A brief history of the National Western Stock Show
See how the National Western Stock Show has changed over the years by browsing our timeline from 1899 to 2010. Here are some excerpts:

1906 –First show opened on Monday January 29 and ran for six days. Attendance was estimated at 15,000 and the Grand Champion steer sold for 33 cents a pound, 23 cents over the market price!

1931 – The 25th National Western presented the first Rodeo in conjunction with the Livestock and Horse Show.

1954 – The Westernaires made their first appearance at the Rodeo.

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.

2006 – National Western celebrates its 100th anniversary! The show’s attendance reached 726,972 for the 16-day show and the grand champion steer sold for $75,000 or $58 per pound!

Rugged cattlemen and livestock commission merchants attempted several stock shows at the Denver stockyards in the 1880s and again early in 1900, but they were hit and miss promotions until 1906. 

1899 – Organized livestock events begin in Denver but not on a regular basis.

1905 – Initial meeting of interested Livestock Commission merchants, Stockyards Company Executives, Packers and Cattlemen was held in early December.Site selected was near Denver Stockyards on South Platte River, which is still the location of the 2001 show.

1906 – First show opened on Monday, January 29 and ran for six days. Harry Petrie, Superintendent of the Denver Stockyards was named first General Manager. Attendance was estimated at 15,000 with stockmen visiting from Omaha, Kansas City, Chicago and some eastern cities.

Grand Champion steer sold for 33 cents a pound, 23 cents over the market price.

Street cars, horse drawn carriages and special trains from Union Depot delivered most of the public to the show, which offered free admission.

Name was changed to the Western Stock Show Association, as it is known today. The “not for profit” organization was incorporated on March 10, 1906.

1907 – A “monster” 150 x 175 foot tent was manufactured by a local awning company as the venue for the next two Western Stock Shows.

The Livestock Show was enhanced by the addition of a Horse Division.

1909 – The 1909 show opened on January 18 in the newly constructed 6,000 seat National Amphitheater, erected for $200,000 provided by the Denver Union Stockyard Company. This building still stands today.

Cattle breeds included Aberdeen Angus, Hereford and Shorthorn.

The Horse Show included Drafts and Saddlebreds.

A 25 cent admission was charged, as attendance was increasing and anticipated to reach 100,000.

1911 – Two and three story barns and a club building were constructed.

National Western introduced its first poultry show and its first beef carcass contest.

1912 & 1914 – These were the first bad weather years and resulted in a drop in show attendance, as winter storms limited train travel and visitors from out of state and eastern Colorado.

1915 – The only year the show was cancelled 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 Denver Union Stockyard Company.

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

1920 – Ticket prices were raised to 75 cents, and this was the first year the Association had cash in reserve.

1922 – A program for admitting Denver and suburban school children to the show was established.

1926 – The first effects of the Great Depression were felt and lasted through the 1933 show as the National Western marked time in a mode of austerity.

1931 – The 25th National Western presented the first Rodeo in conjunction with the Livestock and Horse Show. Total Rodeo prize money was $7,300. The Lamont Pavilion, a cattle barn, was added for the anniversary show.

1935 – The first Catch-A-Calf contest was held during the show.

1941 – The Grand Champion steer at the 1941 National Western was exhibited by 12 year old Kenny Monfort of Greeley.

1942 – The WPA constructed a huge concrete barn on the facility, marking the first major capital improvement on the grounds in 10 years.

Record cattle entries were drawn to the expanded facility despite the beginning of World War II.

1943 – 
The Executive Committee decided to invest all profits in War Bonds.

The show was confined to “local” participation because of travel and fuel limitations caused by World War II.

1944 – The Quarter Horse Show and Sale were introduced at the show.

1945 – Two Hereford bulls owned by Dan Thornton (later Governor of Colorado) were sold for $50,000 each, a record for Breeding Cattle at the time.

The show was expanded from 6 to 9 days.

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

Another $750,000 to complete the Coliseum was raised by “A Citizens’ Committee for the Stock Show Stadium Fund Campaign” directed by the Western Stock Show Association.

1952 – The Denver Coliseum was finally dedicated on January 10 for the 46th National Western.

1954 – The Westernaires made their first annual appearance at the Rodeo.

1955 – Willard Simms, Editor of the Record Stockman Livestock newspaper was named General Manager of the National Western.

1956 – The show’s Golden Anniversary was a huge success, with entries second only to the record 1948 turnout.

1959 – Appaloosa horse classes were added to go along with Quarter Horses, Palominos and Arabians.

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

1967 – Paint and Pinto classes were added to the Horse Show. 1970 Attendance topped the 200,000 mark for the first time.

1972 – A $2.5 million fund was launched for added facilities and expansion.

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

1973 – The two-level 300 x 390 foot Hall of Education was opened to the public.

1974 – Competition for girls was added to the 1974 Catch-A-Calf contest.

1975 – The National Sheep Shearing Contest was moved to Denver and has been here ever since.

1976 – Attendance set a record of more than 240,000 and entries reached an all time high of 5,320.

