Magazine / People

Founders Day awardee Pat Grant shaped direction of National Western Stock Show

Patrick Grant is charting the National Western’s next 100 years as head of the long-range planning group. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Every January for most of the past two decades, DU alumnus Patrick Grant (MBA ’73) has sat tall in the saddle at Denver’s National Western Stock Show, shepherding the annual event through another 16-day exhibition.

Corralling 16,000 head of livestock. Welcoming cattlemen, ranchers and rodeo hands from 45 nations. Raising the curtain on 42 shows and special events and working dawn to dark so more than 640,000 city slickers a year can feel like cowboys for a day.

“It’s been my career,” says Grant, the event’s longtime chief executive. “It’s been my life, and it’s been a serious passion and commitment for the past 20 years.”

But no roll in the hay. Steering the 105-year-old Denver tradition through snow and cold and gloom of night on a cramped, creaky 100-acre campus beneath Interstate 70 has often felt as challenging as negotiating a cease fire at the OK Corral.

No more. The National Western’s famed president, CEO and 2011 winner of the Founders Day Evans Award — DU’s highest alumni honor — has hung up his spurs and unsaddled his horse. On Nov. 1, 2010, Grant transferred day-to-day wrangling authority to successor Paul Andrews and took a step toward the National Western’s future — charting the event’s next 100 years as head of the long-range planning group.

“It’s good to have Pat’s background and ability while I learn the job,” says Andrews, a former executive vice president at Kroenke Sports. “He’s not only a great leader but a man who shows respect for others.”

Highest on the list of long-range challenges is determining whether the stock show should seek greener pastures, and where. One plan on the table is to join forces with the Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment Co. to move the event to a site near Denver International Airport that also would include a Western-themed hotel and conference center.

“We have come to no final conclusion at this time,” Grant says carefully. “But we know that at our current location we are seriously constrained as to acreage and outmoded buildings and grounds. We certainly feel the pressures.”

The National Western is counting on Grant and the experts he’s rounded up to recommend a plan. It won’t be easy, Grant allows, but it will be his final service in stirrups. A capstone to two decades aiding the community and helping preserve the heritage of the West. A final service to the National Western. A show of true grit.


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