Saddling a wild horse, circa 1900 - Courtesy of the American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming
Cheyenne Frontier Days
Among the world's largest outdoor
rodeos, Cheyenne Frontier Days celebrates the Western cowboy
competing at his sport, and a town dedicated to providing Wyoming
hospitality and flair to the throngs of visitors flocking to
Cheyenne each July to witness the exciting events and participate
in related festivities.
Following the Civil War, cowboys arrived on the
northern plains to herd longhorn cattle up the trails from Mexico
and Texas to provide beef to various military posts in the Wyoming
territory. They were skilled and fearless horsemen. Cheyenne, in
the heart of ranch land, saw many early attempts at staging cowboy
sports. In 1896, a bunch of cowboys from the nearby Two Bar Ranch
put on an impromptu cowboy contest in Cheyenne. In 1897, Cheyenne's
new mayor created a board of trade to pursue badly needed economic
development. At the same time, the Union Pacific Railroad was
encouraging towns along the rail line to hold festivals. The
railroad would benefit by selling excursion tickets, and the town
would gain from tourists attracted to the festival. Within three
weeks, the first Frontier Days was held on the Territorial
Fairgrounds. It was advertised as a bronco busting and steer roping
contest, was mostly pony races, At the conclusion of the roundup,
the men from all the ranches involved gathered to sort cattle and
brand calves. They roped steers and demonstrated rope tricks. They
also challenged each other in the activity that was a true test of
a cowboy's skill, riding bucking broncos.
The following year, the rodeo was expanded to two
days, and included a parade featuring Buffalo Bill's entire troupe,
and Indians were given a permanent place at the rodeo. That year,
6,000 people watched a fast paced Wild West Show, then trooped to
the old fairgrounds, now called Frontier Park, for an afternoon of
cowboy sports and horse races. In 1903, Cheyenne Frontier Days
hosted President Theodore Roosevelt to a special performance.
During the 1920s and 1930s, movie stars Pauline Frederick, William
S. Hart, Tim McCoy and others were regular visitors to Frontier
Days. So was the humorist Will Rogers.
The term "rodeo," as we use it today, was first used
by the Cheyenne Frontier Days Committee during the mid-1920s. Until
then, the word had its Spanish meaning of a roundup. Frontier Days'
rodeo events comprise saddle bronco riding, bull dogging or steer
wrestling, calf roping, bareback riding, bull riding, rodeo clowns
and bull riders. A wild horse race has closed each afternoon's
rodeo since the beginning of Frontier days. The world's
championship bucking contest is among the most popular events.
Other events include horse races, artillery drills and Indian war
At early rodeos, downtown was the center of night
time activity, which included a carnival and street dancing on
specially built pavilions, some half a block long. Because of noise
and traffic, in 1929 "Frontier Nights" was established at Frontier
Park and a night show was introduced. Colorful rodeo women have
been part of the event since early Frontier Days. Cowgirls compete
in trick riding, fancy roping, riding bucking broncos, and some
daring women have tried their hand at bull dogging and steer
roping. Their own event, the Ladies' Relay Race, always thrill
In 1998, 183,000 visitors paid to see the rodeos and
night shows. More than 300,000 people travel through Cheyenne
during the last two weeks of July, helping Frontier Days to
generate $2.5 million in sales for the city.
Documentation includes a detailed narrative legacy
report, 28 photographs, a video
100 Years of Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Originally submitted by: Mike Enzi, Senator Craig Thomas, Senator & Rep. Barbara Cubin(At Large).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.