Jim Mueller, the longtime contestant committee volunteer at Cheyenne Frontier Days has attended the 111-year-old event 73 times.
“The first year I came here my dad was in the wild-horse race and I was in diapers,”he recalls. “My whole family grew up around this rodeo.”
So there’s little doubt the longtime volunteer is among a hearty group of area residents who have the rodeo’s best interests in mind when it comes time to make event-related decisions. At the “Daddy of ’em All,”that means balancing 111 years of tradition with the ever-changing entertainment landscape.
“There was a time when the cowboys weren’t quite as professional that we’d have fights going on all the time out back,”Mueller recalls. “We probably had more people watching those fights than the rodeo some years. But through all these years, we’re still putting on a great rodeo, and we’re one of only a few ‘traditional’ rodeos left.”
By traditional, Mueller points out that Cheyenne includes steer roping, or tripping as it’s often known, the wild-horse race, rank bucking stock, large timed-event cattle and a long score (30 feet) that makes roping events among the most wild and Western in the sport.
“Most rodeos are at 70 to 75 contestants in a performance, but we have 190,”Mueller says. “We still take 3 hours for a performance when many rodeos are trying to stay at 2 to 2 hours.”
In the timed events, Cheyenne is basically open to all Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association members. Limits of 300 in the tie-down roping, 235 in steer wrestling and 150 in steer roping rarely prohibit willing cowboys from entering. That’s a far cry from many of the PRCA’s other top rodeos, which limit entries to the top 50 or 100.
“The big arena really allows us to do that,”Mueller says. “We can have two or three bulls rounded up at one end and go ahead buck the next one out because of all the space we have available. And part of it is that our fans realize they’re going to be here for a while when the rodeo starts.”
Cheyenne native Lynne Boomgaarden has volunteered at the rodeo for 10 years and oversees the Indian Committee. Included in her duties is organization of the American Indian village, the annual pancake breakfast and the CFD royalty. Although she hasn’t been involved as long as Mueller, Boomgaarden has her own thoughts on the rodeo’s success.
“The main thing has always been to find a balance between tradition and going to far with what’s trendy at the time,”she says. “We have to bring people in and continue to fill seats, so that means trying some different things from time to time, while not straying too far from the things that have always made this rodeo such a must-see event.”
Boomgaarden points to untraditional acts at the evening concerts in recent years. Comedian Larry the Cable Guy and rock group Steve Miller Band appeared at Cheyenne in 2006, along with a staple of popular country/Western acts.
“Ticket sales were really strong for those nontraditional acts, so I think there’s a market for that as part of this event. Hopefully those types of shows allow us to introduce Frontier Days to a whole new group of people.
The 2007 Cheyenne Frontier Days is scheduled for July 20-29. For more information, visit cfdrodeo.com.