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It might not be as bad as a bull in a china shop, but a steer in the lobby of a historic Denver hotel comes pretty close.

In celebration of the Colorado city’s annual National Western Stock Show, the Brown Palace Hotel and Spa welcomes the competition’s Grand Champion steer (a castrated bull) to its ornate eight-storey atrium every January – just in time for the hotel’s trademark afternoon tea.  

Better known for hosting nearly every US president, along with celebrities from Molly Brown to the Beatles, the Brown Palace has welcomed livestock in its lobby since 1945, when Colorado rancher and politician Dan Thorton brought his two bulls into the lobby for display and later sold them at the stock show for $50,000. A few years later in 1958, rodeo star Monte Montana rode his horse Rex up the hotel’s cast iron grand staircase to drop in on a rodeo cowboys meeting.

The Brown Palace does take precautions to keep a sense of decorum during livestock appearances. For example, the hotel puts up a small cattle pen lined with turf and plastic underneath. As the hotel's chief engineer once told the Westword, Denver's alternative weekly paper, "These little creatures don't care when they're gonna cut loose." Thankfully, the Palace staff stays vigilant when it comes to pooper-scooper duty.

This year’s winning steer, determined at the Market Beef Championship selection on 24 January, will strut his stuff down a rolled out red carpet on 25 January from 11am to 1pm, and visitors are welcome to take pictures with him. After his moment in the spotlight, the championship steer will go up for sale in the Junior Livestock Champions Auction. Last year’s winner, named Stripe, weighed more than 1,300lb and sold for more than $106,000.

The 107th annual stock show runs from 12 January to 27 January, with events like sheepdog herding and mutton bustin’ (where children ages five to seven try to stay atop a bucking lamb the longest) rounding out the weekend.

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