In this article I will be discussing the history of the National Western Stock Show. Dates and tidbits are derived from the official National Western Stock Show website nationalwestern.com
The first National Western Stock Show began on January 29, and ran for six days. The show’s attendance was estimated to be around 15,000 and the Grand Champion steer was bought for 33 cents a pound, which was 23 cents over the market price! Theodore Roosevelt was the president at the time, there were only 45 states in the Union, Colorado was getting ready to celebrate its 13th birthday and sirloin only cost ten cents per pound. On the outskirts of Denver, a booming town with a population of 200,000, stockmen from around the West congregated to show their animals, and to buy and sell breeding stock. From this start, the National Western Stock Show, Rodeo and Horse Show were born.
The 25th National Western offered the first Rodeo in compliance with the Livestock and Horse Show. Cattle at that time had always been at the heart of the National Western, and breeding improvement had been one of its major contributions to the livestock business. Hereford, Angus and Shorthorn were among the only bovine breeds that appeared at the Stock Show from 1931 to 1955 and Hereford was the highest earning breed, winning grand champion steer honors 19 times in the 25 years since the show began.
The Westernaires made their first appearance at the Rodeo. The Westernaires have become a synonym with the National Western since their first rodeo appearance in 1954. This group of entertainers was part of a nonprofit youth organization from Jefferson County, Colorado. Since then they have become staffed by more than 350 adult volunteers, the organization also has more than 1,000 young riders from in age from 9 to 19 with an ability ranging from beginner to accomplished performers, who grace the National Western Rodeo.
In 1981 the show increased to 12 days and included 21 Rodeo performances. A still-standing record of $301,000 was paid at auction for a Hereford bull. From their initial six-day offering in 1906 the show doubled in length. Livestock entry numbers and appearances had exploded to the point that the Coliseum and Hall of Education started to seem like dreams come true.
The show celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2006. The show’s attendance was around 727,000 for the 16-day show and the grand champion steer sold for $75,000 at $58 per pound. Over 18,000 open-mouthed school kids came on field trips and the rodeos and bull riding attracted over 700 cowboys and cowgirls. The show also offered over 40 ticketed rodeos, horse shows and other entertainments.