05/27 16:02 CDT Cheyenne Frontier Days canceled for 1st time in 124 years
Cheyenne Frontier Days canceled for 1st time in 124 years
By MEAD GRUVER and PAT GRAHAM
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) --- Cheyenne Frontier Days, billed as the world's largest
outdoor rodeo, has been canceled for the first time in its 124-year history due
to the coronavirus, the city's mayor told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
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 said in an interview.
"What this pandemic means is we just can't come together," Orr said. "We really
have to stay apart so we can come together again sooner rather than later. It's
clear that we just aren't going to be ready for this."
Frontier Days carried on through both world wars and the Great Depression, when
tough finances prompted it to become a mostly volunteer-run event.
To this day, a small army of local volunteers runs the Western heritage
festival of rodeo, music concerts, carnival rides, parades and downtown pancake
breakfasts that feed thousands of people at a time.
Bars all over Cheyenne are typically standing-room-only during Frontier Days as
people try line dancing and mechanical bull-riding.
The rodeo is also a big draw for top rodeo athletes. A Frontier Days belt
buckle is among the sport's most coveted prizes and the event's payouts of more
$1 million in payouts are lucrative in the rodeo circuit.
Frontier Days pumps up to $28 million into the local economy and some shops get
by largely for the year on those two weeks of booming business.
Wyoming is the least-populated U.S. state, has had relatively few cases of the
coronavirus and its 13 deaths as of Wednesday ranked near the bottom of U.S.
states in COVID-19 deaths overall and per capita.
Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, has gradually lifted restrictions on
businesses, allowing people to go to bars and dine in at restaurants. He
supported last week's reopening of Grand Teton National Park and the partial
reopening of Yellowstone National Park, which for now is accessible through
Wyoming but not Montana.
Tourism is Wyoming's second-biggest industry after coal mining and other
fossil-fuel extraction. But recent surges of the virus in the cities of Casper
and Laramie have worried health officials that some residents may not be taking
Gordon announced Wednesday that starting Monday, he would allow outdoor
gatherings of up to 250 people --- a big expansion from the previous limit of
25 and one that would allow the smallest rodeos to take place.
"It's time we had the chance to enjoy summer," Gordon said in a statement. "The
ability to gather outdoors in larger groups will be good for Wyoming citizens,
businesses and our communities as we enter the season."
About 14,000 showed up for the final round of the rodeo on the last day of the
event in 2019.
Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver
Graham reported from Denver.