, for inaugural festivities, including a BBQ competition, live music, grill giveaways and a special kids” zone.
On a more typical day, watch a livestock show before meeting National Western’s newest animals at the nursery in the Events Center Paddock. Next, head to the third floor of the Expo Hall to feed more than 60 barnyard animals at the petting farm or saddle up on a purebred Welsh pony — kiddos love this real- live carousel ($6 per ride). The third floor is also where you”ll find the 12th Annual Youth Art Show and all the food. Swing by the Ames Activity Pavilion – located in the south food court – for children’s entertainment, including Top Hogs performances, a magic show and pedal tractor races.
Held daily, rodeos feature both local and pro riders. The popular Mutton Bustin’ event is technically the youngest rodeo of all, with children ages 5 to 7 riding sheep out of a chute and into the arena. The Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza showcases Mexican-style bull riding, bareback riding, trick roping and Mariachis — all choreographed by Jerry Diaz, a fourth-generation champion charro. At the MLK Jr. African-American Heritage Rodeo, spectators gain insight into the history of America’s black cowboys. The family-friendly Wild West Show offers “a pictorial look at some of the important events in the West,” explains Andrews.
Before you strap on your spurs, watch the kick-off parade, Thursday, January 7 at noon at Denver Union Station, where marching bands, floats, and Longhorn cattle stampede down 17th Street, and National Western serves up a barbecue lunch in the Wells Fargo Building, starting at 11:30 am.
- Check it Out:
- Located in Denver at the National Western Complex, accessible from I-70 and Brighton Boulevard.
- Need to Know:
- The 16-day show runs January 9 through 24, and is open weekdays from 9 am to 8 pm and weekends from 9 am to 9 pm. Visit nationalwestern.com for a schedule of daily programming.
- Grounds admission starts at $10, and rodeo tickets average $17.
- Best Kept Secret:
- Look for the John Deere display, where curious kiddos can hop inside big-rigs, combines and farm loaders.