DENVER (CBS4) – Cowboy boots, cowboy hats, gaudy belt buckles and denim everywhere. Coming from metropolitan south Florida, it’s a culture shock.

It’s not that I haven’t been around horses or cows before. I took riding lessons growing up and we had that family friend who lives on a farm with chickens roaming the front yard and cows in the back. But I had never been to such a concentrated gathering of country folk. That is, until I went to the National Western Stock Show.

Smelling of manure, funnel cake, and beer, I made my way through the unusual dome arena looking for country décor now that I’m officially a Coloradan.

Repulsed by whiskey and without cowgirl boots, I felt out of place wandering the sea of leather in my preppy sweater. But I quickly adapted and sifted through the impressive ironwork crafts, animal skins, and blinged-out belts that everyone already seemed to own.

I finally found my entrance to the arena, and — lo and behold — real live cows! Big cows, little cows, some with horns, all shoved into pens and seemingly content about it.

The rodeo began with a prayer, in true country form, followed by the national anthem. Never had I felt more American.

An announcer with 18 years of practice kicked off the event by introducing all the important people — on horseback — including the CEO, the organizer, and Miss Rodeo of America … who knew there was such a thing!? Well, she is my new idol.

PHOTO GALLERY: National Western Rodeo 2015

The rodeo was a much more aggressive event than I had imagined, though the horses’ names such as Salsa Verde and Vegas’ Fatal Attraction should have clued me in.

Out of nowhere, an untamed mare or stallion explodes through the gates into the arena, bucking as though its life depended on it. At the same time, a bold cowboy flails on the horse’s bare back, being whipped and jerked like a flimsy doll. The chaps and cowboy hat that inevitably flies off add to the drama.

I learned the horse is judged on how well he bucks, and the cowboy is judged on how well he spurs the horse — hence the bucking.

Nearly every cowboy was from Montana or the Dakotas, and had a name like Kash, Clint, and Tilden.

The National Western Stock Show hosted a Military and Veterans Appreciation Rodeo Jan. 20, 2015, in the Denver Coliseum. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Skye Robinson/Released)

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Skye Robinson/Released)

The cow lasso was next, another unexpectedly combative event. I couldn’t help but feel bad for the cows that were jumped on, had their necks twisted and were wrestled to the ground; or simultaneously roped around the head and the hooves, yanked in both directions for a split second. However, I admit I’m not fully informed on the behaviors of cows and can understand how manhandling four-legged beasts would be a natural part of life on the farm.

Easily the best event of the day was the Mutton Bustin’. Little kids, five to six years old dressed in chaps and helmets, cling to the back of a sheep for dear life as it runs across the dirt arena. And as usual, the one who hangs on longest wins. There’s just something so adorable about little kiddies hugging fluffy sheep running in slow motion.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Skye Robinson/Released)

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Skye Robinson/Released)

LINK: nationalwestern.com

If you’d like to see these quintessential Wild West events, head over to the arena yourself. The National Western Stock Show ends Jan. 25, and has a diverse assortment of shows during its last few days.

CBS4 social media and website producer Heather Sadusky writes about trending topics on social media and across the Internet on her What’s Trending Blog. Share a story idea with Heather by clicking here.

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