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Cheyenne Frontier Days

August 3, 2010

I went to my first “real” rodeo recently, at Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Before the rodeo, I had a chance to look around the grounds of Frontier Park. The entrances and exits to the place really confused me. Apparently, you can access some shopping and the Indian Village, the (exterior) of the Old West Museum, and the east-side stands entrance for free, but you have to pay an entry fee to get into the carnival midway area and the west-side stands entry where our tickets were.

I say apparently because I still don’t know. The information on the Cheyenne Frontier Days website is incomplete. We paid $10 for the park-and-ride option, which included midway entry for the three of us in the car. I think I read somewhere (but can no longer find) that midway entry cost $3 each, so it would have been cheaper for us not to have paid that way. But I don’t even know if we needed to. The people at the gates didn’t check our hand stamps, and I wonder if rodeo tickets would have gotten us into that area anyway.

Ah well. On to the Indian Village. If you arrive between dance performances, you’ll think it’s a tourist trap. The dance area is surrounded by craft and tchotchke vendors. There are some teepees, but you can’t go in them: it’s the lodging space for the visiting Indians who are (I assume) contracted to dance for the event.

The dancing itself is worth watching. It’s a bit like powwow lite, but it’s no less earnest. It’s a family affair. I liked that the announcer explained the background and meaning of the dances and the regalia. It’s not just entertainment — it’s educational.

There’s plenty of shopping opportunities on the grounds of Frontier Park. I also stopped by the museum, but didn’t go in (there’s an extra admission fee, a fact that the Cheyenne Frontier Days museum website fails to mention.)

On to the rodeo.

I attended the rodeo with an open mind, but have to admit that I just didn’t enjoy it all that much. The hard seats, over-loud loudspeakers, and distracting announcer’s patter with a sidekick bullfighter didn’t help.

But mainly, I found myself cringing a lot.

I don’t enjoy sports where there’s a high likelihood of injury to the participants. I don’t enjoy boxing or NASCAR crashes, for example.

Many cowboys are too cool to wear helmets to prevent head injury. Some who were helmeted the announcer seemed to have to excuse by mentioning how the rider recently got his head stomped into a near-death state.

I hated watching the bullriders come flying off with the pounding hooves of the massive bull so near. I did not enjoy watching the unseated bronc riders go flying through the air. A lot of people find the suspense thrilling, but I just won’t want to witness broken bones or worse.

Looking at still photos of the bucking events, I have to admit that it looks pretty impressive. I did not take any pictures of the rodeo (seats and camera weren’t good enough), but a friend agreed to let me use a few of her awesome photos of the CFD rodeo she attended the day before I went (thanks, Amanda!).

Here goes:

Photo by Amanda Beaulieu

Photo by Amanda Beaulieu

Photo by Amanda Beaulieu

Go, bullfighter! (They are bullfighters, NOT rodeo clowns, BTW.)

Photo by Amanda Beaulieu

Photo by Amanda Beaulieu

Photo by Amanda Beaulieu

And my favorite photo:

Photo by Amanda Beaulieu

I didn’t think about injury to the animals so much. I’ve worked with cattle, and I know they can take a lot of bumps without damage. The rodeo also works pretty hard to maintain high animal care standards. And no person in their right mind who owns a rodeo animal wants to see their critter hurt.

A lot of the skills demonstrated in rodeo come from daily life on a ranch. You need to know how to ride and rope well to maintain a healthy herd of cattle.

I once tried and tried to use a lasso, and failed miserably. It takes some real skill to be able to nab a moving target.

I think barrel racing is a cool sport. I bet the riders have really, really strong core muscles.

Barrel racing also apparently the only professional rodeo sport where women get to play. Ironic that there are so many rodeo queens who promote the entire sport of rodeo and can probably rope and ride with the best of the men, yet they seem relegated to barrel racing only on the professional rodeo circuit.

Oh, wait. Women get to do “trick riding” as a form of sideline entertainment, too. Lots of spandex and sparkles in their costumes. Death-defying cheerleaders on horses who don’t get points for competing (at least not in the PRCA).

Overall, the rodeo was interesting, but probably not something I would attend again unless I knew someone who was competing or had an out-of-town visitor who wanted to go.

One thing I missed from Cheyenne Frontier Days that I will definitely try to seek out next year: the parade. It looks awesome.

Text copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw. Images copyright Amanda Beaulieu.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. shaun permalink
    August 3, 2010 10:17 am

    Nice post, Katie. I’m more than a little amused at my own internal conflict over rodeo. I support and defend the right of cowboys, stock owners and fans to participate, particularly since the animals are well cared for and in some sense live an idyllic life. However, it looks stupid, painful, and dangerous to me and I don’t enjoy it or recommend it. But that’s just me. Most of the seemingly popular “reality” shows on television look stupid, painful and dangerous to me as well, so I’m probably just out of step with mainstream America. Keep up the good work on this blog!

    • Katie Bradshaw permalink
      August 3, 2010 2:17 pm

      “Most of the seemingly popular “reality” shows on television look stupid, painful and dangerous”
      I just recently saw some clips from a show called “Wipeout”. I think rodeo makes MUCH more sense than that does!

  2. August 3, 2010 7:51 pm

    My sentiments exactly–

  3. Katie Bradshaw permalink
    August 3, 2010 9:13 pm

    How interesting. I am getting hits to my blog for people searching “Cheyenne Frontier Days” and “injury” or “death”.

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