By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
May 27 will go down as a dismal day in Wyoming’s history: the day “closed for the season” signs went up on the state’s most iconic rodeos.
And while officials connected with Wyoming’s tourism industry lamented the decision to close the state’s six largest rodeos, they agreed it was a step that appeared to be necessary.
“When you look at the overall picture of things, it’s so important to protect our community,” said Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr. “Frontier Days is so international and we have to do what we have to protect our citizens and volunteers. We don’t know what’s going on in other countries and how other outbreaks might happen. For right now, this was the best decision to make.”
These included the Thermopolis Cowboy Rendezvous PRCA Rodeo, which is held in late June, and the Cody Stampede, Central Wyoming Fair and PRCA Rodeo in Casper, the Sheridan WYO Rodeo and Breakaway Roping, Laramie Jubilee Days and Cheyenne Frontier Days, all of which were scheduled for July.
Gordon said officials at each rodeo agreed it would be impossible to proceed with the events and follow social distancing guidelines designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“This hurts. I grew up with rodeo and it is part of Wyoming’s fabric and our culture,” Gordon said in a statement. “All the rodeos impacted today are fabulous events. It is with a heavy heart, and only after many long discussions with these fine folks on ways we could make large-venue rodeos work, did we realize that it just wasn’t going to be possible this year.”
The rodeos bring in significant income for communities around the state, with attendees to Frontier Days alone spending more than $21 million during the 10-day event.
Piper Singer, a spokeswoman with the Wyoming Office of Tourism, said in a statement that the decision was a difficult one for officials.
“We know yesterday’s decision wasn’t taken lightly by the Governor and the six rodeo committees,” the statement said. “Much thought and consideration went into yesterday’s announcement, but we know it was ultimately the right decision to ensure the health and safety of our community and visitors.
“Holding any large, public events this summer would have been impossible to ensure all CDC and state health guidelines are upheld, while also providing the same level of experience,” the statement continued. “This decision does not mean the western legacy won’t be around this summer. We have seen how a community’s cowboy spirit can still bring everyone together, especially in times of need.”
Orr admitted that while she’s concerned about the loss of revenue (Cheyenne and Laramie County receive about $1 million in taxes from CFD visitors), she’s looking at the CFD cancellation as an opportunity rather than a complete loss.
Since this July will be the first time in more than 120 years that Cheyenne hasn’t seen an influx of visitors, city employees can take advantage of the relative quiet to work on some projects downtown, Orr said. For example, crew members will work on curbs, gutters and other infrastructure needs downtown.
This way, Cheyenne will be more than ready for out-of-town CFD-goers next year.
“This is a way we can get things nicely in order for next year, since 2021 will be such an important year for Cheyenne and CFD,” she said.