It’s an old faded black and white photograph. That’s me on the right, about a head taller, a year and a half older than brother Bob on the left. Dad gave us the cowboy hats. Toy six-shooters are strapped to our hips, we have small plastic horses in each hand.
It’s 1953. I was five years old, our first Cheyenne Frontier Days.
For especially one-time visitors, CFD is a wondrous experience. You’ll find nothing like it anywhere in the world. For those who’ve lived many years in Cheyenne, the experience is ever changing as it marks the transitions of our lives
Memories are vague of those times when my parents introduced the celebration to us kids. What I do recall is the awesome parade. In those days it was sufficient unto itself to sit on a curb and watch marching bands, horses, buggies, floats, clowns, cowboys, and cowgirls go by. A bit older, my brothers and I walked the parade route and the rodeo stands hawking newspapers. That stack of newspapers got us through the gates at the rodeo grounds. We saw “the show” for the first time.
Everything changed when we became teenagers. There wasn’t much interest in either the parade or the rodeo. All that mattered were the girls at the carnival. We spent hours walking round and round the midway, boys looking for girls, girls for boys. We learned our lesson about “the house odds” trying to win one of those huge teddy bears for our girlfriend.
At 17, I was a disc jockey for KRAE Radio. We covered Frontier Days day and night. A press badge opened the doors of many events, parties, and happenings. I met all of the big name acts coming through Cheyenne for the celebration. I have a photo taken with Doc and Chester from Gunsmoke as I interviewed them in the control room of the radio station.
The next Frontier Days transition came when we reached drinking age. Once we turned twenty-one, CFD meant fewer rodeos or parades and more night shows and partying in local saloons, an annual reunion with old friends from everywhere.
Then came parenthood. Gone, for the most part, were those long afternoons and evenings at bars. In the BC (before children) years, Cheyenne Day and the weekends meant great times and long hours at the Mayflower, the Blue Bird, or the Cheyenne Club partying with friends. That mostly ended with a new CFD era, the one with our own children in tow.
If we went out at all, we drank much less beer and came home earlier. We circled back to those days when the parade was the highlight. Just as our parents had once introduced us to CFD, it was our turn to introduce our children to the marching bands, old cars and buggies, floats, and cowboys and cowgirls. They were thrilled to spend time at the Indian Village, watch the Thunderbirds, and ride the smaller rides at the carnival. And we were excited to watch their faces as they took it all in.
Admittedly, when they left home, we spent a few years trying to avoid it all. We complained about the traffic and higher prices in our favorite restaurants.
Then we became grandparents and the real fun of Cheyenne Frontier Days returned. The smile on the face of grandkids is what CFD is now all about. Like us when we were little and our children when they were, they love their cowboy hats and the parade, are thrilled with the Thunderbirds, watch the dancing Indians in awe, and shriek when a bull rider explodes out of the chute. Cheyenne Frontier Days was never more fun.
Like the old photos, our memories fade. One transition yet remains. The years are coming round when, once again, someone else will drive me to the parade route and it will be sufficient unto itself to sit on a curb and watch the marching bands, horses, buggies, floats, clowns, cowboys, and cowgirls go by.