Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cowtown Summer

Summer in Cheyenne may be short, but it's beautiful. Eighty-five degrees, no humidity, blue skies and, best of all, Frontier Days. For the last week in July, the town gets taken over by the cowboys - and the kids, and the clowns, and the cows.
The celebration kicks of with a cattle drive that follows the highway into town and passes through Lion's Park on its way to the rodeo grounds. There are three parades, too, complete with marching bands, homemade floats, and prancing horses in silver-bedecked saddles.

There are two Pancake Breakfasts where the local Kiwanis teams up with the Boy Scouts to feed the whole town. The batter is mixed in a cement truck; the lines snake up one street and down another as hungry tourists and townspeople wait their turn to have golden-brown panakes flipped off the griddle and into the air to be caught on plates by the Scouts and served steaming hot. The record? 16,000 served in one day That's people, not pancakes.

On weekday mornings, you can head down to the fairgrounds and watch the timed event "slack," where some of the best ropers and steer wrestlers in the country compete to qualify for the rodeo. Like the breakfasts, the slack events are free, and great entertainment. Our arena is huge, and those cowboys have to work hard to catch their cattle.

Downtown at the historic Atlas Theatre, local thespians perform an original Old Fashioned Melodrama complete with hapless heroine and mustache-twirling villain. At the fairgrounds, night shows this year range from KISS to Brooks & Dunn. In the Indian Village, the famous Wind River Dancers perform daily, ending each performance with a group dance where the audience joins in.

There's a carnival, lots of crafts and jewelry for sale, living history actors roaming the grounds as Butch Cassidy and Buffalo Bill, a "Challenge Rodeo" where pro cowboys help special needs kids ride and rope, and an air show complete with the Air Force Thunderbirds.
And when it's over, you can wrap it up at the "Buckin' A Saloon," a beer tent where the rodeo contestants mingle with the spectators. I even ran into Kenny Chesney there last year - literally. (I didn't realize who I'd trampled until he'd left. I'm tall; he's not, and he was wearing a hat! He had blue eyes, a big smile, and probably a couple of new bruises from my pointy-toed cowboy boots!)
There are two kinds of people in Cheyenne: the ones who love Frontier Days, and the ones that get the heck out of town for the duration.

I love it. Our house is fairly close to the fairgrounds, and during the night shows music drifts from the bandstand all the way to our deck, and we can hear the rodeo announcers cheering on the cowboys. Families and hand-holding couples pass on the sidewalk. Later in the evening, their gait is a little less steady and their mood more festive, but whooping cowboys and cowgirls don't bother me a bit.

Others find it noisy and disruptive. They complain that the traffic is crazy, with half the streets closed off for parades and tourists executing random U-turns. But I'm happy to live in a community where so many people pull together to create a world-famous celebration of the wild side of the West - and the festivities give me endless inspiration for my cowboy romances!
Does your hometown have a summer festival that celebrates regional flavor? Does it inspire your writing or reading?


  1. Just south of us we have the Scottish Highland games in Salado. Lots of Scots settled in Texas. And north of us right before summer begins, we have the Renaissance fair. But otherwise, it's best to stay indoors in the AC for the next several long months. Or go to Orlando! :)

  2. Chicago is a great summer festival city- starting in June there are street fairs, music fests, street art sales, a litereary festival and so much more every weekend. Sometimes it's hard to choose what to go to!

    Your summer fest sounds great, Joanne!

  3. Joanne~ Enjoy the festivities. I loved the Boise River Festival when I lived there. We had hot air balloons - the night glow "parade" was spectacular, we even had a river parade, an air show with the Thunderbirds. I actually got poofed by a Thunderbird. I stood in the middle of a field at a park, he flew over and was sooo close, I could see his helmet. I waved like a mad woman and he shot out a poof of blue smoke and waved his wings at me. Sigh...That was one of the highlights of my life. I have a real thing for flyboys! There were duck races, go cart races down Capital Hill Boulevard, and every night there were concerts and on the final night a fabulous fireworks show.

    Every year DH and I had a picnic before the fireworks, we'd have 40 - 50 of our closest friends, I made calzones, Sangria, pasta salad and sausage and pepper sandwiches. We celebrated my youngest' christening at that picnic. I loved every minute of the Boise River Festival. It's too bad that over the years the cost of the festival became too high and they stopped having them. Sigh...

    Maybe I'll get to go to your festival. I'd love to bring the kids and party like we used to.

  4. Terry, a Highland Festival must be perfect for you! All those men in kilts - and the haggis! Well, maybe not the haggis...
    And Danielle, I'll bet there's great music in Chicago in the summer. I've never lived in a big city or even very close to one, but I'd love to be able to go to all the cultural events and museums.

  5. Robin, the Boise festival sounds fantastic, and it sounds like you make the most of it!
    I'm curious about the "duck races." Are they actual ducks?!?! And your picnic sounds soooo good.
    It's a shame they've stopped having the festival, but if you come to Frontier Days, you and the kids have a place to stay with me and my "flyboy"! I have a weakness for those guys, too:)

  6. We don't have much in the way of summer festivals but maybe that's because we have the white, sandy beaches that tourists love to come to and enjoy--we are all praying that the oil stays off the coast! We are less than a hundred miles from Pensacola where oil balls are washing up!

  7. Ok where to begin...the Spring/Summer...Red's opening day, The Jazz Festival, Every Thurs nite...Salsa on the Square...and the list goes on...

    Then there is Fall...Oktoberfest that is held in Sept (go figure) with our world famous Chicken Dance!!! WhooHooo!!!

    In case you haven't figured it out yet...this is the great city of Cincinati, OH. All are welcome.

  8. Oh, Houston is always having some festival or other. It's hard to keep up with it all, but there's always something to do.

  9. Amelia - who needs anything else when you have the beach! We'll all pray the oil stays away, though.
    And Jessica - love that chicken dance! I lived in Bethlehem, PA for a while where we have Musikfest, and I remember the chicken dance from that. Little kids love that!

  10. Shana - Houston sounds like non-stop fun! I suppose the advantage of a small town is that you know all the people you're chicken-dancing with...still, you city girls are making me jealous.

  11. The Duck races were with those cool rubber duckies with shades on. Everyone bought them for $5 a piece and the owner of which ever duck made it down the Boise River and across the finish line first won a car--I think. All the money went to charity. The hardest part was getting my kids to release the rubber ducky. I don't think we ever succeeded with my youngest and she's been collecting Rubber Duckies ever since. The Devil Ducky is her favorite! Typical.

    I met your flyboy last year, he's a sweetie. Mine is a flyboy wannabe. He not only wants to fly, he wants to build his own kit plane. He likes the Lancair 360. He's just waiting for me to hit the Times list a few times.

  12. Robin - Oh - rubber duckies! Of course! My mind immediately pictured actual ducks, with numbers spray-painted on their sides waddling down a racecourse.
    And that's right, you met Scrape!What is it about men and flying? I have a friend who built a kit plane, and flies it all over. I don't know what kind it is, but it's pretty big - like a real plane. Very impressive!

  13. We recently had a Duck Days in my home town. The highlight for my kids was the fire station was open to the public and served free hot dogs and cake. The kids got to climb around a fire truck, a water rescue boat, and met a police dog!

  14. Duck Days! That sounds great - and so exciting for your kids. Heck, I'd like to go aboard a rescue boat!

  15. We have a Rod Run, a wine and balloon festival and old west days, so a bit of everything since it fits the area perfectly.