I can thank Little House on the Prairie and that plucky gal, Laura Ingalls Wilder, for igniting my obsession with America’s Frontier, and subsequently my unabashed love for all thing Old West. Though I suppose if I’m being honest, I can admit to crushing pretty hard on a lot of the current West, and heck, the Southwest, too.
And really, what says “America’s West” louder than a rodeo? I mean, giddy up, y’all!
Over the years, I’ve assigned (as an editor) and been assigned (as a writer) stories about America’s best and wildest rodeos, jobs I found pretty darn blissful to execute. Each time I’ve had to dive into rodeo research, one name comes up repeatedly as the biggest and best: Cheyenne Frontier Days, in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
I’ve long gotten hot under the collar thinking about attending that rodeo, but never actually thought I could make my cowgirl fantasy a reality until I was invited to attend Cheyenne Frontier Days on a press trip.
Cue angels on harps and broncs and bulls dancing.
My dream was coming true – I would attend Cheyenne Frontier Days 2015. The experience lived up to all my expectations, and then some. As if watching the heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping competitions from the press box wasn’t enough, I got to climb in a bull chute and wander the arena pre-rodeo, and later stand in the chutes mere feet from some verrrry pissed off bulls during the actual rodeo (behind some very fine-looking cowboys in chaps, I might add).
I was also surprised to discover that beyond the rodeo, Cheyenne held a few treasures that made the trip to Wyoming even more memorable than I’d hoped. Here are some highlights:
Climbing into the bull chute. Because obviously.
Hanging out in the chutes during the rodeo and catching a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the “Cowboy Locker Room.” Because cowboys.
Watching the Navy SEALS parachute into the rodeo arena to mark the start of the rodeo.
The Frontier Days Parade was such a sweet glimpse of Americana and rodeo tradition. I felt like I was in a Friday Night Lights episode, but with Western flair.
It wasn’t Broadway, or even off-off-way off-Broadway, but the Old Fashioned Melodrama at Cheyenne’s Atlas Theatre was a good time. Don’t you want to boo and hiss at villains, and cheer the heroes, too?
Exploring the exquisite rock formations at Vedauwoo Recreation Area, and the world-class mountain biking trails and gorgeous landscape at Curt Gowdy State Park.
Chillin’ with a whiskey on the rocks at the Outlaw Saloon. There were ladies in bedazzled jeans, lots of cowboy hats, multiple stages featuring live bands, country line dancing, and one very kind-eyed mechanical bull. Which I most definitely did not ride. With my back? Are you kidding?!