Our “On the Road to the Majors: Preparing for a Major Stock Show” series continues. Our next interview is with Abby George who will discuss the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado.

Read about the American Maine Anjou Junior National show here.

General Information

SBC: Tell us your name, where you are from, and a little bit about yourself.

Abby: My name is Abby George and I am from a small town in Wisconsin. I currently study at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. Even though I grew up in the dairy state, I have a deep love and passion for the beef cattle industry and have been able to show all over the Midwest. When I’m not with cattle, I love spending time with family and friends. I also enjoy traveling, taking pictures, and crafting.


SBC: What is your favorite major show to attend?

Abby: My favorite show is the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado.


SBC: When and where is the show?

Abby: The show is sixteen days long in January. This upcoming year it will be January 11-26, 2020. The show is in Denver, Colorado, at the National Western Stock Show Yard.


SBC: What is the entry cost for the show?

Abby: The cost for the show is $35 for the junior show and $40 for the open show.


SBC: When are the deadlines?

Abby: Early registration is usually due a few days before Thanksgiving. This year the entry deadline is November 20, 2019.


SBC: Do participants need anything specific for the show?

Abby: If you are traveling out of state, you need health papers and an official identification tag in the animal’s ear. All animals also need a negative BVD test and you must bring the paperwork to show it. All registered cattle need registration papers if you are showing within a breed.


SBC: How is the show split up?

Abby: There is a show for each breed. Different breeds show on different days and are at the National Western during different times. Within the breed, animals are shown by age. Each age class is in a division and there are division winners. These division winners are able to show for the top overall.


SBC: What surprised you the most when you got there?

Abby: What surprised me the most at the National Western Stock show was the large number of visitors that came through the barns. There were always people walking around, wanting to look and touch your animals. They also took lots of pictures, especially when they were in the chutes.


SBC: What did you forget and wish you had brought with you?

Abby: I forgot to pack layers of clothing. The temperature and weather in Denver can change fast and I found myself wishing I had more warmer clothes and less cooler clothing at different points during my stay and even during the same day.


SBC: What is your favorite thing about this show?

Abby: My favorite thing about the National Western Stock Show is the memories that are made. You are able to meet some incredible people and make friends that last a lifetime. This show has high quality cattle and being able to compete with them and against them is a wonderful feeling. Also, the people watching is amazing!


SBC: What is your favorite memory of the show?

Abby: My favorite memory of the National Western Stock Show is when this past year, 2019, I won my division with my Shorthorn Plus heifer, Mia.


SBC: How experienced do you have to be to exhibit at this show?

Abby: Though there isn’t a required experience level to show at the National Western, I would suggest that you have some showing experience. This wouldn’t be the best show to be your first time in the ring. This show is very competitive and presents a high quality of cattle.


SBC: What ages can show?

Abby: Each breed has a junior and open show. The junior show is open to exhibitors ages 9-22 as of January 1 of that year.


SBC: What breeds can show?

Abby: The National Western Stock Show has a large number of breed shows from Angus and Hereford to Gelbvieh, Salers, and Mini Herefords. They also have the stock yard shows with pens of bulls and heifers.


SBC: How is the cattle weigh-in/check-in handled?

Abby: Each breed association will do something for checking in cattle. Some will want to weigh and/or check tattoo numbers, while others just want to see registration papers. There is an assigned time for check-in that will be posted with the breed rules and schedule.


SBC: What is the atmosphere of the show?

Abby: The atmosphere of the show is very energetic. Everyone is excited to be there and is having a good time meeting up with friends. And though this is a very competitive show, it also has a laid-back feel to it. People are nice and are willing to help out.


SBC: Do I have to pay for admissions each day?

Abby: Yes. You do have to pay for admissions each day, but the best deal is to get the exhibitor badge. It’s a pin that anyone can get, and it is around $35 but lets you move freely around the ground and tie outs.


SBC: Are fitting supplies available on site? If so, what brand?

Abby: Yes. There are multiple trailers in different locations of both Weaver’s and Sullivan’s. They are easy to access and carry almost anything you may need or may have forgotten.

The exhibitor badge allows competitors to move freely around the grounds and tie outs at the National Western Stock Show.


Tie Outs and Parking Information

SBC: How do they handle the tie-out situation for cattle? Do you need your own bedding?

Abby: You sign up for tie outs when registering for the show. When you arrive at the show you are given your assigned spots. For bedding, you must purchase it at the show. There may be some bedding for tie outs provided, but any additional that you may need will need to be purchased at the show. They do not allow for outside bedding or hay.


SBC: How is parking?

Abby: Parking is fairly simple. There are different parking lots around the grounds that are able to be used, though you may have to walk a bit through the grounds to get to the barn. You need to get a parking pass from the main office when you check in at the main office before entering the grounds.


SBC: Is there easy trailer parking? Is it handy to access your trailer for feed and supplies?

Abby: When you arrive at the grounds you will need to get a parking pass. This will allow you to park vehicles and trailers in a specific parking lot. Depending on the lot you are in, you may have to walk a long distance. There is no parking on the grounds.


SBC: What is the best way in and out of the grounds?

