Denver’s National Western Stock Show riding high after pandemic


Rising cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant made for a bumpy ride at the 2022 National Western Stock Show, but this year the 117th edition of the annual event is square in the saddle and on pace to score record attendance numbers.

And a multiyear makeover for the home of the show and rodeo that first kicked off in 1906 is moving ahead, with the historic wood pens of the livestock yards modernized and construction soon to start on a livestock events center and stock show headquarters.

“We had the highest opening day of all time, almost 60,000 people,”  said Paul Andrews, stock show CEO and president.

The previous opening-day record was about 57,000 people. The highest overall attendance for the show was nearly 727,000 in 2006, the event’s 100th anniversary.

Andrews isn’t predicting that the 2023 stock show will set a new attendance record, but he said, “We are on pace for that, which is tremendous.”

Youths take care of Hereford cattle in front of the Stadium Arena at the National Western Stock show in Denver on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)
Youths take care of Hereford cattle in front of the Stadium Arena at the National Western Stock show in Denver on Thursday. (Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

The situation is far different from 2021, when the stock show didn’t even make it out of the gate. It was canceled because of the pandemic. The first phase of expanding and redeveloping the 110-acre site tucked along the South Platte River in north Denver started in earnest then.

Last year the show went on despite a surge in COVID-19 cases, but attendance was about 586,000, a 17% drop from the previous show. At the start of the 2022 event, there were close to 51,000 cases reported statewide.

“Frankly, it could’ve been a lot worse. I think we felt really good that we were able to host that many people when omicron was running at that level,” Andrews said. “With the numbers being depressed now, people are feeling a little more confident being around each other.”

The crowds in the main building, Exposition Hall and Hall of Education, were big Wednesday. People were milling about the 900 booths at the trade show. In the barns on the ground level, cattle were lined up after getting washed, dried and gussied up for their appearance in the show ring.

About 3,000 exhibitors are signed up to show and sell their animals this year. Andrews said 12,000 to 13,000 animals are expected to be on the National Western grounds during the stock show’s 16-day run, which ends Jan. 22.

People from 48 states and more than 30 countries are expected to show their livestock, Andrews said. Mexico, Brazil, China, Australia, Uruguay and Canada are among the countries represented.

Maddie Campbell, right, 8, and her good friend, Giuliana Guay, left, enjoy goats in a pen on opening day of the National Western Stock Show Jan. 07, 2023. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
Maddie Campbell, right, 8, and her good friend Giuliana Guay enjoy goats in a pen on opening day of the stock show on Jan. 7. (Andy Cross/The Denver Post)


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