A week ago, Kelsea and I went to the National Western Stock Show.
I wrote about our visit last year here; she’s gone every year of her life, with her first Stock Show being when she was less than 2 months old. She now keeps her ticket stubs in the band of her cowboy hat, and we both wish we’d thought to save them every year.
This is now a Mother-Daughter tradition for us, one of several that we love. Even though it’s the same event, it’s different for us every year, and this year was no exception. We arrived about four hours before the rodeo, but four hours wasn’t enough time for us. Why? Because it was Alpaca and Llama Day!
We sooo love alpacas and llamas.
The National Western is in its 105th year, and started out as just a livestock sale. The entire city of Denver would essentially shut down for the Stock Show, with everyone turning out for the parade and ranch families coming from miles around to sell, buy and par-tay. Obviously, I wasn’t around 105 years ago, but here are some old stock show photos from yore (and I wasn’t around for yore either, though Kelsea sometimes thinks I was):
I fell in love with the Stock Show when I saw my first rodeo. I still have a passion for rodeos, and try to find a new one every summer. Who knows, depending on what my life is like, maybe I’ll make it up to Canada this summer for the Granddady of ‘Em All, the Calgary Stampede. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Canada – I’m sure they all miss me there.
But back to Denver. Many people (Pat included) feel that the Stock Show is a “been there, done that” sort of thing. Every year, there’s the same vendors in approximately the same spots, the same livestock, the same events. That’s part of the Stock Show’s charm for us. We rely on the fact that we can ALWAYS see the longhorn or giant horse upon which one can (and one has) pose for $5. And the dog that sleeps ceaselessly next to it.
The chickens are always ridiculous looking. The giant rabbits always remind us of “Night of the Lepus”.
There’s always the weird stuffed animal diorama, where you can spin the wheel and identify a pawprint and get a pencil.
I love the petting zoo. Of course, I took the requisite cute animal shots. I never can resist.
This trip though, there was a lot more than petting going on between the animals.
The anti-drug people always have a mini basketball hoop. The Big Fat Sausage people are always there, bathed in neon. The Universal Seman Sales folks always have the latest fashions.
But Kelsea and I always seem to be enthalled with the old standbys – and we always seem to find something new.
This year, we discovered the Fiddling Championships, which were mighty impressive. We came in for the final three competitors, none of whom really looked like fiddlers, but all of whom were amazing. I have never understood how a human hand and a catgut (or is it horsehair?) string can coax such an infinite range of sounds and emotions out of what is essentially a wooden box. But it can be done, and done enthusiastically, elegantly and evocatively. We didn’t stay for the crowning of the winner, but any of the three were totally worthy of the title.
We wandered around the pens, humming to the alpacas, who hummed back at us (insert adorable gratuitous alpaca photos here:)
and laughing respectfully at the llamas. One in particular was quite taken with Kelsea.
Thank heavens my butt does not look like a llamas. And it never will. Never. Never ever.
Having obtained the requisite corn dog, we settled in to watch the Alpaca Obstacle Competition. And just to say, this is the ONLY time I ever eat corn dogs. I love them, but they are bad for me. I am very pleased to say though that the corn dog industry has not been impacted by these tough economic times. The corn dog is the only thing I have seen in forever that has grown larger over time and has not increased in price. So, kudos to the corn dog!
The Alpaca Obstacle Competition was hysterical. We spent an enchanting two hours there. Competitors ranged from small kids (probably 6 or 7 years old) up to teenagers. In many cases, the alpaca was far larger than the child.
The event involves the following, from the perspective of the alpaca:
- step over three small hurdles, which you might as well just knock over;
- go up three steps, walk across a platform, and go down three steps without falling off (terrifying);
- walk through some raised disks on the ground, which are very easy to ignore;
- go in and out of a trailer, just like we do every day;
- get all four feet into an empty child’s swimming pool without letting it flip up and hit you in the chest which is not only terrifying, but embarassing;
- go through a low tunnel with your human (terrifying - and what makes you think I can crouch?);
- step into a totally pointless raised circle;
- back into an L-shaped thing for no reason;
- allow a hula-hoop to be passed around your body like you’re a magician’s assistant;
- meet a bizarre looking man in a straw hat with a clicker who manhandles you – note to self: do NOT eat hat;
- wear a terrifying bright green saddlebag;
- walk a figure eight with your human pulling a scary noisy Radio Flyer next to you;
- get in another raised circle and let your human grab your head – note to self: do NOT bite human;
- step over some bizarre shiny leftover Christmas garland;
- stand next to your human while it opens a terrifying striped umbrella and stand under said umbrella with your human;
- look at your beautiful alpaca self in a mirror;
- step gracefully out of the arena over a bed of fake flowers.
(Trust me, I have a photo for each of these challenges, but I may have already overloaded this post with pictures.)
Now, none of this sounds too complicated, but when you’re a human trying to pull, drag or otherwise coerce a stubborn alpaca to do any of the above, any one of them can morph into a herculean task. Many times, the alpaca would just flat out refuse. Several alpacas bolted, leaving their human lying on his or her stomach in the dirt, while other competitiors chased the alpaca around the arena. One alpaca loved his own reflection so much he refused to be parted from it, and slobbered all over the mirror kissing himself.
The competitors were determined, although you could tell when they were discouraged, and just wished the whole thing was over. We greatly admired some, who clearly loved their alpacas very much, hugging and snuggling with them when they had to wait for a judge. By the end of the event, we could have been judges ourselves, as we accurately predicted the winners in the oldest age class.
(The formal Llama judging was occuring on the far side of the stadium from us, so we did get some peeks at the few, the proud, the llamas in between alpaca competitors. This one was just about to pose for glamour shots.)
We barely finished the Alpaca competition in time for the rodeo in the other arena. It was a surprisingly good rodeo for only the second day! We started with the laser light show.
And moved on to the initial appearance of the Westernnaires – always amazing, and this time, I experimented with artsy shots.
There were fewer “filler” events:
and more actual rodeo than we usually see, and we both liked that, hooting and hollering until our throats were sore (as usual). Kelsea is a champion woo-hoo-er. We saw some stubborn bulls, a couple of good wrecks (good for us, not the cowboy) and a few terrified judges climbing the fence, so we felt that we got our money’s worth.
Ah, but I was craving just a little faster lens for the camera!
Our seats were great, just one row above the really expensive seats, though on the other end of the arena from the bucking chutes. We were almost within dirt range. Dirt range is my favorite place to sit – maybe next year!
So as I said, we had budgeted four hours, but spent so much time with the fiddlers and the alpacas that four hours wasn’t enough. We missed wandering through the outside stockyards and moseying through the barn and shopping from crap amongst the vendors. But Kelsea says, and I agree, that we probably saved money hanging with the alpacas, since all we bought were two sodas, two corn dogs and some pecans. So we have a lot to thank those alpacas for!
But mostly, we are thankful that we have this tradition, and each other, and years and years of Stock Shows to look forward to.