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Opening Day at the National Western Stock Show

“It is just a tradition that is unrivaled anywhere in the nation," said Paul Andrews, president & CEO of the Stock Show.

DENVER — Some people call it the best 16 days in January. The National Western Stock Show kicked off on Saturday. 

Organizers said around 40,000-50,000 people showed up for the first day of festivities. They're hoping to get back to pre-COVID numbers and hit more than 700,000 attendees over the next two weeks. 

“We’re the Super Bowl of livestock shows," said Paul Andrews, president & CEO of the National Western Stock Show. "We’ve got 29 rodeos, 13-14 horse shows. We’ve got food. We’ve got fun. We’ve got just about anything you want that’s Western is here.”

The stock show isn't just about animals and rodeos, though. There's plenty of music and dancing, too. 

"I started classical when I was three-and-a-half and I started fiddle when I was five," said McKenna Petersen, a 10-year-old fiddle player from the Houston area.

Credit: 9NEWS - Alex Castillo
McKenna Petersen, 10, warms up for the Colorado Fiddle Championships at the National Western Stock Show.

She's competing in the Colorado Fiddle Championships this weekend and plays fiddle like someone twice her age. 

"I like how I sound and some pieces just make me want to play them over and over again," she said. 

It's her first time at the National Western Stock Show. 

"It's before I get on stage that I'm really nervous, but when I get on stage I just get loose and relaxed," said Petersen. 

Credit: 9NEWS - Alex Castillo

She's soaking in every moment of this Colorado tradition and is excited the llamas are right next to the fiddlers. 

"They're big. They look fluffy and poofy that's all I can really say," she said. 

"They're very, very independent and not to mention they're very fluffy and great to hug," said Morgan Barba, who's showing her llamas. 

She's from Henderson and has been raising animals since she was 9 years old. 

Credit: 9NEWS - Alex Castillo
Morgan Barba gets her llamas ready for competition at the National Western Stock Show.

"Lots of people here are willing to talk to you and explain to you things, so definitely get involved because this is such a cool opportunity and it's the best 16 days in January," said Barba. 

On Saturday, she took her llamas to the competition arena. 

"So we actually train these guys to go through obstacles," she said. "We train them to go over jumps, go through hula hoops, put hats and different stuff on them, pick up all their feet, that type of thing.”

This year she hopes to be in the top tier of competitors, just like Petersen. 

"I like trying to win," said Petersen. "'Cause I think I'm really good. I think I have a good chance."

Organizers said the stock show welcomes attendees from all 50 states and 32 countries. It will have an estimated $120 million economic impact to the Denver area.

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