The doctors are in: Meet the Cheyenne Frontier Days wagon doctors

in Community/arts and culture

The dozens of wagons that travel the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade route every year are on the road thanks largely to the work of a dedicated handful of mechanics, painters, carpenters and other volunteers known collectively as the “Wagon Doctors.”

The group not only checks and maintains the wagons that are a fixture at the annual rodeo parade, but handles any repair work necessary on the vintage vehicles.

“We repair and restore old wagons,” said team member Ed Galavotti. “Anything that goes wrong with them or they need painting.”

Tom Watson said a number of volunteers with a wide variety of talents take part in the work.

“The guys we have, they do it as a hobby,” he said. “They do it year-round. We have machinists, we have carpenters, we have painters. We have one guy who does upholstery. So we pretty much can cover anything.”

Materials used to repair and refurbish the wagons, many of them more than 100 years old, are often not readily available, Galavotti said.

“We use specific lumber, we use carriage bolts that you don’t find,” he said. “But there’s places around that supply us.”

The repair work is almost constant, Watson said.

“You never run into something that you’re just going to bring in and fix real quick,” he said. “Because it always leads to something else that you find out wrong.”

Even wagons that do not need repairs get attention from the “doctors,” Watson said.

“All the wagons that are in the parade every year, we grease the axles, we give them a good look-over and tighten bolts,” he said.

The collection of wagons used for the parade is all them more impressive because they are actually used, he added.

“We used to say this was one of the biggest (wagon collections) in the United States,” he said. “There’s none bigger that uses them more.”

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