Widely known as “The Daddy of ’em All,” the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days is a 10-day summer festival (July 19-28, 2019) that celebrates all things cowboy and Indian. The centerpiece is the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) sanctioned rodeo (the prize purse tops $1 million) where you can watch bronco and bull riding and team roping performed by the field’s top cowboys.
Now in its 123rd 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 and all the Cowboys n’ Indians play that any family could want.
And at the Frontier Days fairgrounds, there’s a fun Carnival midway with rides, cow poke shops and much more to do than judge bulls and riders.
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. They’re scheduled three times a day.
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.
For a decidedly more elegant approach, consider the new Rooftop Deck, a shaded patio above the main building with great views of the arena plus table service, drinks and big screen TVs showing highlights of the rodeo and concert action. It costs to get in and is restricted to ages 21+ at night.
What Makes a Rodeo Great
If you’ve never been to a rodeo, check out Western Experiences, a new area devoted to unique Western skills, such as watching horsemen try to break wild horses and get them ready for adoption.
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
Among the CFD attractions is a Frontier Town where you can step back in time and chat with merchants, artisans and craftspeople who represent our Western heritage. You may even meet up with the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody and Wyatt Earp.
Look for the daily Chuckwagon Cookoffs and get cooking and grilling tips from the pro’s.
Evening entertainment includes an “Old Fashioned Melodrama,” fun for the entire family, where everyone hollers “Yay” for the hero and “Boo” for the villian.
This year there will be some spectacular concerts as part of Frontier Nights. Scheduled performances include Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Post Malone, and Tim McGraw.
Rodeo Special Events
Cheer on some extraordinary kids at the Challenge Rodeo, a modified rodeo which pairs children with special needs with contestants of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association. Typically held in the middle of the arena, volunteers assist kids in learning how to star at steer wresting, roping, bull riding, stick horse barrel racing.
There’s also a Junior Barrel Racing competition with competitors under the age of 13.
Get a good start for the day at the Pancake Breakfast at 7am on July 22, 24 and 26, 2019 when folks will be serving 100,000 flapjacks with 475 gallons of syrup, free of charge to all comers.
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. And you can watch the fun live on Cowboy TV. However, 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.
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