Darryl Leppa of Saskatchewan, Canada, leads a cow out of the livestock area at the National Western Stock Show in Denver on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015.

(Photo: CPR/Nathaniel Minor)

Cowpokes will drive longhorn cattle through downtown Denver on Thursday. It's part of the parade to kick off the annual National Western Stock Show, which opens this weekend and runs through Jan. 24.

The event is more than a century old, and University of Colorado Denver history professor Tom Noel has dug up many of the pivotal and odd moments since the show's inception. He spoke with Colorado Mattters host Ryan Warner in 2006 about his book "Riding High: Colorado Ranchers and 100 Years of the National Western Stock Show."

Five interesting facts according to Noel:

  • The first stock show in 1898 ended in a deadly riot. There was pandemonium over free beer and meat.
  • Early stock shows featured a baby judging contest. A group of women came up with the idea, saying, "What about the human race?" since men were focused on breeding better cattle, pigs and sheep. (The tradition doesn't continue.)
  • Each year, a grand champion steer is brought into the lobby of the Brown Palace Hotel and Spa in Denver where it eats hay from a silver platter, drinks water from a silver bowl and has its eyelashes curled and coat brushed out.
  • A grand champion steer once trotted out of the Brown Palace down 17th Street. Fortunately, several blocks away, the animal stopped to look at its reflection in the glass wall of a downtown office building, leading to its capture.
  • There has been cheating in the stock show's past, like a white Charolais that was dyed to look like a Black Angus. A child recognized the animal from back home, prompting officials to take a closer look. They discovered the dark shoe polish was starting to wear off.