1978 – “Broncomania’ swept Denver, with the football team making its initial Super Bowl appearance. Attendance dipped by 12,500.

Charles Sylvester became General Manager with the retirement of Willard Simms.

1980 – A record 22 cattle breeds and Bison held shows/auctions. This was the first year of the Bison show and sale.

President Petry announced the creation of the National Western Scholarship Fund, with eight annual $1,000 four-year grants to the Colorado State University and the University of Wyoming.

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

A still-standing record of $301,000 was paid at auction for a Hereford bull.

1983 – The National Western Scholarship Fund was created and provided three annual $1,000 four-year grants to Colorado State University and the University of Wyoming.

1985 – The downtown parade in advance of the show was revived, and the show offered a record 23 Rodeo performances and drew a record attendance of 439,000.

The large attendance required the Denver Fire Department to close access to the grounds for almost an hour on the first Saturday, the initial sign that the National Western was in need of an even larger facility.

1987 – The International Center was opened for the first time and registered over 600 guests.

1988 – Show was expanded to 14 days and attendance topped the half million mark for the first time at 500,301.

Dog Weight Pulls began at the 1988 show.

1989 – Pat Grant headed up “National Western 2000”, a fund-raising group organized to support the November City of Denver ballot proposal to bring the National Western $30 million for building expansion.

The National Western Volunteer Program was established.

1991 – The Expo Hall and Stadium Hall were completed just in time for the show.

1993 – Mutton Bustin’ for kids becomes a popular new attraction at the Rodeo, which had a record attendance of its own with a crowd of 178,012, the most since 1986.

The Coors Western Art Exhibit and Sale, a benefit for the National Western Scholarship fund, premiered at the 1993 show. This western art exhibition began as a joint inspiration of Coors Brewing Company and the National Western Stock Show.

1995 – 
The Events Center, a state-of-the-art equestrian arena with a 150 x 300 foot floor, was dedicated at the show.

The Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza, inaugurated in the Denver Coliseum, was a sell out. The Working Stock Dog competition began.

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. Attendance exceeds 600,000.

1996 was also the first year for “An Evening of Dancing Horses”, featuring musical freestyle riding performances choreographed for individuals and groups.

1997 – A record 23 breeds of cattle had a show and/or sale

Family Fun Night was added.

In December of 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. Dancing Horses expanded to two performances.

National Western went on-line for the first time at nationalwestern.com .

National Western acquired the Bar S property.

1999 – 500 close-in parking spaces were added on the Bar S site.

Elk and Yak sales were added to the livestock sales program.

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

“Gold Buckle” ring-side luxury seating was added to all rodeo performances.

Attendance records were set for both single day and entire run – 68,357 and 603,328 respectively.

National Western was recognized by the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, listed as one of the top 100 events of the year in the US by the American Business Association and named Rodeo of the Year by Events Business News Magazine.

2000 – New events in the 2000 show included a dairy cow milking exhibition, Wild Horse Races at the Rodeo, and a Stick Horse Rodeo for kids A new attendance record of 631,801 was set, as Denver enjoyed great weather. A Customer Relations area was added.

The National Western Scholarship Program added 10 grants and increased its number of scholarships to 51 for the fall term 2000.

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

2001 – This was the first year for the Boer Goat show, and the Antique Tractor Parade and Show.

2002 – The Stock Show set an all-time record attendance of more than 632,000.

Guy Elliott retired as Rodeo Manager and took his final ride around the Coliseum Arena in that capacity.

The Team Penning was moved to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds for space reasons. The event was held with great success and a record payout in premium money.

The Quarter Horse Versatility Ranch Horse Competition was held for the first time at National Western with a great deal of interest from exhibitors and spectators seeking a return to the all-around versatile working ranch horse.

After a few-year slump in entries in the Coors Draft Horse Show, entries rebounded. The show enjoyed a total of sixteen 6-Horse Hitch entries.

The Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza sold out for the first time ever on both performances. The success is attributed to the spectacular performances given by the two bull fighters from Mexico.

2003 – General Manager Chuck Sylvester retired after serving the National Western Stock Show for 25 years in that capacity.

The National Western Stock Show recorded a record attendance of 641,033.

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

The Junior Livestock Auction had record-high earnings of more than $500,000.

Mike Shaw of Denver, Colo., was the first-ever buyer to purchase three grand champion animals at the Junior Livestock Auction. He also holds the record for bid price at $110,500.

National Western hosted the Colorado Rocky Mountain Fiddle Championships for the first time.

2004 – The Gambler’s Choice Opening Jumping Stake became a ticketed event at the 2004 Stock Show. The event was initiated during the 2003 National Western Stock Show.

National Western became the first national stock show to host a bucking bull sale. The Best of Three Buckers Sale incorporated a 2-year-old bull futurity, bucking heifer sale and a yearling bull sale.

National Western’s management structure changed to include staff vice presidents for the first time in history.

National Western hosted the “Bellringer Select” bred female sale for the first time during Stockman’s Day.

2005 – SuperDogs makes its debut as a ticketed event at the National Western Stock Show.

