Join real cowboys and cowgirls at Cheyenne Frontier Days, the largest outdoor rodeo in the world

July 14, 2021

It’s time to round up some jeans, cowboy boots, a hat and a western shirt with pearly buttons and head up to Cheyenne Frontier Days.

A cowboy manages to stay on a horse at it tries to buck him off at Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Cheyenne Frontier Days, which takes place over 10 days every year at the end of July, is the largest outdoor rodeo in the world. Photo courtesy of Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Known in these parts as the “Daddy of ‘em All,” Cheyenne Frontier Days is the largest outdoor rodeo in the world and runs for 10 days at the end of July every year.

You don’t need to be a real cowboy or cowgirl or even dress the part to enjoy this historic event. Just sidle on up a few miles north of the Colorado border into Wyoming and enjoy a western tradition that has celebrated rodeos and western culture since 1897.

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are special safety protocols. Organizers are asking anyone who is sick to please stay home. Many of the events are outdoors, so it’s easier to stay safe. But, there are counties in Wyoming and Colorado with lower vaccination areas. In any community where fewer people are vaccinated, it’s much easier for the new delta variant to spread. So, if you are unvaccinated, concerned about getting COVID-19 or you are immunosuppressed, you may wish to wear a mask in any indoor or crowded areas.

A boy in yellow Indian garb and a headdress dances during festivities at Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Along with the rodeo, visitors to Cheyenne Frontier Days can also spend time in the Indian Village. Photo courtesy of Cheyenne Frontier Days.

The fun of attending is seeing plenty of real cowboys both at the rodeo events and on the adjacent grounds. Big money is at stake. So, Cheyenne Frontier Days attracts about 1,800 top competitors with up to $1 million in cash and prizes on the line.

Is it your first rodeo? If so, here are some fun hints.

How to spot a real cowboy? 

Look for the belt buckle. Instead of trophies, men and women competing in rodeo events win buckles and proudly wear them. The bigger and shinier the buckle, the better.

How do you know who wins in rodeo?

The rodeo features three types of events:

  • Rough-stock events – bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding. In these events, cowboys have to stay on the animal for at least eight seconds, using just one hand. The highest scoring competitor wins.
  • Timed events: team and tie-down roping, steer wrestling and barrel racing. The fastest time wins.
  • Racing on the track. Teams compete in the wild horse race. They work together to try to saddle a horse, jump aboard and race to the finish line.

Learn more: Rodeo 101

Rodeo queens dressed in red hats flip pancakes at the free pancake breakfast at Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Free pancakes and rodeo queens are part of the festivities at Cheyenne Frontier Days. Photo courtesy of Cheyenne Frontier Days.

What’s a rodeo queen?

Don’t dismiss these queens as beauty pageant winners. These women can ride with the best of them. Miss Frontier and her lady in waiting wear traditional white buckskins, along with silk blouses and boots embossed with the Cheyenne Frontier Days arrowhead logo. Rodeo queens are traveling ambassadors for the sport. They haul their horses across the country and ride in multiple rodeos. Here, you can expect to see queens from across the U.S. and sometimes from other countries. Learn more about this year’s rodeo royalty.

Helpful hints if you’re heading to Cheyenne Frontier Days

When: July 23 through Sunday, Aug. 1.

Plan ahead: Review Frequently Asked Questions. There’s a clear bag policy. So, think ahead about what you want to bring. Read more about planning your trip.

What to do: Go to the rodeo, of course. It begins each day at 1 p.m. and attracts the best of the best since Cheyenne Frontier Days boasts one of the largest purses in professional rodeo.

A steer wrestler kicks up dirt as he wrestles at steer to the ground in the arena at Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Steer wrestling is one of the timed events at the rodeo. Photo courtesy of Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Night shows: At night, bull riding and concerts entertain people. Headliners include Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton, Click here for more information on Frontier nights Concerts.

Visit the Indian Village: Immerse yourself in authentic Native American culture. See costumes, dancing, storytelling, flute players and handicrafts.

Eat Pancakes for free: Each year the Cheyenne Kiwanis Club and the Frontier Days Indian Committee serve about 100,000 pancakes to nearly 25,000 people during free breakfasts downtown.

Get a behind-the-scenes tour of the chutes: Free. Guests get a look at rodeo from behind the scenes. Follow the path of the bulls and broncs as animals thread through the maze of gates on their way to the chutes and out into the arena. Daily through Aug. 1.

A boy in a cowboy hat plays in a tank full of water at Frontier Village at Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Cheyenne Frontier Days feature activities for cowboys of all ages. Photo courtesy of Cheyenne Frontier Days.

A hometown event: Volunteers are at the heart of Cheyenne Frontier Days. Last year, more than 3,000 volunteers worked year-round to produce an event that attracted 241,000 people.

Park-n-Ride:

Take advantage of shuttles to Frontier Park. The Park-n-Ride is at Interstate 25 and Happy Jack Road. If you’re heading north from Colorado, take exit 10D. Shuttles begin at 10:30 a.m. The time for the last returning shuttle varies by day of the week.

 

About the author

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon is a proud Colorado native. She attended Colorado College, thanks to a merit scholarship from the Boettcher Foundation, and worked as a park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park during summer breaks from college. She is also a storyteller. She loves getting to know UCHealth patients and providers and sharing their inspiring stories.

Katie spent years working as a journalist at the Rocky Mountain News and was a finalist with a team of reporters for the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of a deadly wildfire in Glenwood Springs in 1994. Katie was the first reporter in the U.S. to track down and interview survivors of the tragic blaze, which left 14 firefighters dead.

She covered an array of beats over the years, including the environment, politics, education and criminal justice. She also loved covering stories in Congress and at the U.S. Supreme Court during a stint as the Rocky’s reporter in Washington, D.C.

Katie then worked as a reporter for an online health news site before joining the UCHealth team in 2017.

Katie and her husband Cyrus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, have three children. The family loves traveling together anywhere from Glacier National Park to Cuba.

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