When an agent of the Union Pacific Railroad suggested Cheyenne have a festival to the editor of the newspaper in 1897, they had no idea of the legendary event that it would grow into.
With less than ideal weather during several of the 10-days of activities, attendance at this year’s Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD) was beyond what might have been expected. The loyalty of fans is very gratifying for the nearly 3,000 volunteers who work year-round for the “Daddy of ‘em All.”
Fans from across the United States and a variety of foreign countries make their way to Wyoming to attend Cheyenne Frontier Days. While the rodeo is the centerpiece of the celebration, patrons also take in parades, pancake breakfasts, visit the Indian Village, and go to night shows along with other activities. It all adds up to the “World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo & Western Celebration.”
This year’s activities kicked off on July 20 with a Wild West Show that was reminiscent of the events held years ago. All of the activities including a ladies’ ranch bronc riding was broadcast live on RIDE TV. Rodeo performances started the next day where over 1,200 contestants were vying for CFD championships and $840,031 in prize money. The largest money winner was steer wrestler Levi Rudd from Chelsea, Oklahoma. He left Wyoming with an additional $21,395 in his bank account.
New and a fan favorite at the rodeo this year was mini bareback and mini bull riding for aspiring competitors. Throughout the competition, with parades and all the activities over 6,000 animals come through Frontier Park.
Approximately two-thirds of them were part of the rodeo. A team of veterinarians checked those animals before and after each performance. Reports showed that 121 of animals were examined. Treatments were provided to 41 of them with all but two expected to make a full recovery.
Rodeo attendance saw a big gain at 101,462, an increase of 7.6 percent over last year. Cheyenne/Laramie County Day’s rodeo was the second largest Wednesday crowd in history. The night show featuring Eric Church the same day was sold out.
Professional Bull Riders returned to Frontier Park for the first time since 2010. They brought their riders on Monday night, then produced a second night of bull riding featuring Championship Bull Riders. It was the first time in the organizations’ history where they partnered on an event and had competitors riding against each other. The action was broadcast on PBR’s RidePass.
Other numbers were in line with previous years. Four parades were estimated to have 90,700 visitors. Three pancake breakfasts saw 23,138 meals served and 47,611 visited the Indian Village. With expanded entertainment options around the park and enhancements to the Western Experience, total attendance for 2018 was 543,705 a slight increase from 2017.
The final rodeo on Championship Sunday, July 29, had 12,401 fans on their feet when local favorite Brody Cress won the saddle bronc riding title. The highest attended rodeo was on Saturday, July 28 at 14,138. The Behind the Chutes Tours gave 2,608 fans an up close and personal rodeo experience.
Military Monday continues to be popular. All branches of the military were honored with active personnel and veterans receiving free admission. The U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leapfrogs, thrilled rodeo and night show fans by jumping into the arena at Frontier Park and the USAF Thunderbirds were another hit. A new attendance record was set for the Thunderbirds performance at Laramie County Community College on July 25 at 18,876. The previous record was 16,100 in 2014.
A partnership with Colorado State University’s (CSU) Equine Clinical Services program provided comprehensive care for the second year. The CSU Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation veterinarians provided care similar to athletic trainers for contestants. Onsite services included digital radiographs, ultrasound, acupuncture, chiropractic care and shock wave therapy.
The Justin Sportsmedicine Team was on site and along with local medical personnel provided over 400 treatments. A bull rider was transported and had surgery after getting hit in the face during the PBR. He has been released and is expected to make a full recovery.
The Bureau of Land Management in cooperation with Mantle Ranch Wild Horse and Burro Training presented wild horses and burros that were all adopted. Demonstrations were provided by the Mantle family.
RFD-TV broadcast their popular Western Sports Roundup on Rural Radio. Their broadcast reached over 70 million fans. The final three performances were webcast on the Wrangler Network. Over 300,000 people from 52 countries enjoyed the global coverage.
Night shows were once again a popular attraction. Total night show attendance was 115,214 compared to the record set in 2016 of 118,123.
“Despite the weather, our awesome fans showed up to support Cheyenne Frontier Days,” said Bill Berg, General Chairman of Cheyenne Frontier Days. “Our volunteers stepped up to the plate in every case. We couldn’t do any of it without the loyalty of our sponsors. Everybody got a little dirty this year, but it was worth it.”