My husband and I attended the 108th National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, Colorado, a couple of weekends ago. This quintessential multi-day western event takes place every January at the National Western Complex, located at 4655 Humboldt Street, Denver, Colorado. The 100 acre National Western grounds and buildings consist of a Expo Hall, Hall of Education, Events Center, Stadium Arena, Stockyards and Denver Coliseum. The stock show has a long and colorful history click on the highlighted words to read the entire story. (All photos in this post will enlarge if clicked on)
The first thing we did after parking for free, in one of the event center's parking lots, was to buy tickets to two events we wanted to see: the Pro Rodeo, and the Draft Horse Show. There is so much to see and do at the National Western Stock show that we knew we would not be able to do it all in one day, but hopefully we will be able to return next year to see more of the shows!
We had a little time before the beginning of the rodeo, so we took a stroll through the stockyards. There are two ways to view the stock on display in the yards. You can climb up stairs to a platform that runs along the western edge and look down at the stock, as you can see in the photo collage above.
Or you can walk among the stock pens, for a close up look at the animals for sale. Since we attended the Stock Show on a day during the last weekend, much of the stock had been sold, but we still saw plenty of cows, long horned cattle, buffalo, yaks and horses that were for sale or up for auction. The National Western Stock Show hosts nearly 20 breeds of cattle during its 16 day run!
We visited some of the show and auction rings and grooming stables, and saw the awards that many of the stock had won at prior shows. To see the results of the 2014 livestock sale click on this link.
We attended the pro rodeo in the coliseum building. This was only the second time my husband and I attended a rodeo. The first was at Cody, Wyoming, when we were on our way to visit Yellowstone National Park a few years ago. Click here to read that post. We were amazed how much fun and how exciting it was to see, and we knew that the National Western Stock Show rodeo is ranked among the top five rodeos in the world, so we were looking forward to seeing this one.
The show began with a fireworks display and a prayer for the safety of all the cowboys and cowgirls who would be participating. The National Anthem was then sung, and Colorado's state flag and the the flag of the rodeo sponsor was rode around the arena
The first event were the cowboys riding the bucking broncos!
The horses did their best to try to shake off each cowboy who was riding them!
It is really a test of strength and agility for the cowboy.
I don't know how they hang on...
Look at the height of this horse's kick!
Unfortunately, a large majority of the cowboys ended up falling off the horse. Saddle bronc riding evolved from the task of breaking and training horses to work the cattle ranches of the old West, and involves a lot of technical skill and style. Bareback bronc riding is even more physically demanding. Being a rodeo going novice, I do not know all the technical ways the cowboys are scored, nor did I pay attention to the scores, but I did have fun photographing them! To see all the official rodeo results click on this link.
Here is a photo collage of some of my favorite shots (please click on to enlarge).
Next, came different kinds of cattle roping--tie down roping, steer wrestling and team roping. In the first and third types, the cowboy rides out after the running cattle and lassos it. The horse or team member keeps the rope taunt as the cowboy goes over and picks up the cattle lays it on its side and ties up the legs to make it lay still, all the while being timed.
The Steer Wrestler cowboy, or "bulldogger," tries to throw himself off his horse onto the running cattle, grab it by its horns, and then wrestle it to the ground. Speed is the name of the game in this event and the modern world record is set at 2.4 seconds!
The steer events are skills the have developed by ranchers to catch cattle that escape from the herd or to isolate herd cattle that are sick or injured and need to be immobilized, so that they can be given care. Each style of roping or wrestling certainly looked strenuous and dangerous to me!
A couple of fun events at the rodeo were the "Mutton Bustin" and Westernaires. In the "Mutton Bustin" event, five to seven year old children, under 55 pounds, ride sheep out of a chute and into the rodeo arena. The contestants cling to the back of the thickly coated sheep as long as they can for the best score. One little girl held on till her sheep reached the end of the arena! All the participants receive a trophy.
The Westernaires are a group of entertainers who are part of a nonprofit youth organization from Jefferson County, Colorado. Staffed entirely by more than 350 adult volunteers, the organization has more than 1,000 young riders ranging in age from 9 to 19, and who vary in ability from beginner to the accomplished performers we saw. The acrobatics these young artists performed were amazing! The young man seen in the collage above actually ran along side a running horse and jumped over it from side to side! We were amazed by his agility!
The rodeo also had a barrel racing event, clowns, and a few other attractions.
The most dangerous event in a rodeo is the bull riding event!
The bull rider is only allowed to use one hand to hold onto the bull. If his other hand touches himself or the bull he receives no score/
It takes a lot of balance, coordination, quick reflexes to stay on the bull as long as possible
I also thought that the "clowns" that try to distract the bull away from the fallen riders so they don't get trampled, were also pretty brave!
A photo collage of some of the bull riders (please click on to enlarge).
You can see how hard the bulls try to shake off the rider. It is such an exciting event to see!
The 2014 National Western Stock Show attracted 640,022 people to its events this year! It was a banner year and much money was raised for it's scholarship programs. I know my husband and I will enjoy returning to see more of the special events of the National Western Stock Show next year. It made us feel happy to be a part of this great Western heritage!
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