When I first moved to the Denver area in 2017, I heard about a parade of longhorn steers that were herded through Denver’s downtown streets every year – I even saw pictures of them. Of course, I added this event to my ever-growing list of things I want to see, photograph and write about. This year I was able to arrange it!
The parade, usually dubbed “the longhorn parade” is a kickoff event for the annual National Western Stock Show and Rodeo that takes place every January in Denver. I had the impression that the parade consisted of a bunch of cattle being herded around by some cowboys. Well, it WAS that, but it was so much more!
Fortunately the winter has been mild here, and parade day had 60-ish temps and sunshine. I hopped a train downtown and found myself in the middle of a crowd of people milling about before the action began. It was to start right in front of the train station, so I was in peachy position, about two blocks from Union Station.
At high noon (that’s what we say here in the Old West), a line of mounted police began clopping toward me on 17th Street:
Many people in the crowd were shouting, “Thank you!” to the officers.
And, sure enough, they were followed immediately by a herd of longhorn steers! If you’ve never seen a longhorn, they are aptly named, because they have some mighty long horns!
It was a much smaller herd than I expected (around 40 of them) and they went past in very short order. I wanted more photo time!
The cowboys and girls that were riding herd on these fellows kept them in a very tight group and were very skillful in keeping them moving, calm and protected. Although it’s not ever been my interest, there is something quite impressive about someone who knows how to handle a horse as well as they did.
But the parade was far from over! Next were the dignitaries who, in any other American parade, would be riding in shiny new convertibles. Here, they were riding in horse and buggies. The Grand Marshall was one of my idols: Dana Crawford. She began her career in Denver in the 1960s when she worked to keep Larimer Square in Denver from being torn down and replaced with glass and steel. She’s restored and renovated countless neighborhoods and buildings in the city, including the marvelous Union Station. At the age of 87, she’s still at it, planning and consulting on renovation projects in Trinidad and Pueblo, CO, to name a few. And here she was, in living color, right in front of me!
I put down my camera and yelled out, “Thank you, Dana!” She heard, looked modest, and gave me a smile and a wave. Next best thing to meeting her!
Well, first longhorns and then Dana Crawford! What next? Well, I didn’t anticipate the gazillion horses and riders and all manner of western groups that paraded past. This steed was a giant!
You can see the Union Station in the background here:
There were Clydesdales:
And teams and teams of beautiful animals drawing all sorts of carriages:
Riding schools and equestrian groups:
Lots of people looked right into my camera as I was taking shots. Makes for good photos – but I’m totally not used to that. I must say that the paraders and spectators all seemed to be having the time of their lives! It was a great feeling to experience that!
Miss Rodeo Colorado:
Blue-maned horses with painted hooves:
Feed supply teams:
University reps – this one was University of Wyoming, motto: “The world needs more cowboys.”
And it wasn’t all horses and cattle, either. This is Cam the Ram, CO State U’s mascot:
Little horse and little riders:
A really talented lariat handler (he jumped through the loop more than a couple of times):
I’d seen this truck in the Denver Christmas parade: it’s an old fire engine from the casino town of Black Hawk. Someone in the crowd yelled, “Hey! My mother wants her money back!”
Apparently, Deer Trail, Colorado, has the oldest rodeo:
Animals and people got really close to me, too.
I even saw a group of alpacas! Somebody behind me kept saying, “Don’t let them spit on you!” They didn’t spit.
There were service dogs:
An old prospector:
A decidedly un-Old-West stretch limo or two:
And a very loud, snappy country band on a truck from Grizzly Rose, a famous country dance hall in Denver:
After about 30 minutes, the parade was over. But there was still a task that needed to be done. The City got right on it:
This year’s National Western Stock Show, which began in 1906, started the evening after the parade (Jan 10 this year). It’s a western trade show, a rodeo, and a stock and horse show, which is still running through Jan 27. I’ve seen several local news features about the goings-on there. It’s held annually at the National Western Complex in Denver. As I said, it’s not my thing generally, but it’s starting to look really interesting. Maybe next year I’ll get down to the shows. I know I’ll see those longhorns again!
Photo for No Apparent Reason: