Aaron Burris and his family have been going to the stock yards nearly every year since moving to Denver six years ago.
It gives his son, Wesley, the opportunity to wear his cowboy boots, cowboy hat and sheriff's deputy badge, while at the same time he gets to see animals such as bulls — which are his favorite — up close. Mom and dad, however, enjoy the food, the rodeos and browsing the different vendors for the something unique.
"There's stuff here for everyone regardless of your age," Burris said while eating a street taco in-between the Coliseum and Stadium Arena. "I love the shopping, that's my biggest thing, but the kids get to have fun too with all the animals and the tractors."
So when the family learned in September of 2020, that the stock show was postponed until 2022, due to COVID-19, like many others, they were devastated. But 16 months later, Burris and hundreds of other people and families returned to the National Western Complex for the 115th annual National Western Stock Show.
For the first time in 24 months cowboys and cowgirls from across Colorado and the United States gathered for the return of "the Best 16 Days in January."
Some like the Burris have been regular attendees for several generations, while others like Laura Bond, her husband and their son, Dean, experienced the "Super Bowl of stock shows" for the very first time.
"We went to college for this type of stuff and it's new for (Dean) and introduce him to this type of stuff, because I think it's important to see livestock and understand where everything comes from," Bond said while watching the Red Angus Junior Show on Saturday morning.
The Bond family moved to Denver from Nevada about four years ago, but because Dean was so young, they decided to wait and make it an entire family outing.
While no one was happy the 2021 show was canceled, it gave officials much needed time to complete its new stockyards and a stock yard event center on the National Western Authority campus. They opened to the public for the first time on Friday.
People gathered at the brand new, state-of-the-art stock yards and stockyards and stockyards event center on Saturday. By the most popular attraction was seeing some of the livestock up-close. Greeley resident Elizabeth Burke's six-year-old twins were in awe of the displays.
"The animals are so cool," said Sam Burke. "I love it."
Despite the National Western Stock Show returning to Centennial State for the first time since 2020, remnants of the COVID-19 pandemic remained. Hand sanitizer dispensers were at the entrances of each building and signs reminding people of the city and county's mask requirement were on each door.
Despite the mandate, many people within each of the stock show's buildings including vendors, visitors and employees roamed the the indoor grounds without masks.
Bond said due to the recent surge in positive COVID-19 cases in Denver and Colorado, it was concerning to see so many people without wearing masks, but her family's done everything they can to stay healthy.
"Our whole family is vaccinated and boosted and we'll always wear masks whenever we're inside with people," she said. "I'm kind of in the position where if I'm safe and cautious then I'm willing to get out of the house a little bit."
Attempts to reach stock show officials regarding mask enforcement and other questions were unsuccessful on Saturday.
Despite concerns of COVID-19, some like Jerry Crob, the owner of Reflections in Metal, whose been a vendor at the show for over 30 years, said he was glad to be back at his favorite show.
"We look forward to this show every year and they didn't have it last year and we were really disappointed," Crob said. "We're just so excited to be back."