National Western Stock Show to Celebrate History and Tradition in its 117th Year

Rowan Wasinger and her steer in the 2023 Auction of Junior Livestock Champions (Photo courtesy National Western Stock Show)

by Blaine Howerton | North Forty News

The National Western Stock Show has a long time history in Colorado. It was established in 1906. It’s now the nation’s premier livestock, rodeo, and horse show, serving agricultural producers and consumers worldwide.

The non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization provides education in agriculture, including college and graduate-level scholarships in agriculture and veterinary medicine for practice in rural areas.

The National Western Stock Show is held every January for about two weeks. In 2024, it will run from January 6 – 21.

The tradition starts on January 4th at noon, with a parade through downtown Denver. It starts at Union Station.

A nationally recognized Western heritage and entertainment event, the stock show hosts one of the world’s richest regular season professional rodeos, one of the country’s largest horse shows, and Colorado’s largest western trade show, attracting attendance numbers of over 700,000 visitors each year.

Throughout this historic event, the National Western attempts to strengthen American agriculture through enrichment programs and youth education in livestock, equestrian, farming, ranching, animal awareness, and appreciation.

The Catch A Cal Program is one of the Stock Show’s most Loved Traditions. In 2024, the program will be held on the first day of the stock show (January 6).

Lined up in the middle of the Denver Coliseum rodeo arena, kids wait for what could be their very own calf to be released from the chutes- if they can catch it. The only thing going through Rowan Wasinger’s head is, “I don’t care how, but I’m going to catch one.”

Rowan is one of the nearly 3,000 National Western Stock Show Catch-A-Calf Program participants over its 80-year run. This is the National Western’s longest-running practical beef cattle management program and allows young adults, ages 14-18, from Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The Catch-A-Calf program gives participants a chance to catch a calf and take it home or to a ranch location, feed it, take great care of it, and return to the Stock Show one year later with the animal as a market-ready steer to exhibit at the Catch-A-Calf Show.

Upon returning to the Stock Show, each Catch-A-Calf steer will be judged on production and carcass quality. At the same time, the participants are judged on showmanship, record books, sponsor relations, and personal interviews. If the whole purpose of Catch-A-Calf was to teach young adults how to raise and show a steer, then it would likely not be one of the longest-running programs at the National Western. This program teaches these young adults how to raise and show quality cattle. It inspires a life-long love for the industry that fuels the world and agriculture, all while teaching them valuable life skills.

For many participants like Rowan, Catch-A-Calf is an open door into the world of agriculture and exhibiting cattle. It often sparks a life-long passion for the cattle and livestock industry. It is the opportunity for these young adults to experience production agriculture and to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Catch-A-Calf allows young adults to cultivate meaningful relationships with fellow participants, sponsors, and industry men and women. It teaches these young adults so many valuable life skills that they can use beyond the showring.

“It’s just great. I have like six new friends from Kansas, some from Nebraska, a whole bunch from Colorado, a whole bunch from Wyoming, just from this experience,” said Rowan.

After Rowan was crowned the Grand Champion Catch-A-Calf participant, she was flooded with love from so many of her fellow exhibitors. Nothing but smiles, hugs, and words of encouragement surrounded her as she walked back to the crowd of participants. This shows the level of respect and love these young adults have for each other and the lifelong friendships they have formed during their years together.

The Catch-A-Calf Program is so much more than just a cattle show. The program is about developing future generations of agriculturalists and leaders. This program teaches young adults the skills they need to be good showmen, leaders, agriculturalists, and, most importantly, good people.

Muttin’ Bustin at the National Western Stock Show (Photo by Blaine Howerton)

Step into the Stadium Arena during the first weekend of the National Western Stock Show.

You’ll see the difference programs like this make in these young adults’ lives and agriculture’s future. The stock show celebrates Western lifestyles, communities, and provides life-long memories and family traditions.

For more information about the National Western Stock Show Catch-A-Calf Program, visit Catch-A-Calf Program.

For more information about the National Western Stock Show, including schedules and ticket purchases, visit


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