The Cowboy Life For Me At Cheyenne Frontier Days

Author: Kyle McCarthy

Tags : Baby, Kids, Multigen, North America, Teens, USA, Wyoming

Widely known as "The Daddy of 'em All," the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days is a 10-day summer festival that celebrates all things cowboy and Indian. The centerpiece is the PRCA sanctioned rodeo (the prize purse tops $1 million) where you can watch bronc and bull riding and team roping performed by the field's top cowboys.

Now approaching its 117th year, CFD kicks off with a bang-up parade and programming that continues around the daily elimination rounds. Stick around the rodeo arena, pay attention, and you'll be able to spot the up-and-coming cowboy stars of each rodeo event.

At the CFD Fairgrounds, you can tour the world's largest outdoor rodeo arena, an Indian Village with crafts and dance displays, a cowboy style children's play area and a myriad of shops, without even paying an admission fee.

Cheyenne Frontier Days is a Citywide Festival

Each year, the CFD's tiny management staff corral 2,500 Wyomingite volunteers into sharing their ranch smarts and hospitality with visitors from all over the world. The townsfolk put on pancake breakfasts, chili cookoffs and train buff events.

There are daily Gunslinger Shootouts in the town square, special performances of the local "Old Fashioned Melodrama" and all the Cowboys n' Indians play that any family could want.

Rodeo Appreciation for Colts

Begin your visit with a free, hour-long Behind the Chutes tour, where local cowboys explain how the rodeo works, what type of events to expect, and how they are judged. Additionally, guests are taken behind the scenes to see the horses who will soon be competing to outrace a bull, or lasso a steer or keep bucking broncos in their place.

This little orientation will help the city folk in your crowd appreciate the many rounds of competition (well illustrated with instant replay on a big screen). There is cheap general seating on the sunny side of the arena, which is cooled by spritzers, and reserved seating in the shade -- a good place to be if you have little ones.

The four hours of daily rodeo competition includes bull riding, a very exciting sport where riders have to stay mounted on wildly jumping bulls for at least 8 seconds in order to score. (Only one of the 20 contestants we saw made it through.) As the MC announced prior to the event, "These steers are stronger than 10 acres of mowed garlic!"  

Different cowboy competitions include calf-roping and bronc riding, steer wrestling  and even a race between wild horses. Some clowns, barrel racing and appearances by glittery Rodeo Queens make up the rest. These fans love a good rodeo.

In fact, Steamboat, a famous bucking bronco that entertained the Frontier Days crowd for many seasons, was buried under the arena at his death. Wyoming maintains its adulation of this fearless horse by featuring him on their license plate.

The wild West Cowboys and Indians Life outside the Rodeo

Among the CFD attractions at no cost is a Frontier Museum whose Western art and sculpture is eventually auctioned off for charity.  Wild Horse Gulch is a ghost town whose storefronts house leather makers, silversmiths, costume vendors, Old Tyme Photographers (dressing up like a cowboy or saloon maid is very popular here) and Native American jewelry vendors.

In late afternoon, the enormous John Deere tractors come out to clean up the mud track and stadium floor, then haul the concert stage into place for the evening's show. Big names like Zac Brown, Brad Paisley and Merle Haggard are regular headliners.

Rodeo Events for the Littlest Cowboys and Cowgirls

The PeeWee Rodeo that fosters a healthy spirit of competition among ages 3 to 6 is just one of the family oriented events. Toddlers sign up, get a rodeo number just like the big guys, and take their stick-horses out to the corral to compete in bareback and staying on a bucking horse.

The nearby petting zoo offers them a chance to get friendly with pet rabbits, pigs, goats and even a baby camel.

At the Indian Village, families can grab a picnic table under the trees to sample the popular Indian Tacos (ground beef and beans on Indian bread). Several times a day, the Native Americans who come to be cultural ambassadors run a storytime, or demonstrate hoop dancing, or other Indian arts. Here, the vendors in teepees showcase beautiful turquoise jewelry, beadwork, feathered items and Native American pottery.

Cheyenne for Family Fun Vacations

Late July, typically the season for Cheyenne Frontier Days, is the most crowded and expensive time of the year to visit, but it's absolutely worth it. Not only are there many free events, but the thousands of cowboys that come in for the championship rodeo enliven all Cheyenne's other attractions. We found the first few days great fun; rodeo followers prefer the last days of competition when only the best are left, but the pomp and circumstance continue throughout.

Of course, not everyone will be able to visit Wyoming's state capital during Cheyenne Frontier Days. At any of year, if you circle the wagons and focus on the town's many Old West style attractions, you'll have a great visit.

Here's our roundup of fun sights for kids, neat places to explore, and friendly hotels for families visiting Cheyenne.