Take a tip from a veteran-the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo is not the place to break in your spiffy pair of cowboy boots.
David Ames, professor of animal science at Colorado State University and a judge, official and longtime stock-show participant, has more experience than a Brahma bull has attitude.
"You can pick out fake hats and boots from a mile away," Ames said. "Don’t try to outdress the real ranchers, because you’ll look like a rhinestone cowboy."
On a more serious level, Ames reminds participants that the National Western Stock Show isn’t a county fair or a carnival. It is, to anyone involved in livestock and related matters, a business convention.
That doesn’t mean it’s not fun for the casual visitor. Ames, who will be attending his 31st stock show this January, has learned some things over the years that make attending more enjoyable and less hassle. His suggestions:
- "Avoid the weekends. You can pick your time or times to attend, because it goes on for a long period and there’ll be less hassle on weekdays for those who want to see a lot."
- Don’t worry about parking. "The National Western has done a very good job with parking and their park-and-ride arrangements. It’s easy and convenient."
- "A good way to get a sense of the wonderful history of the National Western Stock Show is to compare its physical development-the great old Stadium."
- Arena, renovated but there for years and a symbol of the show, versus the new Equine Events Center, a modern facility that shows the growth of the National."
- "Take in a rodeo. Get tickets ahead of time. It’s easier to attend if you go on a weekday, especially a matinee."
- "Look up a program, find out when the youth activities are scheduled and go see kids working with their livestock. They’ll be our ranchers soon, and this is where they learn."
- "Look at different animals, events, displays and educational opportunities. There’s a high level of technology associated with animal agriculture, but visitors will also be in the midst of a real business, where you eyes and experience tell you a lot. A first-time visitor might find things to be different than their preconceived notions. The difference between the National Western and a typical stock show is found in the yards, the Hall of Education, the Hill and the rodeos."
- The Hall of Education, with special displays of animals, the latest ranching technology and other products, is a family-oriented show that kids love.
Ames has been coming to the National Western Stock Show since 1969, when he was a faculty member at Kansas State University. His favorite place is "the yards," where cattle are when not on display for judging or sale.
"I guess I like that part because I’m in the cattle business, but ranchers and a lot of us – the entire KSU animal sciences faculty would come – hung out there. For cattlemen in the mountain West and the Midwest, that’s the place to be."