National Western Stock Show ends after welcoming more than 700,000 to Denver in 2018

As seen in The Denver Post Here.

Pueblo resident Christine Laughlin wins barrel racing championship on Stock Show’s final day

After 15 days of rodeos, live stock shows and other events best observed from under the brim of a cowboy hat, the 112th annual National Western Stock Show came to a close in a snowy Denver on Sunday. But the metro area’s personal slice of Western culture gave attendees one more Colorado-tinged moment to remember before riding off into the sunset.

Pueblo resident Christine Laughlin won first place in barrel racing in the pro rodeo finals Sunday afternoon, beating 101 competitors to earn the victory belt buckle. She and her 9-year-old mare named Jessundeniable, claimed $8,756 along with the top race time.

“Awesome,” Laughlin said of how it felt to win in her home state. “It’s more special because you known everyone. This is kind of our backyard.”

After the rodeo, Laughlin joined a stream of people in the parking lot behind the Denver Coliseum loading up trailers as fast as they could while bracing against the cold. Professional rodeo cowgirls and cowboys don’t stay in one place for long. Laughlin planned to go home to Pueblo for a few days before heading to Texas for a slate of rodeos starting next weekend.

“We could have picked a warmer day,” she cracked before jumping in her truck.

After bringing in more than 66,000 visitors Saturday, when temperatures peaked in the 60s, Sunday was a more sedate affair at the National Western complex in north Denver.

Parking lots sat half full and outdoor grill racks that a day before hosted sizzling turkey legs instead sat under a layer of snow.

The weather didn’t stop stock show neophytes Rhiannon Newton and Gergely Motolai from bundling up and attending. The duo took in some of the stock dog trails — during which cattle dogs demonstrate their sheep herding skills — and visited the petting farm before taking a break to nosh on bacon-wrapped sausage and other items.

“I’ve never been to a stock show before, so I thought it would be a cool thing to check out,” the 20-year-old Newton said. “It was the last day, so we weren’t going to miss it.”

One of their biggest takeaways: People take Western fashion seriously.

“Everybody was wearing a cowboy hat,” Motolai said.

In the expo hall, vendors were looking ahead to the next event on their schedules. Tyson Johnston, a sales and marketing specialist with Blattner Feedlot Construction and Livestock Equipment, said that as soon as he could break down his company’s hydraulic cattle chute display and load it on a truck, he would be headed back to Kansas to follow up on sales leads. He said Blattner had a solid National Western this year.

“We’ve been doing it for about 10 years. It allows us to get great exposure,” he said. “You know your target customer is going to come through here.”

Big, billion-dollar changes are on deck for the National Western complex, but for now organizers are happy to celebrate a successful year. Official counts put total attendance at the 2018 Stock Show at 705,574 people, second only to the 100th anniversary year in 2006, when more than 725,000 people attended.

“We’re very, very excited about that,” said Paul Andrews, National Western Stock Show president and CEO.