Cheyenne Frontier Days
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Day-to-Night Entertainment

The Cheyenne Frontier Days™ Rodeo begins a celebration of Western roots

By Flash Parker

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Barrel racing at Wyoming's Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo

The electricity in the air could charge a billion fireflies bent on buzzing from Crow Creek clear west to the Twin Mountains. The grandstands in the Frontier Days arena rumble, as if a stampede of bison have been let loose into the enthusiastic crowd of 19,000 spectators. The anticipation is palpable: the sun shines bright over the arena floor, where the specters of bulls—unconquerable beasts like Red Rock, Blueberry Wine and Unforgiven—loom large. Dust swirls under the hooves of the pickup horses; the announcer’s voice booms and a hush falls over the crowd.

Barrel racing at Wyoming's Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo

The Daddy Of ’em All™ has come down to this: one ride, one bull, with $100,000 on the line. There is no greater spectacle; there is no challenge more daunting. Survive eight seconds on a snarling, whirling behemoth built of pure muscle and poetic movement to become a modern Wyoming legend. This is the culmination of the shared revelry that is Cheyenne Frontier Days™, as iconic a cultural touchtone as Wyoming has to offer. But it is the journey to this moment that makes this event a one-of-a-kind marvel.

For kids of all ages

Family enjoys Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming

The sun rolls over the vast plains to the east, hits the 36-caliber Colt swinging from Buffalo Bill Cody’s hip just right and reflects into the wide eyes of a boy, 8-years-old, catching his first glimpse of the legendary showman as he does his rounds at Old Frontier Town. The boy sheepishly introduces himself to Cody, who in turn introduces the boy to Wild Bill Hickok, Sitting Bull and Wyatt Earp. Old Frontier Town is his introduction to Cheyenne’s rich Western heritage. With his family, he spends his morning fascinated by craftspeople, artists and artisans, masters of everything from saddles and tack to buffalo chili right next to the rodeo arena in Frontier Park.

The Cheyenne Frontier Days™ Old West Museum comes next, and surprises the boy’s family with its robust, immersive collection of Western and Native American art, artifacts, wagons, carriages and historic photographs. The highlight is the Paul Gregg: Caught in Cartoons exhibit, showcasing the legendary cartoonist’s whimsical Frontier Days art, much of which appeared in the Denver Post during a career that spanned from 1902 to 1949. Gregg’s timeless pieces have become a part of the foundation of Frontier Days.

Family enjoys Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming

The morning’s cultural experiences end with a visit to the Indian Village, one of CFD’s chief attractions. The native dances are spellbinding and the oral histories a fleeting glimpse at a culture so deeply connected to the heart of the Mountain West. Before heading to the arena for an action-packed show of bucking broncs, bulls and brave cowboys, they stop for a taste of Dutch oven cooking from chuckwagon crews at the Chuckwagon Cookoff.

For afternoon ambiance

Carnival Midway at Wyoming's Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo

As the day’s rodeo competition winds down, for a pair of discerning Western lifestyle aficionados, their day has just begun. Pseudo-rodeo through and through—one with a turquoise inlaid buckle and boots, the other with pearls in his bolo tie—the two spend their afternoon glimpsing CFD’s artistic core. Launched by the 37th Annual Western Art Show Opening Reception, the Western Art Show & Sale celebrates Western heritage by proudly displaying more than 300 works of art. The pair marvel at the masterworks in paint, carved wood, sculpture and textiles on display at the Old West Museum, then follow the opening reception to the Wyoming Governor’s Residence to talk shop with artists from Saratoga to San Francisco, the Governor and the First Lady. There’s also a sale, and the “buy it now” option caps their experience with a chance to snap up pieces at premium by the likes of Jerry Markham, Jan Perkins, Josh Tobey and others.

Carnival Midway at Wyoming's Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo

Those with family in tow may prefer to spend the afternoon with the games, rides and good times of the Carnival Midway just across from the rodeo arena, which offers Americana at its most distilled. There’s also the new Western Experience that showcases the bond between horsemen and horse, and brings wild horses closer to visitors than they could have ever imagined. The exclamation mark on the afternoon is the Behind the Chutes Tour, which takes the family from this morning, wide-eyed and awestruck, behind-the-scenes of the arena into the brave old world of the cowboy.

For the thrill of the frontier night

Frontier Nights stage at Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming

A young man slips his arms through the sleeves of a plaid button-down crisp with starch, dons what must be the whitest Stetson in the world and offers a bent arm to his beau, dressed in her best cowgirl polo. Their first stop tonight is The Garden, where they relax with a glass of Zinfandel. The evening rolls along and they find themselves at the Buckin’ A Saloon, where their country swing does not go unnoticed by the other revelers in Wranglers and boots. But the good music and partying doesn’t stop there. Frontier Nights™ live concerts get the couple in front of the electric artistry of Luke Bryan, Brantley Gilbert and Thomas Rhett, to name a few.

Frontier Nights stage at Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming

Suddenly the day comes to a close, but it’s not last call—they’re all back at the arena the next day, where the crowd waits with baited breath. The centerpiece of the Daddy of ’em All™ remains the rodeo; the timed event slack, the Cinch Rodeo Shoot-Out and the PRCA-sanctioned events that showcase bronc riders, barrel busters, cowgirls, cowboys and bullfighters at their bare-knuckle best. After days of revelry, family-friendly fun and yeehaw joviality, all the eyes and all the lights in the arena turn to the chutes. Cheyenne Frontier Days™ boils down to eight seconds of grit, glory and pure, unfiltered Wyoming.

Lasso some tickets now.