Today marks the start of the National Western Stock Show, and Jefferson County will play a large part.
Now in its 107th year, the stock show is a major 27-day event that draws rodeo and livestock fans and competitors from around the country to the Denver Coliseum.
The event has longstanding ties to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds as well, however.
For years now, 2013 included, some preliminary stock show events have been moved to the Jeffco Fairgrounds (15200 W. 6th Ave.): Penning beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday and Sorting beginning at 8 a.m. Monday.
“The National Western is always an exciting time because you do get the athletes from across the nation,” said Jeffco Fairgrounds Director Mark Danner, adding that he thought that hosting some of the competition in Jeffco was a great opportunity.
“They’re free events and they basically see the same action out here that they would at the coliseum,” Danner said.
Jeff Keller, a U.S. Team Penning Association (USTPA) regional director, and penning competitor, said Team Penning has been called the fastest growing worldwide equestrian sport.
In Penning, three riders are put into the arena with 30 numbered cattle.
A number is called out, and the riders have 60 seconds to sort out the three cattle with the matching number on their backs while keeping the other 27 getting in the way.
“You have to get them in a little catch pen, all from horseback, without a rope,” Keller said.
Sorting is a similar sport, where two riders without ropes have to move cattle from one pen area to another, in numerical order.
Many of those same Penning and Sorting athletes will compete in the stock show coliseum on Tuesday and Wednesday morning.
Each day, the top 10 finalists will then compete during the intermission of that night’s main event, the Pro Bull Riding competition.
“If you get to ride in front of the PBR crowd, it’s pretty fun,” Keller said. “The crowd always seems to really like it too.”
More information, and a schedule of events is available at www.NationalWestern.com.
There is another strong connection between Jefferson County and the Stock Show — The Westernaires.
“Every year since 1954, we’ve been a big part of the National Western Stock Show,” said Glen Keller Jr., the director of the Westernaires.
This year is no exception, with the club of Jefferson County teens putting on a total of 45 performances over the duration of the stock show, including a 120-member entry in the opening day parade.
In all, Keller said more than 150 Jeffco teens would participate, performing trick riding, precision drill riding, Wild West show stunts and dressage.
A complete schedule of the Westernaires performances is available at www.westernaires.org.