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Grand champion steers visit Denver hotel for afternoon tea

Seventy-seven years ago, a businessman started a tradition still celebrated today: Afternoon tea with a steer.

DENVER — The National Western Stock Show's Grand Champion Steer and Reserve Champion Steer marched into The Brown Palace on Friday for afternoon tea.

The 77th annual tradition brought the ribbon-winning steers down a red carpet and into the legendary Denver hotel's atrium lobby.

Hotel guests and ticketed attendees watched the steers' entrance from eight floors of balconies, while crowds stood outside in a line that wrapped around the block for their turn to get a photo of the champions.

Guests from all over the world make reservations weeks, sometimes months in advance, for a guaranteed seat in the atrium.

After their time as the stars of The Brown Palace, the two steers were sold at the Auction of Junior Champions at the Stock Show Friday night. 

Stan The Man, the 2023 Grand Champion Steer shown by LaSalle resident Justin Pfannebecker, sold for a record $200,000, to Ames Construction Company. 

The previous steer record was set in 2022 when the Grand Champion Steer sold for $160,000.

The auction is the final marketplace for the ribbon-winning steers, lambs, hogs and goats that were raised by junior exhibitors, 4-H and FFA youngsters ranging in age from 9 to 18.

The goal of the auction of Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion animals is to encourage today’s youth to seek a future in agriculture and to further their education.

A majority of the winning bid price goes directly to the junior exhibitor, and 10% of each bid price is donated to support the National Western Scholarship Trust. Of the thousands of junior market animals that compete at the National Western Stock Show each year, only 96 qualify for the Auction of Junior Livestock Champions.

The relationship between the National Western and The Brown Palace began in 1945 when Daniel I. J. Thornton, as an influential businessman, seized the opportunity to parade his success through the halls of one of Denver's most elite hotels.

Thornton sold two bulls that year "for the highest amounts ever." Each steer sold for $50,000, said Paul Andrews, National Western Stock Show president and CEO.

The National Western Stock Show is a nationally recognized Western heritage and entertainment event with one of the world’s richest regular season professional rodeos, one of the country’s largest horse shows and Colorado’s largest agricultural trade show.

A tradition since 1906, this part-rodeo, part-livestock show and part-fair brings hundreds of thousands of people to the National Western Complex each year for a celebration of our state’s agricultural heritage.

The 117th annual National Western Stock Show and Rodeo runs until Sunday, Jan. 22, at the National Western Complex and Denver Coliseum at Interstate 70 and Brighton Boulevard.

Tickets to the National Western Stock Show and a full schedule of events can be found at NationalWestern.com.

9NEWS is a corporate partner of the National Western Stock Show.

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: National Western Stock Show


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