How many volunteers does it take to stage the biggest cowboy party on earth?
Would you believe that number is 2,500 men, women and even a few children?
Cheyenne was transformed July 18 to 29 as the 122nd version of what is called “The Daddy of them All” rodeo and other events took place at the Cheyenne Frontier Days.
It had been a few years since Nancy and I made the 250-mile drive from Lander to the capital city to enjoy the early days of the 11-day series of events.
The art show on July 18 was spectacular, with crowds of people visiting with artists from all over the West. Some 280 works were on display, which totaled more than $1 million in value.
We spent the opening weekend at Frontier Days and took in the first rodeo and three concerts.
We got drenched at the end of the rodeo. Then my new best friend Buddy Hirsig rescued Nancy and me and hauled us to our car. He was appropriately wearing a slicker. We, of course, were not wearing any jackets.
Buddy is part of a huge family tradition, with generations having worked Frontier Days. Buddy served as Arena Director for 37 years and his son Tom is now the CEO of Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Buddy’s grandfather, Fred Hirsig, was on the original committee. Now Buddy’s own grandchildren are learning the ropes in the arena. This is an amazing five-generation tradition, which typifies the excellence that makes this the greatest Cowboy Show in the World.
The cowboys have to be tough to compete in this rodeo. Massive bulls shake and shimmy, throwing grown men into the air like leaves blowing in the wind. The bareback bronco riders are truly made of rubber as they get slammed around.
Earlier this year a cowboy was killed in a rodeo in Saratoga. It is frankly surprising that does not happen more frequently. It is a thrilling sport but it can scare the heck out of you.
The Cheyenne arena is the biggest in the world and features huge video screens with instant replay. My brother Ron operates one of those video cameras. Most of the seats are covered so even a thunderstorm did not slow things down. The cowboys working the arena just put on their slickers and kept on going.
The numbers associated with CFD are immense. The big show provides a $28 million impact to the local area with $550,000 raised in local taxes and $650,000 in state taxes. Crowds usually exceed 400,000.
One announcer at a concert who is a big-time disc jockey in Denver praised Cheyenne profusely: “Thank you Cheyenne for doing this. We don’t have anything like this in Colorado!” The crowd of greenies roared.
We took a break on Sunday and visited my 94-year-old mom in north Denver. Traffic was horrible on Interstate 25 because of all the Frontier Days visitors. We actually stopped dead in place three times. Although we know CFD draws a terrific number of Wyoming folks, it is no secret that having the Colorado border 10 miles south of town provides for over 100,000 fans from that state alone.
The parade featured 200 entries and more horses than any other parade in the world. Also, the collection of famous restored carriages in Cheyenne is rated second in the world. The parade was entertaining.
Our favorite concert was by 81-year-old Charlie Daniels, who performed in a driving rainstorm. What a great musician and showman! He first performed at CFD in 1979, some 39 years ago. He told the crowd, “I been coming here longer than some of you have been alive.”
Our other concerts were Florida Georgia Line and Cole Swindell, both of which were also terrific. But on the advice of my Cheyenne friend Darin Smith, I wore earplugs. Yeah, it was really, really loud. But they were wonderful shows.
We ran into old friends Randy Wagner, Jeff Wallace and Mike Ceballos, who were all involved in one way or another. We also spent some quality time with Gov. Matt Mead at his residence with a few hundred others at a cocktail party. We ran into Karen Hoopman, who now lives in Cheyenne, at the art show. She and I went to high school together in Elgin, Iowa, about a century ago. It’s a small world.
The midway at Frontier Days is like nothing else. Just about everything western can be bought there. And it’s high quality, too.
At one point, we decided to ride the ferris wheel. It sure was fun, and the view was awesome looking out at all those people, those cars and the massive facility. Whee!
What a tribute CFD is to Cheyenne and Wyoming. There is nothing else like it in the world. We salute the 2,500 volunteers.
Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books. His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find them at www.wyomingwonders.com.