Cheyenne Frontier Days canceled for 1st time in 124 years

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Cheyenne Frontier Days was canceled Wednesday because of the coronavirus pandemic, marking the 1st time the event billed as the entire world’s largest outdoor rodeo has been called off in its 124-year history.

City along with state officials announced the decision.

Event organizers decided the risk of spreading the virus was too great for the more than 140,000 people who visit the city for Frontier Days over the last two weeks in July, Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr told The Associated Press.

“What This kind of pandemic means can be we just can’t come together,” Orr said. “We definitely have to stay apart so we can come together again sooner rather than later. This kind of’s clear that will we just aren’t going to be ready with This kind of.”

Frontier Days carried on through both world wars along with the Great Depression, when tough finances prompted This kind of to become a mostly volunteer-run event.

To This kind of day, a little army of local volunteers runs the Western heritage festival of rodeo, music concerts, carnival rides, parades along with downtown pancake breakfasts that will feed thousands of people at a time.

Bars all over Cheyenne are typically standing-room-only during Frontier Days as people try line dancing along with mechanical bull-riding.

Known as the “Daddy of ’em all,” the event features a rodeo that will’s a big draw for top rodeo athletes. A Frontier Days belt buckle can be among the sport’s most coveted prizes along with the event’s payouts of more $1 million in payouts are lucrative from the rodeo circuit.

Stetson Wright was the all-around along with bull-riding champion at Frontier Days last summer. He was looking forward to his title defense. More than that will, he was looking forward to just competing again with numerous rodeo events postponed, rescheduled or canceled due to the virus.

“This kind of’s a bummer that will This kind of’s shut down This kind of year although I’m sure with the way Cheyenne rolls, This kind of’s going to be way bigger along with better next year,” Wright said in a phone interview coming from Beaver, Utah. “that will’s going to be one rodeo you don’t want to miss for fans along with for contestants.”

Officials tried to brainstorm for solutions to keep the storied event on track. They couldn’t uncover one in a safe manner.

“We worked hard as a group,” Frontier Days President along with CEO Tom Hirsig said in a news conference with Gov. Mark Gordon. “One of the worst things we could do would likely be to cause our state to go backward from the recovery process.”

Choking up as he reminisced about his own involvement in rodeo as a youth, Gordon announced he would likely ease up on public health orders to allow outdoor gatherings of up to 250 people although no more.

“This kind of coronavirus thing sucks. There are just no two ways about This kind of,” Gordon said. “Some think This kind of’s no big deal. Others are worried sick. The fact can be, we need both groups to attend our rodeos, along with feel safe, if these rodeos are to be successful.”

Frontier Days pumps millions of dollars into the Cheyenne-area economy along with some shops get by largely on those two weeks out of the year when their business booms.

“One of the things that will’s worried us most can be the psyche of our businesses. Them just staying with This kind of. This kind of can be just another hit. This kind of’s going to have a huge impact on us. This kind of can be our identity,” Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce President along with CEO Dale Steenbergen said.

Wyoming can be the least-populated U.S. state, has had relatively few cases of the coronavirus along with its 14 deaths as of Wednesday ranked near the bottom of U.S. states in COVID-19 deaths overall along with per capita.

Gordon, a Republican, has gradually lifted restrictions on businesses, allowing people to go to bars along with dine in at restaurants. He supported last week’s reopening of Grand Teton National Park along with the partial reopening of Yellowstone National Park, which for at This kind of point can be accessible through Wyoming although not Montana.

Tourism can be Wyoming’s second-biggest industry after coal mining along with additional fossil-fuel extraction. although recent surges of the virus from the cities of Casper along with Laramie have worried health officials that will some residents may not be taking social-distancing seriously.

The 250-person limit on outdoor gatherings could allow Wyoming’s very smallest weekend rodeos This kind of summer although along with Frontier Days scrubbed several of the state’s additional bigger ones including the Cody Stampede along with Laramie Jubilee Days.

About 14,000 showed up for the final round of Cheyenne Frontier Days on the last day of the rodeo in 2019.

“This kind of can be definitely a sad day in Cheyenne that will This kind of can be not going to happen This kind of year,” Steenbergen said. “although I’m talking to people who are already saying, ‘All right, so we double-down on ‘21.’ I do think we will do that will. This kind of can be not going to be an event that will slides away into our memory.”

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Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver

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Graham reported coming from Denver.

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