Abby: For trucks and trailers, there is only one way through the grounds and that’s through the main gate marked for livestock. There are stations with guards who help with directions on the grounds and monitor traffic for loading in and out. No vehicles are allowed on the grounds unless you have a pass to move in or out from the main office.

Barn Information

SBC: How warm is it in the barns?

Abby: The weather in Denver in January is unpredictable. It can be in the 50s one day and have a major snowstorm the next. It’s always best to be prepared with layers of clothing. However, for the most part, the barns stay warm enough to be comfortable in a sweatshirt and jeans.


SBC: What is the barn setup?

Abby: The barn was set up with rows for cattle and room for supplies along the edges with a large wash rack in the middle of the barn and the show ring attached in another part of the building. However, the National Western Stock Show is being rebuilt from the ground up and so there will be some changes to the barn, stock yards, and layout.


SBC: Are the wash racks indoors or outdoors?

Abby: Wash racks are indoors and are heated. They are fairly large, but lines do form during peak hours, especially on show day.


SBC: How is stalling?

Abby: You are assigned stalls first-come, first-served as you arrive on the grounds. The amount of space you have all depends on which breed you are showing and how many are there. For the most part there should be some space to keep supplies and feed as there is room on the sides and end of the rows for these things.


SBC: What should I expect for moving in and out of the barn?

Abby: Moving in and out can take a long time. The process is monitored by guards and is fairly organized. However, to get the large amount of people, cattle, and supplies in and out is difficult. Moving in is less chaotic as people arrive at different times. However, everyone wants to get out and leave right away when it is move-out time.


SBC: Can exhibitors bring their own bedding and hay?

Abby: No. All bedding and hay must be purchased at the show.


SBC: What type of bedding does an exhibitor need?

Abby: Exhibitors will want shavings for bedding.


SBC: Can I bring fans, a fan cage, and side panels for my cattle?

Abby: Yes. All of these things are allowed. Depending on the amount of cattle that are there at the same time will determine the amount of space that you have to set up.


SBC: Does the water have an off-taste, such as chlorine?

Abby: The water is city water and has hints of chlorine. Something I always pack is a water filter to help eliminate it. I also have Gatorade or Kool-Aid flavoring to help cattle want to drink. (Check out our post “How to Keep Your Calf Eating and Drinking at the Show” for more helpful tips.)

Food and Hotel Information

SBC: Can outside food, drinks, and coolers be brought in?

Abby: All outside food and beverages are not allowed. However, there are many options on the grounds to purchase them.


SBC: Are there places to purchase food and drinks? If so, what are the prices?

Abby: There are a number of places to purchase food and drinks. There are options of fair food, like corn dogs, pizza, burgers, chicken strips, and sandwiches. The prices are on the high side, similar to many other shows or fairs.


SBC: How is the traffic to and from the show?

Abby: Denver can be a busy place, especially if you are there during rush hour. Most other times of the day are not so bad, and you can easily move about in a truck, possibly with a trailer.


SBC: What are the best restaurants to eat at around the show?

Abby: A favorite of our group is Texas de Brazil, which is basically an all-you-can-eat beef, pork, and lamb Brazilian restaurant. I am also a big fan of Texas Roadhouse. We find it fun to order in pizza to our hotel and just relax and hang out after a long day as well. There are many great pizza places around the city.


SBC: What are the best hotels near the show?

Abby: There are many hotels that partner with the stock show to provide nice and affordable rooms for exhibitors and visitors. Personally, we look for a Comfort Inn as they usually provide the best deals.

Before the Show Information

SBC: What are the best tips/tricks for preparing for the show?

Abby: Practice makes perfect. Daily hair care, practice, and feed are important in the weeks leading up to the show. The National Western Stock Show is a large show with many spectators, so it is important that your animal is calm and easy to handle.


SBC: What is the most important thing to remember before heading to the show?

Abby: Remember to only take what you need. There may be limited space to keep supplies in the barns and it can be a hassle to walk to the truck or trailer when you need something.

Show Day Information

SBC: What should I expect for show day?

Abby: Each breed show is different and for the most part it is very similar to other shows. A few things that stuck out to me the first time I attended the National Western was that only one person per exhibitor with animal is allowed in the staging area. They are very strict on that rule. All others must find places in the seats ringside. Also, no aerosols are allowed in the staging area.


SBC: Where and when is the show order posted?

Abby: Each breed show is different, however the best place to find the show order is ring side in a printed booklet. Most breed associations will also post it on social media pages.


SBC: What is the most important thing to do at the show?

Abby: Time flies when you are having fun, so make the most of the experience. The quality of cattle is high there so feel proud of your accomplishments.


SBC: Who would be the best go-to contact person if exhibitors have questions while at the show?

Abby: The best place to get questions answered would be the livestock show office. Everyone working there is knowledgeable and friendly.


SBC: Who is allowed to help fit at the show?

Abby: For both the junior and open show anyone is allowed to help you fit your animal(s).


SBC: What would be your best piece of advice for exhibitors interested in attending the event?

Abby: The show is very large and can be overwhelming. If you know someone who has gone in the past, ask if you can tag along with or without your own cattle. Even if you attend without cattle, you will enjoy the show and learn a lot. Then, when you bring cattle it will be easier to navigate and less stressful.

Do you have an experience at the National Western Stock Show? Please tell us about it in the comments below.

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