The National Western doubled its number of ticketed performances on the first weekend, adding two ProRodeos to the slate of events for the first time in history.

Free horsemanship clinics returned to the National Western as Montanan Curt Pate led two workshops in handling cattle.

National Western joined forces with Superior Livestock Auctions to hold the Stock Show’s first-ever video sale.

The Cowboy Experience children’s activity center made its debut in the Stadium Hall.

2006 – National Western celebrates its 100th anniversary; an attendance record is shattered when recorded attendance reaches 726,972 for the 16-day show.

Martin Luther King, Jr. African-American Heritage Rodeo makes its debut on the National Western’s slate of ticketed performances.

The Activity Tent debuts as an additional interactive educational area for children attending the Stock Show.

A 1904 rail car, donated by the Ben Houston Family, is set in the Stockyards to display how cattle were transported to the Stock Show during its early years.

Twelve junior market lambs are disqualified from the 2006 competition due to unethical tampering and the presence of needle marks along the major muscles of the carcasses.

2007 – National Western hosts the International Livestock Congress-USA for the first time.

A record five consecutive weeks of snowstorms occur during the set up and run of the 2007 Stock Show.

The National Western Horse Show hosted the North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series Finals, which served as the six-horse hitch world championships, for the first time.

2008 – National Western hosts the first-ever American Quarter Horse Association Versatility Ranch Horse World Championship Show.

The National Western sets opening day (27,793) and largest single-day (68,610) attendance records.

The National Western Donkey and Mule Show hosted the Official Donkey Mascot Contest for the 2008 Democratic National Convention to be held in Denver.

2009 – An all-new Western Heritage Week took place in the Stockyards, January 19-25, 2009. Western Heritage Week included the first annual Stock Dog Sale, first annual All Breeds Bull Sale, a Celebrity Chuck Wagon Cook-off and more.

Interactive fun was enjoyed for the entire family in the new Ames Activity Pavilion. National Western visitors participated in pedal tractor races and stick horse rodeos. Plus, there were be horseshoe tosses, dummy roping and other contests for prizes.

2010 – For the first time in its 104 years, heifers were shown in the market division at the National Western Stock Show. The Grand Champion Market Heifer, Lidy, went on to make even more history when Judge Dan Hoge chose her as overall Reserve Grand Champion. Lidy was exhibited by Bailey Core of Pleasantville, Iowa.

Clint Craig set a National Western record by scoring a 92 to win the PRCA Bull-Riding on “Ole Yeller”

Kody Lostroh of Longmont, Colorado, won the 2010 PBR Denver Chute-Out following his incredible 2009 season as PBR’s Million-Dollar Man.

2011 – Paul Andrews takes the reins as new President and Chief Executive Officer, replacing Pat Grant who becomes Chairman of the Long Range Planning Group.

The New National Western Wild West Show premieres.

In spite severe cold and snow during the first week of the Show, attendance still hits 644,818

National Western Stock Show Attendance Figures

2015 – 686,745
2015 – 682,539
2014 – 640,022
2013 – 628,366
2012 – 636,662
2011 – 644,818
2010 – 633,003
2009 – 643,100
2008 – 673,449
2007 – 649,637
2006 – 726,972
2005 – 633,554
2004 – 625,345
2003 – 641,003
2002 – 632,296
2001 – 623,182
2000 – 631,182
1999 – 606,628
1998 – 602,391
1997 – 583,941
1996 – 600,399

13 Day Shows

1995 – 585,685
1994 – 527,606
1993 – 514,713
1992 – 485,584

Coming Soon
Photos from 1906-1915

Previous Citizen of the West Honorees

2016 – Michael J. Sullivan

2015 – Philip F. Anschutz

2014 – Fred C. Hamilton

2013 – Dr. John Matsushima

2012 – Lynn Cheney

2011 – Pete Coors

2010 – Tom and Becky Kourlis

2009 – Robinson Brothers

2008 – Hank Brown

2007 – Cortlandt S. Dietler

2006 – Sue Anschutz-Rodgers

2005 – George Marvin Beeman

2004 – H.A. “Dave” & Jean True Family

2003 – William J. (Bill) Hybl

2002 – Albert C. Yates

2001 – Ned & Mary Belle Grant Family

2000 – Justice Byron White

1999 – W.D. “Bill” Farr

1998 – Daniel L. Ritchie

1997  – Brownie & Thurman “Fum” McGraw

1996 – Cliff Hansen

1995 – Ben R. Houston

1994 – Rollin D. Barnard

1993 – Dick Cheney

1992 – William K. Coors

1991 – Kenneth W. Monfort

1990 – Alan K. Simpson

1989 – Governor John & Ann Love

1987 – Charles C. Gates

1986 – Nicholas Robert Petry

1985 – William H. McNichols, Jr.

1984 – Allan & Gerald Phipps

1983 – Pete Smythe

1982 – Aksel Nielsen

1981 – Ed H. Honnen

1980 – Frank H. Ricketson, Jr.

1979 – Willard Simms

1978 – Robert “Red” Fenwick

Contact Us

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  • kfessenden@nationalwestern.com