When you think of the wild west, you think of cowboys, horses, rodeos and big, wide open spaces.  So it’s no surprise that one of the biggest draws in Denver during the winter is none other than the National Western Stock Show.

The Stock show features all things cowboy related including barrel racing, calf roping, and bull riding among other things.   And as the name implies, it features a variety of livestock including some pretty impressive bulls.

The Stock show starts with a sight to see with over 40 cattle walking the streets of downtown Denver.  Cowboys, who look straight out of a Marlboro ad, ride their horses alongside them.  During the cold days of winter, this sight and the 15 days of the show that follow can draw quite a crowd.  This year’s attendance was estimated at over 700,000.

But the story that really caught my eye, or should I say my ear, is what happens at the end of the stock show.  As a kid, I frequently heard the saying, “bull in a china shop,” usually by my father when chastising my brother not to roughhouse around the house.  But when the grand champion steer has been crowned at the stock show, part of the tradition is to show him off along with the runner-up at none other than the Brown Palace Hotel.

The Brown Palace is a venerable Denver tradition, having been built in 1892, and is considered one of the most historic hotels in Denver.  One of the more interesting things to do there is having High Tea, complete with scones and crumpets.

For 73 years, the Grand Champion steer and the runner-up walk the red carpet into the lobby of the Brown Palace during the last Friday of the stock show.  There they are adorned with roses and kept in a paddock of the ornate lobby while patrons enjoy high tea, stopping to have pictures taken with the guests of honor.

I happened to hear about this unique tradition on Colorado Public Radio, and only wished I had the day off to witness the spectacle.  One of the questions asked of the Brown Palace employee who was interviewed was whether any mayhem had come of this.  She answered no, except for the time when they were trying to load the steer back in the trailer and it got loose, running down 17th street with the handlers chasing after it.  That I would have liked to see!

Perhaps next year, I will finally remember to buy tickets for the stock show and maybe even reserve some seats for the High Tea to see all the festivities for myself.