BARBWIRE BOB – 1-26-23

The 117th National Western Stock Show has concluded another sensational year.  Denver and Colorado can be proud of this major event that showcases cowboys, vendors, kids, livestock, and agriculture. The show is well done, and the opening day had 60,000 people in attendance.  Congratulations to Paul Andrews, president and CEO of the National Western Stock Show who has taken the helm of the organization from the reins of organization from icon Pat Grant.  Doug Jones leads the board of directors, and there is literally a cast of thousands who make the show go on with such great momentum.

This year’s Grand Champion steer sold for $200,000, a record for the January 20, Junior Livestock Champion Auction.  The proceeds go to fund scholarships and for youths raising varieties of animals, from cute pigs to the majestic beauty of a grand champion Angus steer.

Gerri and I donned our western duds Friday night and were guests of Dianne Bartlett and Brett Freilinger at the auction event in the massive exhibit hall sales arena.  The event began in the early afternoon at the National Western Club, where hundreds of old and new friends convened for beef, show business, and Coors beer.  It was standing room only in the club area, and there was “Hall of Fame” Cookie Lockhart, famous Steamboat Springs auctioneer extraordinaire.

There were many celebrities, board members, and  cowhands, many from across the nation supporting the livestock auction where 10 percent of the sale-winning bids go to scholarships. The Trust started in 1983, awarding three $1000 scholarships.  Today they award 100 scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $15,000 each. 

At 6:30 sharp, our hostess Dianne Bartlett, an annual steer purchaser, and son Brett Freilinger, led us into the sales arena, a steep banked sale ring surrounding the auction pit and auctioneer John Korrey.  Bruce Wagner is chairman of the Junior Livestock committee, and Bob Heykoop is vice-chair.  They, and their large committee, oversee the huge auction event that brings youthful sellers and bidders from across the nation.  

One, by one, starting with the champion lambs, beef,  hogs, goats, the auction moved fast.  The enthusiastic crowd was generous, and livestock prices were breaking records.  There were no signs of a recession in the auction pit that evening, but signs that the future of agriculture is in the hands of hard-working young men and women who care for the animals and supply food for America and the world.

Dianne purchased her steer, and we were honored to join her and Brett for a photo op behind the auction ring where animals and buyers congregated for “Thanks” and photos with the prize animals.

Dianne Bartlett purchases a prize steer at the National Western Stock Show.

Dianne is a longtime friend and well-known in Villager land. She relates to my tales about milking cows before going to school.  Dianne was once a youthful “milkmaid” herself, working with some of her brothers, living on a farm.  She still owns a Kansas farm, has deep roots into agriculture, and maintains hundreds of friends, and resides in Denver.

After the show, we sat in the Club where Dianne conversed with a lady friend from Windsor. They compared western outfits and jewelry. The woman from  Windsor had been shopping in downtown Denver that day and had purchased her attractive outfit along with a new Indian squash blossom necklace found at a stock show booth.  The stock show  brings millions of dollars to the local economy.  The Denver Chamber of Commerce is a major sponsor.

There were literally thousands of folks, rural and city, enjoying the many vendor booths and great food prepared by the McNicholas family, with Sean at the helm after the death of his famed father Kevin. Mary is still active, and the family are great supporters of the National Western.  They were bidders at the auction and purchased the Reserve Champion Lamb by their TKM Foundation by Sean and Audra McNicholas, for a record $45,000.

The annual event brought back many memories of my ranch life, and I will commence a few more tales about life on our early ranch which was located, as the title of the book describes, “Where The Old West Stayed Young.”

I grew up on that ranch, and it wasn’t anything like agriculture today.  How things have improved and changed.  One thing hasn’t changed and that is dealing with the weather and the huge amounts of physical labor extended daily by folks on the farms and ranches.

They are the sinew that keeps America the envy of the world.