National Western Stock Show

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Quarter Horses at the National Western Stock Show, Circa 1950

The historical National Western Stock Show has been held annually every January at the National Western Complex in Denver, Colorado since 1906. In 1905, several forward-thinking agriculturalists realized the need to hold an annual stock show to demonstrate better breeding and feeding techniques to area stockmen. This group included Elias M. Ammons, president of the Colorado Cattle and Horse Growers Association and later governor of Colorado; George Ballentine, general manager of the Denver Union Stock Yard Company; and Fred P. Johnson, publisher of the Record Stockman.[1] Since first held in 1906, it has become the world's largest stock show by number of animals and offers the world’s only carload and pen cattle show in the historic Denver Union Stockyards.

Originally limited to the western United States, the show was expanded by 1908 to include entrants from around the world. A horse show was included as an annual event in 1908, and a rodeo was added in 1931. By 1925, the 4-H Roundup event was also held in conjunction with the stock show. By 1981 the organization owned numerous buildings, more than twenty acres of stockyards, several acres of parking, and total assets of about five million dollars.[1]

The stock show is governed by the Western Stock Show Association, a Colorado 501 (c) 3 institution, which produces the annual National Western Stock Show in an effort to forward the association's mission: "To preserve the western lifestyle by providing a showcase for the agricultural industry through emphasis on education, genetic development, innovative technology and offering the world's largest agricultural marketing opportunities."

Fanfare at the show

Proceeds from the National Western Stock Show go to the National Western Scholarship Trust. The Trust awards 64 scholarships annually to students studying agriculture and medicine to practice in rural areas at colleges and universities in Colorado and Wyoming.

The Horse Shows at the annual National Western Stock Show are among the largest in the world with more than 18,000 entries at the 2006 event, including Quarter Horses, Paint Horses, Hunters & Jumpers, FUSE Open Horse Shows, Mules Shows and the Draft Horse Show & Pull.

National Western Horse Show

The National Western Rodeo is nationally recognized as one of the largest indoor rodeos, and has won honors from the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association (PRCA), including multiple ‘Indoor Rodeo of the Year’ titles. Additionally, the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado, inducted the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in 2008.[2]

Events held during the stock show include the Citizen of the West banquet, the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale, the Auction of Junior Livestock Champions, Ag Adventure, Pony Trails interactive education area, Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza, the Martin Luther King Junior African-American Heritage Rodeo, Professional Bull Riding performances, An Evening of Dancing Horses dressage and reining demonstrations, Wild West Shows, Super Dogs, Dodge Freestyle Reining competition, $40,000 Grand Pr-ix, Downtown Denver Stock Show Parade and the International Livestock Congress. The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) also holds its Touring Pro Division (minor-league tour) Finals at the stock show every January.

The National Western Stock Show celebrated its Centennial Anniversary in 2006 with record crowds and entries.

National Western Stock Show Parade - 17th Street, Downtown Denver, Colorado

Some of the history of the National Western Stock Show can be found in documents preserved at the Denver Public Library Western History Collection and at the Archives and Special Collections Department at Colorado State University.[1] More historical information is available in "Ten Days Every January: a History of the National Western Stock Show" by Willard E. Simms.[3]

Before being sworn in as Mayor, then Mayor-Elect Hancock asked several business and civic leaders to form a National Western Stock Show Working Group to gather information and review options for the National Western Stock Show. The organization produced a Business Plan, a Facilities Plan and a Financing Plan (know collectively as the "Plans").[4]


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Coordinates: 39°46′57″N 104°58′09″W / 39.78249°N 104.96918°W / 39.78249; -104.96918