On Wednesday we made our annual pilgrimage to the National Western Stock Show, which always includes a visit to the Cowboy Bar, the temporary watering hole that sets up in the basement of the Hall of Education, right by the stalls where the steers are getting all spiffed up for the competition.
A few years ago the Cowboy Bar doubled its size, a break with tradition that we could applaud. But this year we found another change that was harder to stomach: no free peanuts.
Since we were paying $7.75 for a beer (25 cents more than you pay for a beer upstairs or in the Coliseum), the peanuts wouldn't have been exactly free. But we found the bar's explanation for lack of snack even harder to swallow than the beer prices: The city wouldn't let the bar stock them, the bartender told us (and by us, we mean the uniformed Denver police officer who asked about the missing peanuts).
But according to the Denver Department of Environmental Health there are no city regulations prohibiting free peanuts. Here's the word from inspector Robert McDonald:
Yes this is allowed. If the peanuts are not in a shell a utensil or scoop of some type should be provided so that everyone is not dipping their hands directly in to the nuts. The same is true for popcorn.
In search of a backup snack, we went out the basement's side door in search of the vendor famous for grilling up pork shop on a stick. But there, too, we encountered disappointment: The pork had been so popular that the stand had used up its supply, and the owner had gone out for more (presumably not off the pigs who share space in the basement of the building).
Fortunately, there were many more eating options just steps away: the ever-popular Big Sausage, Hot Dog Wrapped in Bacon, even a Banana Nut Crepe -- a foo-foo offering that's another sign of changes in the offing for the National Western Stock Show.
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We know that traditions don't last forever. But the price of keeping this one? Peanuts.