No city embodies the Spirit of the West better than Denver. And that’s on full display each year in January, during the National Western Stock Show. This year’s fest has is taking place from Saturday through Sunday, January 8th – 23rd, 2022.
The National Western is the world’s largest stock show, with more than 20,000 animals on display, and it’s grown massively since 1906, the first year the event was held. The show started at the turn of the century as a way for Colorado ranchers to showcase their prized pigs and share new breeding and farming techniques with fellow ranchers. But the show quickly grew into one of the biggest fairs in the West.
Today, the Stock Show is larger than life, just like the Old West. During the month-long event, cowboys and cowgirls from across the West and beyond pour into Denver to compete in rodeos, equestrian events, stock shows, BBQ competitions, and more. It’s like the grandest county fair on earth, and there’s something for everyone. The stock show lasts nearly the entire month of January – it’s held at the beginning of the year each year – and there are events each day of the week.
For instance, you can catch a rodeo or horse show featuring some of the best professional athletes from around the world on almost any day of the week. The horse shows are some of the largest anywhere. But if rodeos aren’t your cup of cowboy tea, you’re bound to find something interesting in any one of the hundreds of vendor booths.
The great news: The majority of events are held right by Downtown Denver at the National Western Complex, as well as the neighboring Denver Coliseum, and the cost of admission into the grounds won’t set you back too much either.
So what should you make sure to see this year? Here are a few don’t-miss events at the National Stock Show:
1. Kick-Off Parade
Each year, the National Western Stock Show gets started with a big bang parade that’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen. There are marching bands, floats, and other standard parade fares, but the parade also pays homage to the past in a big way.
More than 100 Texas longhorns are driven through the streets of Downtown Denver, along the parade route from Union Station down 17th Street. It’s a blast from Denver’s cowtown past, and it’s a bit surreal to behold: a stampede of bulls clomping down the skyscraper-lined streets.
2. Mutton Bustin’
Mutton Bustin’ is a fan favorite every year, and even better, it’s included with your admission price. But what is Mutton Bustin’ exactly? Basically, it’s like junior bull riding, but instead of bulls and bull riders, it’s 5-7 year-olds holding on for dear life on the backs of sheep. Hands down the event is one of the most fun to watch, and it’s great entertainment for the whole family.
2. RAM Invitational Freestyle Reining
Outside of the horse world, Freestyle Reining isn’t a well-known event. But it’s massively entertaining, and you won’t want to miss the event this year. Essentially, Freestyle Reining is a choreographed routine, but the cowboys and cowgirls use music, costumes, and horseback riding tricks into their allotted time to woo the judges.
It’s like figure skating, but on horseback, and it’s entertaining even if you’ve never ridden a horse in your life.
4. PBR Bull Riding
Bull Riding is the quintessential rodeo event, and no one does it better than the riders on the PBR tour. There’s no greater thrill at the National Western than watching the best riders holding on for the longest 8 seconds on the back of 2,000-pound bulls. It’s a fierce, edge-of-your-seat competition, and one of the best to see.
The 2022 National Western Stock Show really kicks off with the Free Parade for all in Downtown Denver, with events following thru the 23rd at the National Western Complex. Tickets are available online and at the gates. Some events require grandstand tickets, as well. Enjoy the show!
Address: National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt St, Denver, CO
Date: Saturday – Sunday | January 8-23, 2022
Cost: Free and Paid