TRAIL’S END – 101 Years of The Denver Western Stock Show

Linda_WommackThe Wild West and Buffalo Bill Cody are synonymous when it comes to the adventurous American West. Arguably America’s first western showman, William F. Cody personified the West and endeared America as well as Europe to a by gone era.

While Buffalo Bill’s frontier exploits are legendary, the time spent from his Pony Express days to frontier Army scout, were only 12 years. Cody spent the next 35 years as frontier showman for audiences around the world. Out of this great showmanship idea, the National Western Stock Show was born.

This new venue, based in Denver, showcased the area’s prime livestock at an annual event that has been the pride of Denver for over 100 years. Denver, a cow town? You bet it is, once a year for 100 years and proudly so! Congratulations to the Denver Western Stock Show! 

The following is a brief time line of the proud history of this great Denver story:

Rh-12671899 — Livestock exhibits begin in Denver, but not on any regular basis.

1905 — A Livestock Commission is organized of merchants, stockyard executives, meat packers and cattlemen. The exhibition site selected on South Platte River, is still the location of many exhibits shown today.

1906 — The first show opened on Monday, Jan. 29, and ran six days. Harry Petrie, superintendent of the Denver Stockyards was named the first general manager. Attendance was estimated at 15,000 with stockmen visiting from Omaha, Kansas City, Chicago and points east. The first Grand Champion Steer sold for 33 cents a pound, a remarkable 23 cents over the market price. Street cars, horse drawn carriages, and special trains from Union Station brought most of the public to the show, where admission was free.  

1907 — The Horse Division was added to the livestock show. A circus tent of sorts was used to host the show. 

1909 — A new 6,000 seat amphitheater, hosted the livestock show. The Denver Union Stockyard Company provided the facility, which still stands today. Admission was 25 cents. Cattle breeds included Aberdeen Angus, Hereford and Shorthorn.

1911 — Two and three story barns and a club building were constructed. The first poultry show was introduced.  

LivestockexhibitNWSSRMN1907HarryRhoads0631912 to 1914 — Extreme weather in Colorado and surrounding states, resulted in low attendance.   

1915 — The entire week long event was canceled, the only time in its’ history, due to a hoof and mouth disease epidemic, which prohibited livestock from crossing state lines.

1916 — The Livestock Exchange Building opened as the main building for the Denver Union Stockyard Company.

1919 — The Brown Palace Hotel paid a record 50 cents a pound for the Grand Champion steer.

1922 — Children’s programs were added for public benefit.

1926 — What would become known as the Great Depression began to effect Colorado’s economy, and the Western Stock Show began years of struggle as well.

1932 — The 25th National Western presented the first rodeo, which became a highlighted tradition.

1941 — The Grand Champion Steer was exhibited by 12 year old Kenny Monfort of Greeley.

1942 — The WPA, a World War II work program, constructed a new barn on the facility, marking the first major capital improvement on the grounds in 10 years.

Z-102391943 — The show was confined to “local” participation due to travel and fuel limitations caused by World War II. The Executive Committee invests all profits in War Bonds.

1944 — The Quarter Horse Show made its debut at the show.

1945 — Two Hereford bulls owned by Dan Thornton, later Governor of Colorado, were sold for $50,000 each, a new record for breeding cattle at the time.

1947 — Denver taxpayers passed a $1.5 million bond issue for the building of the Denver Coliseum.

1953 — The Denver Coliseum opens for the 46th National Western Stock Show.  

1956 — The Golden Anniversary of the National Western Stock Show, with entries second only to the record 1948 turnout.

1959 — Appaloosa horse classes were added to the Quarter Horses, Palominos and Arabian classes.

1966 — Livestock entries topped the 4,000 mark for the first time. Charolais cattle were added to the Livestock Show.

1972 — Controversy abounded as “Big Mac,” the Grand Champion Steer was ruled ineligible. Previously entered at the American Royal Show in Kansas City as a white steer, Big Mac, had been dyed black for the National Western Stock Show.

1973 — The Hall of Education was opened to the public.

1975 — The National Sheep Shearing Contest became a part of the event.

1976 — A new attendance record of 240,000 and entries reached an all time high of 5,320.

Z-88061980 — A record 22 cattle breeds and bison were showcased. This was the first year of the bison show and sale.

1981 — Attendance soared to more than 360,000 when the show dates were increased to 12 days and included 21 Rodeo performances.

1985 — A downtown parade in advance of the show is revived.

1988 — The Stock Show was expanded to 14 days and attendance topped the half million mark for the first time.

1995 — The Events Center, a state-of-the-art equestrian arena with a 150 x 300 foot floor, was dedicated at the show. The Grand Champion steer and Reserve Champion were ruled ineligible due to the illegal use of the drug Clenbuterol.

1996 — The 90th National Western Stock Show was expanded to 16 days, with 23 Rodeo performances, 11 Horse Shows performances and two Mexican Rodeo Extravaganzas.

1997 — The National Western was selected as the world’s #1 Indoor Rodeo at the Pro Rodeo Cowboys’ Association convention.

1998 — The Wild West Show, patterned after the great Buffalo Bill shows of yesteryear, made its debut, and two Professional Bull Riders (PBR) performances were added.

1999 — Olympic qualifying competition for the United States Equestrian Reining Horse Team makes its debut.

2000 — Miniature Hereford cattle were judged for the first time at the 2000 show.

2003 — A new record for breeding cattle entries was set at 4,491.

2004 — National Western became the first national stock show to host a bucking bull sale.

2005 — The National Western Stock Show added two Pro Rodeos to the slate of events for the first time in history.

The National Western Stock Show is indeed a history to be proud of in Denver and the American West. Happy 101 anniversary Western Stock Show! Buffalo Bill would be proud.

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