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Cheyenne Frontier Days - the Big Daddy - Rodeo, Carnival, and Fair Fun

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Running from July 19 thru 28 this year, the self-proclaimed “Daddy of them all,” the large-scale Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyo., started to bring in eager crowds back in 1897 and has never stopped. None other than Buffalo Bill himself set the stage for this ongoing extravaganza of frontier fun.

This year, the carnival was hosted by Carnival Americana based in Fort Worth, Texas, with a wide selection of rides and games. Fun Biz Concessions, provided fair food. Carnival admission was $5, an amount which was waived for rodeo or evening concert attendees. Daily unlimited ride wristbands were available for $40; an event-long pass cost $155. Ferris Wheels, a Tilt-a-Whirl, a drop tower, a Merri-Go-Round and all the classic rides made an appearance. There were kiddie rides for little attendees too. Carnival Americana has been providing rides for the event for over 20 years. This year, the ride purveyor offered a brand-new attraction for CFD, the Kraken thrill ride. Like Carnival Americana, Fun Biz Concessions has been a part of the event for many years. Fun Biz served up BBQ, funnel cakes, corn dogs, and candy apples among other fair food treats.  

CFD concessions chairman Woody Acord described the carnival itself as a great part of the overall Frontier Days celebration, “where the family can come out and enjoy themselves as a group and also take in other events.”

The rodeo is held tournament-style, with every rodeo performance providing event money to winners who could advance to semi-finals and finals. The Saturday night rodeo was a sellout. On Championship Sunday, the highest scores and fastest times received the champion crown. The rodeo included bareback riding, requiring riders to hold their horses for a minimum of 8 seconds using only the horse's main or a rope for balance. There was 8-second bull riding, speed barrel racing, and steer wrestling and roping, too. The rodeo is the biggest focus of the event, due in no small part to the top rodeo pros competing for over $1 million dollars in prize money.  

The Challenge Rodeo was an event held just for special kids, who are paired with a rodeo buddy. Kids received, along with one-on-one attention, a certificate, T-shirt, cowboy hat, and a trophy as they participated in events from rodeo clowning to barrel roping, steer riding, and yes, even bull riding.

Musical concerts are another big activity at the fair, with Jon Pardi and Carly Pearce offering a headlining performance on the fair's final weekend. A sold-out show by rodeo great and country star Cody Johnson along with Whiskey Myers was a big draw for the event, as were performances by Tim McGraw, Zach Bryan, Eric Church, Old Dominion, Five Finger Death Punch, Papa Roach, Kip Moore, Levi Turner and Paws over the course of the festival.

Along with the rodeo, carnival, and national headliner musical acts, this year's 127th Cheyenne Frontier Days presented scores of other activities during it's ten-day run. There was a classic chuckwagon experience, with cook-off food served over campfires by vendors costumed as cowboys and cowgirls. The cooks make everything from steaks and mashed potatoes to cobblers and corn, all over an open fire using cooking tools from a much earlier era. The experience was free, as was admission to the CFD Old West Museum which provided a look at the history of the event and the region. The museum also displayed a collection of this year's championship rodeo buckles, as well as a wide selection of art as part of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Western Art Show and Sale.

The Indian Village paid tribute to the area's Native Americans with costume displays, dancing, Native American flute playing, Native American art, and storytelling. Cook-off events focused on BBQ and other area favorites. Pancake breakfasts started the day while the music of Frontier Nights concluded the evening entertainment.

Speaking of pancakes, Cheyenne Frontier Days is known to offer their big breakfasts free of charge. Volunteers make and serve over 100,000 pancakes, 3,000 pounds of ham, 9,200 cartons of milk, 520 gallons of coffee, and 475 gallons of sweet syrup. Three such breakfasts were held in all over the course of the event, on the 24th, 26th, and 28th. That's a lot of good eating to start the day.

Located just outside the rodeo arena, Old Frontier Town welcomed fair attendees to visit Western themed merchants, artisans, and craftspeople. Included among their wares were a soap making exhibition, furniture, jewelry, and clothing items. It also included a petting zoo for the kids.

Four exciting grand parades took place as a part of the event, each starting at 9 a.m. on the days on which no pancake breakfasts were held. They featured marching bands and horse drawn carriages as well as floats including a Hell's Half Acre Saloon Float and a one room schoolhouse float.

The fest also invited attendees to get an inside look at the event with a free Behind the Chutes Tour that allowed a look at the chutes themselves, a walk across the floor of the rodeo arena, and even a meeting with the animals involved.

A bevy of other concurrent offerings take place during CFD, including melodrama performances at the recently rehabbed Atlas Theater, providing interactive performances in which audience members are encouraged to boo, hiss, and applaud throughout. Cheyenne Gunslinger performances happen twice a day. Throughout CFD, attendees can also expect to be treated to K9 performances, and U.S. Navy Parachute Team Jumps.

The event has been held every year on the last week in July except for 2020's COVID shut down, even running during the Great Depression and through both World Wars. This year, rodeo attendance gained fans, increasing attendees over last year's event by 7.6% for a total number of 101,462 attendees. Now that's something to make a bronco buck.

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