GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed another major event and longtime Denver tradition. For the first time since 1915, the National Western Stock Show will take a year off.

(credit: CBS)

The decision will likely have a large economic impact on the city, and will also change the plans for many 4-H clubs, exhibitors, and groups like the Westernaires, a Jefferson County-based team of mostly teens that performs riding and precision drills at the Stock Show every year.

The stock show is not only the nonprofit group’s biggest stage, it’s also where they get the exposure to book other shows, fundraise, and carry on decades of tradition.

“It’s a great way for the kids to really display their skills that they’ve learned over the years,” said Brittany Taylor, a former Westernaire and current volunteer.

(credit: CBS)

“People all over the country come to this, so it’s a really great way for us to get our name out there.”

For 16 days every January, the Westernaires call the Denver Coliseum and National Western Stock Show home, wowing crowds with their precision drills and unique light shows. Toward the end of the trade show and rodeo, the group also honors the teens who will age out of the program with graduation rides and speeches.  
“This is something that I watched people do for really 10 years of my life, so this experience is something I’ve been looking forward to for about a decade,” said Shawn Murphy, a member of the Westernaires’ Varsity Red Team.

In with the postponement of the 2021 show, Murphy and her friends won’t get a traditional sendoff.  
“I called a couple of my teammates and we cried together, shared our best stock show memories, laughed a little and then cried a little bit more,” Murphy said.

On Monday, the stock show’s president and CEO announced the event’s postponement — a decision, favoring health and safety over economic gain. Westernaires alum and current volunteer, Brittany Taylor, said she believes the decision is the right one, but it may have long-term effects on the group’s fundraising and exposure.

“It’s a big part of our tradition, but fundraising, we’re a nonprofit, so really being able to have these opportunities to make sure that we can raise the funds to just daily operate,” Taylor said.  
For now, the nonprofit group is looking at broadcasting shows, which would create a virtual way to fundraise and keep traditions such as graduation rides alive.

“I’m grateful that there will be many years of Westernaires after me who will hopefully have this experience, even if I didn’t get what I expected,” said Murphy.

Conor McCue


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