We were all awestruck by the strength of the bull, which was obvious even from our seats in the stands. Our hearts were pumping and adrenaline raced through our bodies. I can’t imagine what was going through each cowboy’s mind as the bull exploded from the chute and whipped the cowboy’s body around like a ragdoll. My two kids, ages six and 11, sat alongside their two cousins at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo; all at attention and counting along with the stadium timer. Their eyes were full of excitement. I leaned over to my sister, Sonya, and put my arm around her shoulders. “This was the best idea ever,” I said, squeezing her tightly.
Although Sonya and I grew up nearby, we are far from cowgirls—we were more concerned with pop culture than with championship bull riding. But her husband, Tom, grew up on a ranch, riding horses and feeding chickens—Cheyenne Frontier Days was a highlight of his childhood and he raved about its warm Western hospitality. Tom had taken Sonya and their two kids, and as they were driving home that night, Sonya gave me a call.
“I can’t even describe it, Nina—you have to see for yourself. Bring the kids!”
Cheyenne Frontier Days is “the Largest Outdoor Rodeo and Western Celebration in the World,” so our days were filled with countless events. I watched the kids’ eyes light up and smiles spread across their faces when they heard the dirt-muffled stomp of the bronc’s hooves as it prepared to enter the arena. As we heard the hooves, I felt a thrill run through my veins. This was an animal athlete in all its raw power, and it was incredible to witness in person. Excitement filled my blood as the gates opened and the cowboy entered the arena on the back of the bull. I realized I was holding my breath as the cowboy ended his ride and safely ran to the fence, waving his hat at the crowd with a smile. This was Western drama at its finest.
We watched barrel racing, bareback bronc riding, and so much more. The kids were amazed with the speed and precision of both the human and animal athletes.
“Isn’t this amazing, Nina?” Sonya asked. “I can’t believe we thought we were too cool to come here when we were younger.”
The rodeo clown did a great job of keeping everyone entertained between events—young and old alike! There was no whining while we waited, and I even caught my husband, Jeff, and Tom smiling at the clown’s antics. I giggled at his goofy behavior and was awed by the trick riders and track acts.
I also discovered that there is so much more to Frontier Days than just the rodeo. We spent an afternoon wandering through the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum and had an incredible time. Steeped in history, we were endlessly entertained. Sonya’s kids loved the colorful Native American weavings, intricate wood carvings and amazing folk paintings, while my two boys preferred to let loose in the themed play area. Here they giggled as they sported different cowboy hats, sat in a real saddle and ran amok playing their own version of “cowboys.” Even the big kids (including Tom and Jeff!) got in on the action.
After our families had burned off some energy, we wandered through some of the other exhibits at the CFD Old West Museum, including an interactive learning center and historic horse-drawn carriages. In total, there are upwards of 60,000 artifacts in the museum. We could’ve spent days there without ever getting bored.
Next up on our agenda: Indian Village, an area with performances by the Little Sun Drum and Dance Group at the southeast corner of Frontier Park, where we got a brief glimpse of the lifestyle and legacy of different Native American tribes. The little ones enjoyed seeing authentic teepees and actually sat inside one for storytelling. Sonya and I ooh-ed and aah-ed at the elaborate regalia the performers wore, while our husbands were fascinated by the intricate performances. The kids loved it, and the adults did, too.
Later that day we wandered through some of the shops in town trying on Western jewelry and buying souvenirs. Jeff pulled me off to the side and told me he had a surprise for me.
“I love surprises! What is it?”
“You’re going to see Aerosmith tonight,” he said.
As it turns out, when the sun goes down on Cheyenne Frontier Days, Frontier Nights begins. Their night shows have featured some of the biggest names in music entertainment.
This was the type of thing both my pop-culture obsessed past and rodeo-convert present could both appreciate. Although Sonya and I had avoided what was classic in favor of what was cool, it was nice to know that we weren’t going to let our kids make the same mistake.
Sonya was beaming. It was the perfect end to an incredible trip.
Buy your tickets for Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo now.