National Western Stock Show ends with smaller crowds amid pandemic

More than a hundred thousand people stayed away from the National Western Stock Show this year when the 16-day event returned to Denver as the highly infectious omicron variant of COVID-19 swept through the state.

About 586,000 people visited the 116th National Western Stock Show, which ended Sunday. That’s down about 18% from pre-pandemic attendance, spokeswoman Karen Woods said in a news release.

Last year’s show was canceled because of the pandemic. The stock show in 2020 drew about 708,000 attendees, and the event saw just over 700,000 people attend the two years before that.

The annual attraction in north Denver includes livestock auctions, horse shows and rodeos, as well as hundreds of booths at an indoor trade show. The show saw its highest-ever attendance during its 100th anniversary in 2006, when about 726,000 people visited.

“Today we are grateful to have hosted this epic event,” National Western president and CEO Paul Andrews said in a statement Sunday. “We are blown away by the support and outreach from the nearly 600,000 guests who came back to celebrate the western lifestyle that is so important to so many.”

This year’s stock show took place despite rising rates of COVID-19 cases in Colorado, driven by the omicron variant. The stock show required attendees to wear masks in its indoor venues, although some attendees said the policy was not enforced. Stock show organizers did not require competitors or attendees to be vaccinated.

One of the final events of the stock show was the Junior Livestock Auction on Friday, where the Grand Champion steer sold for a record high of $160,000 and the top eight animals sold for a combined $519,000, Woods said in a release.

Most of the money goes directly to the young people who raised the animals, and 10% of funds are put into the National Western Scholarship Trust, which funds scholarships at colleges in Colorado and Wyoming.

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