Exhibitor to Director

Leave it cleaner than you found it.
If you walk through a closed gate, shut it.
Your work reflects who you are, and hard work is respected.
Your words can touch a soul or crumble a heart, so choose them wisely.
Look people straight in the eye when speaking and always speak with honesty and integrity.
Stop to see the world through the eyes of a child; look at it with the awe and wonder they do. This will refresh your perspective.
Always take time to share a hug or a moment with children. The time spent with them is of value more than gold!
Treat your elders with respect.
And last but not least, do it all with Faith and the Grace and dignity of a lady.

These words to live by offered by Jennifer Boka serve as a compass in all she does. Recently appointed director of livestock operations for the National Western Stock Show (NWSS), the Colorado native is determined to preserve the prestige of the 116-year-old event while providing a welcoming experience to exhibitors and visitors.

Jennifer Boka was named director of livestock operations at the National Western Stock Show in Denver in July 2022.

Life with livestock

Jennifer joined the NWSS team in July 2022 after more than eight years as the general manager of the Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE) in Billings, Montana. But her passion for all things livestock stems from roots planted at her family’s registered Simmental ranch, located just north of Fort Collins. 

As an infant, Jennifer fondly remembers family trips to watch National Western horse shows, then competing in rodeo and cattle exhibitions on the Hill and in the Yards as she got older. 

It all started with a gymkhana paint horse called Lucky. In her first competition, she entered Lucky in a barrel race under strict instructions from her grandpa “not to run.” 

“I didn’t listen and I did run,” she laughs. “And the addiction to barrel racing started right there.”

She went on to compete professionally, eventually serving on the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association board. 

Meanwhile, she also developed an extensive showing career. As a 4-H and FFA exhibitor, she showed cattle across the country and competed regularly at the American Junior Simmental Association’s National Classics. Her livestock tenure continued on judging teams at Sterling Northeastern Junior College and under the mentorship of Dr. Clint Rusk at Colorado State University. 

Her early career was spent in the artificial insemination business as a representative for ABS, then as the communications director for the Red Angus Association of America. Now, the mom of three and grandmother of two resides in Dillon, Montana, with husband, Josh, and youngest son, Cooper. Rodeo is still a family staple, and Boka recently started a marketing company for western lifestyle events, companies and athletes. 


Jennifer Boka pictured with her three children. Though her career is important, Jennifer stives for a happy medium between work life and home life to never let her kids feel second best.

The opportunity to join the NWSS staff came at just the right time in her life, she says. 

Ten years ago, now NWSS Vice President of Rodeo, Horse, and Livestock Operations Leon Vick invited Jennifer to speak on behalf of the then-new Rodeo All Star event. She even got to throw out the ceremonial pitch at the Colorado Rockies baseball game. More than a decade later, Vick threw another pitch to Boka to come back as the director of livestock operations at NWSS. 

“It’s kind of God’s plan for me to be at National Western."

Taking the lead

As part of a 40+ team at NWSS, Boka leads efforts to ensure a top-notch experience for livestock exhibitors and show spectators. Her time at NILE on a nine-person team gave her extensive hands-on experience in livestock event management, giving her a unique vantage point while overseeing operations at the 50,000-foot level. “It’s prepared me to sit down in those operations meetings and those construction meetings and understand their needs,” she shares. “If you haven’t worked both sides of it, you just have different expectations.”

She also joins the team during an exciting multi-year renovation of the historic Denver site. The HW Hutchison Family Stockyards Event Center had its inaugural event in January 2022 and is equipped with detailed lighting, big screens for high-quality video displays, meeting rooms and an international hospitality suite.

The renovated Yards is filled with sleek and consistently sized pens with readily available power that eliminates the need for generators, and two massive wash racks with tempered water. And though the nostalgia of the old displays will be missed, Boka says feedback of the new grounds has been overwhelmingly positive. 

“If those wood panels and pens could talk the stories would be unreal. I firmly believe the stories that are going to come out of these new Yards in this event center are going to be next to none,” she says.

As the general manager for the Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE) in Billings, Montana, for more than eight years, Jennifer Boka gained invaluable insight to apply in her role at the National Western Stock Show.

As redevelopment across the National Western complex continues, she is proud to be part of a team focused on creating a positive experience for all showgoers. Everything from lighting to floors to door sizes to the exact location of the American flag is analyzed in great detail to serve events year-round.

She is also focused on initiatives to connect with those outside the agriculture community. One such effort is the Stockyards Beef Festival, which will debut in 2023 and offers tastings of beef and wine from local-focused producers. 

“Every opportunity we get to work together as an industry and promote our industry to the general public is a great opportunity,” she says. “My biggest goal for National Western is to create and foster an attitude of hospitality.”

And with her inherent integrity and determination guiding the way, Boka is committed to preserving a legacy well beyond her years in a leadership position. 

“I think of the National Western complex as hallowed ground. It’s so important to me that the National Western tradition gets stronger and stronger and lasts for another 120 years.”

Jennifer Boka was hooked on rodeo from her very first barrel racing competition. Today, she and her family share a love for the sport. 

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