Every July, the World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo (The Calgary Stampede is larger, but indoors) comes to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Cheyenne’s Frontier Days is not only a rodeo. It is a major nine-day event, and the most exciting time of the year to visit Cheyenne, Wyoming. At Frontier Park, not only does one of the most major pro rodeo events take place each afternoon, but live concerts take place each night, and a carnival is set up just outside the park. It is the week where Wyoming shows in full display it’s western heritage. And while the “old west” can be thought of as encompassing part or all of 16 states, I find it hard to think of a state that shows more pride in it’s “old west” heritage than Wyoming.
Consistent with the culture on display at Cheyenne Frontier Days, most of the concerts that take place over the course of the week are country/western. I am not a fan of country/western music. I am from New York and Chicago, it is just the culture I grew up in. So, I went to the only non-country/western show on the Frontier Days lineup, which happened to feature two of my favorite classic rock/ arena rock acts; Journey and Styx.
Styx went on first, and they began on-time! This was at 8:00 P.M., Friday night, the first night of Cheyenne Frontier Days. They put on a phenomenal show! Some bands just don’t sound the same as they get older, but this band was quite good. In fact, it reminded me how much I liked this band. As an added bonus, I took pride in the fact that they are from Chicago.
Journey was the main act of the night, and they also sounded really phenomenal! Their story is quite an interesting one. They scored their biggest commercial success in the time period from 1977 through 1984 with lead singer Steve Perry, who has a very unique sounding voice. After breaking up, periodically reuniting, having a falling out with Steve Perry, and a few years with a different lead signer, in 2007, they hired Arnel Pineda, from the Philippines, as their new lead singer. The interesting thing about this hire is that they hired him based on hearing his Journey Tribute band perform on YouTube. It is interesting how this technology has helped a California based band find the most ideal new lead signer on pretty much the other end of the world. How’s that for the benefits of the internet and connectivity?
I also love watching this guy in concert. His attitude is just so positive! Whenever I see him on stage, it just feels like singing for Journey has been a dream come true for him and that he is loving every minute of it. I can feel his energy, and it seems like the crowd can feel his energy as well, and responds positively to it. I think people in general just love it when someone seems really happy and enthusiastic about what they are doing.
In addition to seeing a wonderful show, we got to attend the show in a special section called the “Party Zone”. This section of the venue is in front of the stands, fairly close to the band, which is how I got those fairly close-up pictures. There are no seats here, and beer is sold right in the section, just slightly off to the side of where the crowd congregates. Essentially, this is the section for people that came to dance, jump up and down, etc., as opposed to those that just want to sit and watch. This is where I feel I belong. So, I was happy to have good company, have a few beers, and see an amazing show.
The next day, Saturday, we went to the parade, which occurs four times throughout the duration of this festival. Saturday morning’s was the first one, but there will be another one on Tuesday, Thursday, and the following Saturday. For this day, I decided to find the most western looking attire I own, which includes a cowboy hat that I actually bought at last year’s Frontier Days. I have no boots, no fancy belt buckle, or anything that would make me completely legit. But, it was nice to somewhat look the part, and somewhat look like I fit in in a place that could not be more opposite from where I am from.
I am not a conformist. I believe that everybody should feel free to be themselves. However, sometimes I enjoy just fitting in. It makes me feel like a versatile individual, like somebody that can find a way to feel comfortable in many different situations and scenarios. Wearing jeans and a cowboy hat for one day did not in any way make me feel like I am compromising my values or losing my ability to be who I am. I will return to my quite urban lifestyle when this is over. So, why not fully embrace the experience while it is happening?
One thing I try not to do while attending major events is loose track of the actual purpose of the event. The best example of this is the Mifflin Street Block Party in Madison, Wisconsin. Originally a Vietnam War protest, this event quickly evolved into large early May block party with little purpose other than drinking heavily. The major event at Cheyenne Frontier Days is the rodeo. It is actually one of the most significant rodeo events on the pro rodeo circuit and attracts some of the best the sport has to offer.
Rodeos feature a variety of events, including your standard bull riding, and bucking broncos, but also the events pictured above; calf roping and barrel racing. Calf roping is quite a crazy event. A cowboy will first lasso a cattle. Then, they jump off of their horse in order to tie it up, using a rope. The best of the best can do this in a matter of 12 seconds. Steer wrestling also features cowboys jumping off of their horse, but in order to wrestle a steer to the ground by the horns. I saw someone do this in a matter of 7.6 seconds!
Of course, from the standpoint of an animal right activist, this is probably the worst sport in existence. In order to get the bulls, as well as the broncos, to buck, they literally tie up their balls. Maybe greyhound racing is worse, I don’t know, I am not PETA.
This particular rodeo ended with a unique and quite exciting event; a wild horse race. For a lack of a better way of putting it, the wild horse race is literally a shit show. Teams of three attempt to saddle up and ride an untamed horse, straight from the wild, one time around a track, in a fashion similar to a more proper horse race like the Kentucky Dirby. However, because these horses are wild, anything can happen. Before getting started, many of these horses started pulling their “handlers” in all sorts of directions, and some even “sat down”, if that is something a horse can do. While running around the track, two of these horses jumped over the gate, throwing their riders off, and one of them completely changed directions out of nowhere.
All of this was quite amusing, but I actually kept thinking about this entire scene from the point of view of the horse. Specifically, the people who were dragging the wild horse around in a vein attempt to get them to act like Man-O-War were, in some cases, riding trained horses. These wild horses, being dragged into the arena must be wondering why these other horses are betraying their own species and helping the humans do this to them. It’s got to be on their minds.
We also got quite lucky with regards to the weather. Towards the end of the rodeo, around 3 P.M., storms started to form to our West, Northeast, and South. But, luckily, the storms formed and tracked elsewhere, and very little rain fell on the rodeo itself. The storms did, however, help cool things off. In both Colorado and Wyoming, in summertime, storms are like power plants; you want them close to you but not close enough to mess things up.