All About: National Western Stock Show and Rodeo

One of the biggest events in rodeo is back this month.


The National Western Stock Show and Rodeo begins on Jan. 7, with the first day of rodeo competition taking place on Jan. 12.

This is the show’s 117th year and it initially ran for six just days. That’s not the only thing that has changed in more than a century of operation for the world’s largest stock show.

The first big addition to the National Western Stock Show came on its 25th anniversary, when rodeos were introduced in 1931. The total rodeo prize money was $7,300 that year. By comparison, individual PRCA winners at the event now make between $8,000 and $10,000.

Fourteen years later, in 1945, the show expanded from six days to nine days and two years after that Denver taxpayers passed a $1.5 million bond issue for the building of the Denver Coliseum. The Coliseum was officially up and hosting rodeos by 1952 and the facilities were upgraded again with a $2.5 million fund in 1972.

After breaking attendance records in 1971 and 1976, interest in the show really began to soar in the 1980s. In 1981, attendance reached 360,000 and the show expanded to 12 days and 21 rodeo performances. That record did not last long however because in 1985, the show offered 23 rodeo performances and drew 439,000 people.

According to the National Western’s official website, the large attendance in 1985 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.

Three years later, attendance topped 500,000 for the first time and show was expanded to 14 days.

In 1996, the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo began to take the shape we know today. It went from 14 days to 16, featured 23 rodeo performances and 11 horse show performances. Attendance skyrocketed to over 600,000.

From there, the attendance record would be broken again in 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2006. The 2006 record of 727,00 guests still stands today.