Superbowl of Cattle Shows

The National Western Stock Show begins this weekend and shall be celebrating its 110th Official year!  In actuality, there were attempts to hold joint conventions of the American Stock Growers’ Association and the National Live Stock Association prior to 1906.

Barbecue at Denver Union Station Stockyards circa 1898
(credit: Denver Public Library)

However, the late 1800’s, while less wild than earlier in the century, was still a bit unruly. And thus it was in 1898, when the Associations gathered in January in Denver.

It was due to be quite the affair, and indeed it was, until the last day. The final day celebrated the end of the convention with an absolutely huge barbecue of all types of meat, (even opossum). The Herald Democrat even lists the meat offered. 1 A “hitch in the get-along” was daily journal-1898that Zang’s Brewery had already begun serving its product before the grilling was done. What transpired, was a reckless rush for the vittles. The Daily Journal 2in Telluride aptly described it as a “riot.”

The rowdy incident led to the stock shows being held elsewhere (mainly Chicago) for the next few years. However, in 1906, while Robert Speer was mayor of Denver, the convention once again was held in Denver.  The Park County Bulletin3 and Yuma Pioneer4 both reported on the tremendous success of the gathering. park county bulletin-1906       yuma pioneer - 1906

It was determined at the event, due to Denver’s central railroad location heading west being more convenient than Chicago, St. Louis or Omaha, that the convention would remain in Denver for the foreseeable future5.

The National Western Stock Show was quite the social “to-do” in the early 20th century, attracting even the elite of Denver, even though the first few years the events were held in enormous tents near the stockyards. In 1909 the Stadium Arena was completed and many of the festivities were gratefully held indoors away from the typical snowy weather of Colorado in January.

Stadium Arena/posh couple inside the arena circa 1909(credit: Denver Public Library)
Stadium Arena/posh couple inside the arena circa 1909
(credit: Denver Public Library)

Since then the National Western Stock Show has grown significantly, building more and larger venues, including the Denver Coliseum. In fact, further expansion is still on the agenda in the coming years.

One can always count on the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection to provide splendid details about long standing annual events here in Colorado!

Want to know more about the National Western Stock Show beyond the newspapers? RMPBS’ Colorado Experience has an episode highlighting the event.

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Arian Osborne
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