Long-time volunteer, Holtgrewe, to receive Friend of the NWSS Award

Dec 19, 2008

He is always there, he’s always reliable, and is truly a friend of the National Western Stock Show (NWSS). Virgil Holtgrewe has been a familiar face at NWSS for more than 40 years and has actively volunteered his time for 20 of those years helping guests, exhibitors and management put on the granddaddy of all livestock shows.

Holtgrewe will be honored for his many years as a volunteer at the Red Meat Club’s annual dinner meeting on Jan. 15. Holtgrewe will be the 17th annual “Friend of the NWSS” which is bestowed upon long-term supporters of the show. Traditionally, the honor is reserved for producers who have shown livestock at the show. However, the Red Meat Club Committee felt that Holtgrewe was well deserving of the award after his endless hours of personal time spent to help improve NWSS. Holtgrewe was a farm boy and has had agricultural blood flowing through his veins his entire life. Born on the family farm in southeast Nebraska, he worked with his father for many years, then took his own path. He spent two years in the military and attended Wentworth Military Academy before moving on to graduate from the University of Nebraska where he majored in soils and minored in soil conservation and general agriculture.

His first job out of collage was at Farmers National in Omaha, NE, where he was a member of their farm management team. The team conducted annual performance evaluations of their managed property, including an appraisal of land values.

After awhile, Holtgrewe became quite talented at land appraisal and Farm Management Company, founded by Vern Englehorn and Jim Sanders, asked him to be the organization’s main appraiser as demand for land appraisal grew larger.

Several years later, the company saw opportunity in Colorado and asked him to lead their Fort Morgan, CO, office. Englehorn and Sanders were both big fans of NWSS and, of course, saw the advantages of being a member of the show and the relationships that it would create. Holtgrewe attended his first stock show in 1970. Initially, he represented the Farm Management Company which also had an office in the Livestock Exchange Building where they held an open house during the show and provided customers and friends a place to rest their feet. Through his tenure as a farm appraiser, he earned the honor of “Designation of Rural Appraiser” from the American Society of Farm Managers. Even though he never received any formal degree in land appraisal, he earned his credentials through the school of hard knocks and the respect of his peers and colleagues in the industry. Holtgrewe is currently involved in educating land appraisers and very active in educating others.

In the early days, volunteering at NWSS meant doing whatever odd jobs management could find. His first responsibility was hosting the International Center, which was located in a trailer on the east side of the Stadium Arena. During his time as a volunteer, he worked with Willard Simms, Chuck Sylvester and, now, Pat Grant.

After awhile, Holtgrewe, along with Reid Graves, George Johnson, Dick Edmonds and Frank Pierz, realized that following the reconstruction of the show grounds to include the Hall of Education, there was a need to escort visitors through the show and explain what was going on. The result was the establishment of the Volunteer Corps, which he helped grow and strengthen and has grown to include over 500 people who have a passion for livestock and give their precious time to the benefit of NWSS. Over the years, Holtgrewe has seen a lot of changes and could perhaps write a book of experiences during his tenure at the show. One of the more amusing stories he tells is of one year when it was time to take the Grand Champion steer down to the Brown Palace for exhibition.

Co-volunteer Jim Sanders usually delivered the steer, but called on Holtgrewe after he injured his knee. Sanders told Holtgrewe he would need to take the steer to the Brown Palace.

When he got the steer downtown, Brown Palace management told him not to unload the steer until their escorts were ready. Coincidently, the Off-Broadway play “The Best Little Whore House in Texas” was playing in town and the ladies of the cast were staying at the Brown Palace and were enlisted to act as escorts for the 1,200-pound steer. While ushering the steer into its pen, one of the more cosmopolitan, tea-drinking lady guests said, “Who let those ladies in here?” referring to the costumed ladies of the evening escorting the steer.

The hotel manager then replied, “They’ve been here for a hundred years.” As Holtgrewe reflects on his time volunteering at NWSS, he has seen tremendous growth in the event and stable attendance, but realizes that it’s going to be difficult to maintain growth with the current facilities.

He is constantly amazed in the progress the livestock industry has made in the type of livestock produced and the efficiency they have accomplished due to their breeding programs.

He says the volunteer program has been one of the best programs going and keeps the show running smoothly. The Volunteer Corps has also played a significant role in keeping operating costs down for the show. “Each year, the volunteers are asked to do a little bit more, and each year they are happy to oblige,” he said. NWSS truly has no better friend than Virgil Holtgrewe, Mr. Reliable. — Pete Crow, WLJ Publisher