DENVER — Preps are well underway ahead of the National Western Stock Show in Denver.
It was eerily quiet at the National Western Complex last January, when the pandemic forced things to be mostly halted. Things will look a lot more familiar in 2022.
"It's time that America gets back and it's a time that the National Western Stock Show can be at full capacity," said Paul Andrews, president and CEO of the National Western Stock Show.
More than 700,000 people are expected to attend from more than 40 states. Andrews says 30 countries will be represented at the show this year.
"We've emerged and we've come out on the other side," Andrews said.
It certainly hasn't been easy. Sixty percent of the staff had to be laid off at the height of the pandemic.
"We do 200 other events a year at the National Western Complex," Andrews explained. "So the inability to put those on and drive the revenues necessary to keep us alive was tough."
The dust has settled now and most of Andrews' staff have been hired back on. He said nothing would run smoothly without the 800 volunteers who are set to return as well.
Tim Stark has been a volunteer for 10 years.
"The best part of being a volunteer around here is the camaraderie," Stark said. "We always look forward to see all the people in Denver and all the others that come to the show."
This time around, there will be a first for everyone involved — the grand opening of the historic stockyards.
"People that are exhibiting cattle here are going to be experiencing something they can't get anywhere else in the world: power in their pins, water that has cold and hot to it to wash their animals. That's not happening anywhere else," Andrews said. "I think this year's stock show will be historic."
The National Western Stock Show runs Jan. 8-22.