Cheyenne Frontier Days [CFD] hosts the greatest rodeo in the world.
The Daddy of ‘em All has been kicking up dust since 1897 with the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration. The inaugural event was held as a single-day cowboy roundup that featured bronco busting, steer roping contests and pony races. Held the last full week of July, CFD has evolved into a ten-day festival of rip-roarin’ excitement. Cheyenne Frontier Days includes concerts, parades, pancake breakfasts, Western art show and sale, a carnival, Wild West shows, an Indian Village, food, an Old West museum, and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. It also features the world’s best Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association [PRCA] action while providing non-stop activity and hospitality.
Livability.com named Cheyenne Frontier Days as the top festival in the nation. Each year, the event draws over 300,000 visitors to Wyoming’s capital city, located in the southeast corner of the state. Cheyenne is the real deal. Cowboy bars, pickup trucks, and ten gallon hats abound, and at the height of tourist season – with dry air and daytime temperatures in the low 80s – it’s no wonder why CFD has been named PRCA “Large Rodeo of the Year” a record 15 times.
One of the most popular Frontier Days events is the Grand Parade, held at 9 am both Saturdays, as well as Tuesday and Thursday, of the celebration. The parade – hosted by the City of Cheyenne — starts at the Capitol and is 90 minutes of fun, with floats, marching bands, antique carriages and classic cars all part of the festivities. The Masons host chuck wagon breakfasts at their lodge on the corner of 19th Street and Capitol from 7:30 to 9:30 on parade mornings. On alternate days of the parade, the city’s Kiwanis Club hosts free pancake breakfasts at historic Depot Plaza. Offered three times during the ten-day festival, volunteers serve over 100,000 flapjacks, 3,000 pounds of ham, pour 520 gallons of coffee and distribute 9,200 cartons of milk.
The first civilian air show ever performed by the Air Force Thunderbirds was at Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1953. They have returned each year to fly on the Wednesday morning of the festival. CFD comes alive at night, as the Carnival Midway is open until half past midnight throughout the festival. What would a party be without music? The 2017 Frontier Nights concert lineup includes some of the biggest names in country music, including Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Little Big Town. Last year, Florida Georgia Line set a single-night attendance record for the grand finale show, packing more than 25,000 fans into CFD Arena. Rock bands Aerosmith, KISS and Fall Out Boy have also performed. The annual “Walking of the Steers” is held the Sunday morning before Festival Week.
Based on the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, approximately 450 steers walk a three mile course through town that ends in Frontier Park, the site of the majority of CFD events.
The highlight of Cheyenne Frontier Days is the rodeo. The Daddy of ‘em All draws the world’s top cowboys, who compete for more than one million dollars in cash and prizes. The event includes the finals of Championship Bull Riding season, as they crown their champions in Cheyenne. The CFD rodeo is comprised of three competitions – rough stock events, timed events and racing on the track. In Rough Stock events [bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding], a contestants score is equally dependent upon his and the animal’s performance. Using only one hand, the cowboy must stay aboard a bucking animal for eight seconds. If the rider touches the animal, himself or any of his equipment with his free hand, he is disqualified. In Timed events [steer wrestling, team roping, tie down roping, barrel racing] calves and steers are allowed a 30-second head start before contestants are released from behind a hand-pulled barrier. A ten-second penalty is assessed for leaving early.
It is appropriate that Wyoming – the Cowboy State – hosts the world’s greatest rodeo. One of the state’s registered trademarks is the iconic Bucking Horse and Rider image, which serves as the logo for the University of Wyoming. Clayton Danks, winner of three CFD rodeo competitions in the early 1900s, is the model cowboy on the Wyoming trademark. He is riding Steamboat, reputed to be the “most ferocious bucker Frontier Days has ever seen”. As a colt, the black gelding sustained a nose injury which required removing a bone fragment from his nostril. As a result, the horse developed a sound which resembled a steamboat whistle every time he bucked. Steamboat died in 1914 and is buried in Frontier Park near bucking chute # 9. He is the only animal to be interred on CRD grounds. Steamboat was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1975. Four years later, he was enshrined in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. Bucking Horse and Rider has been part of Wyoming’s license plate since 1936, making it the longest-running license plate motif in history.
In 2008, Cheyenne Frontier Days was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
For more on the history of the Daddy of ‘em All, refer to the late Shirley E. Flynn’s authoritarian book on the subject, Let’s Go! Let’s Show! Let’s Rodeo! The History of Cheyenne Frontier Days.