Why Michael And Karmin Pace Take 600 People To Cheyenne Frontier Days Every Year

A trip in his early 20s started a lifelong love affair with Wyoming and the West for Pace-O-Matic founder Michael Pace. That’s why his company flies 600 people to Wyoming every year for Cheyenne Frontier Days.

RJ
Renée Jean

October 29, 20238 min read

Michael and Karmin Pace at Cheyenne Frontier Days
Michael and Karmin Pace at Cheyenne Frontier Days (Photo by Matt Idler)

Forty-five years ago, when Michael Pace was in his early 20s, he loaded himself up in an Oldsmobile convertible for a trip across the West. His plan was simple. He would drive from his home state of Georgia out to see Glacier National Park, and all the other parks along the way.

He can’t quite recall what music band playing at Cheyenne Frontier Days enticed him to drop in on the event as he was on his way back home from this grand adventure, but what he does recall is the impression the event made on him at barely 21 years old. 

It was life-changing.

“I fell in love with the West,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “I grew up in Atlanta, but I’d rather be out in the Northwest or the Northern Rockies. That’s my favorite. Wyoming and Montana are really what I call the Northern Rockies.”

This love of the West would eventually lead Pace to buy a ranch in Wyoming near Encampment. It was there that he started a little company called Pace-O-Matic, which makes coin-operated skill games for venues like restaurants and bars, to supplement their income. 

Today, Pace-O-Matic is the largest distributor of skill games nationwide, with games in six states, including Wyoming, where it’s known as Cowboy Skill Games.

There’s Just Something About Wyoming

His love of the West and Wyoming has Pace constantly looking for ways to invest in the Cowboy State. 

This past summer, Pace and his wife Karmin announced that they would be funding the Field of Blue statue for Cheyenne’s Bronze Project, which features 51 pieces of bronze artwork, about half of which line Capitol Avenue from the historic Union Pacific train depot to the Capitol.

The bronze statue, however, was just the latest when it comes to large investments that the Paces have made in the Cowboy State. For the past three years now, Pace-O-Matic has been a top-level sponsor for Cheyenne Frontier Days.  

It started out as a way to give something back to the Cowboy State, Michael told Cowboy State Daily, but it has turned into so much more than that.

“I really wanted to show all the people who were in my business just how cool Wyoming is,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “But the people of Wyoming and the event itself has created this magnet for us to want to return.”

Pace said he puts most of the money he makes on Cowboy Skill games into sponsoring Cheyenne Frontier Days and bringing his employees to the event.

“We just like having a showcase,” he said. “We like to have a place that we can always say is ours, and it works fantastic. These people are wonderful, and again, I do think Wyoming is the best-run state in the country.”

  • Michael and Karmin Pace at Cheyenne Frontier Days
    Michael and Karmin Pace at Cheyenne Frontier Days (Photo by: Matt Idler)
  • Michael and Karmin Pace at Governor's Art Show during Cheyenne Frontier Days
    Michael and Karmin Pace at Governor's Art Show during Cheyenne Frontier Days (Photo by Matt Idler)
  • Governor's Art Show at Cheyenne Frontier Days with Michael and Karmin Pace
    Governor's Art Show at Cheyenne Frontier Days with Michael and Karmin Pace (Photo by Matt Idler)
  • Every year, Michael and Karmin Pace donate to charity.
    Every year, Michael and Karmin Pace donate to charity. (Photo by: Matt Idler)
  • Cowboy Skill Games is a sponsor of the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade
    Cowboy Skill Games is a sponsor of the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade (Photo by: Matt Idler)
  • Pace-O-Matic founder Michael Pace with Chief Marketing Officer Gina Trumm Reinhardt
    Pace-O-Matic founder Michael Pace with Chief Marketing Officer Gina Trumm Reinhardt (Photo: Matt Idler)
  • Cowboy skill banner 10 28 23

Spirit Of America

The idea to sponsor Cheyenne Frontier Days came about after the COVID-19 pandemic, while the company was talking about ways to showcase its products.

“We were looking for something that really has the spirit of America attached to it,” Pace-O-Matic President and CEO Paul Goldean told Cowboy State Daily.

That first year, Goldean wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and he wasn’t completely sold that Cheyenne Frontier Days was the venue that Pace-O-Matic needed long-term. Any doubt vanished, however, as Goldean was blown away by the experience.

“I’d been to rodeos, but I’d never been to that rodeo in particular,” he said. “It was an unbelievable event. I’ve had people tell us before they’ve been to hundreds of big events all across the world. This was the best one they’ve ever been to.”

The event was not only perfect as a showcase, but it really pulled Pace-O-Matic’s people together in unexpected ways.

“After that first year, we knew we were onto something that’s very helpful for us, and plus, we have an affinity for Wyoming in general through Michael Pace and his prior history with Wyoming,” Goldean said. “And it just made sense for us to do something in Wyoming and bring people there to see the beauty of the state.”

Growing The Showcase

The first year, Pace-O-Matic flew in 300 or so people, mainly due to space restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That first year, Pace-O-Matic also came up with an idea that has kept growing, to honor Wyoming heroes during Cheyenne Frontier Days. They are people who have saved lives, or made a difference in someone else’s life, or have a really inspiring story to tell.

Perhaps the most dramatic of the ceremonies was the following year in 2022, when the rodeo announcer told the story of Ryan Pasborg, an oilworker in Sweetwater County, who ran into a burning house in the middle of winter and carried out an unconscious mother and her four-year-old son, saving their lives.  

Last year, they hosted the four wrestlers from Northwest College in Powell who saved their own lives by battling a grizzly bear they ran into on a trail in the Shoshone National Forest.

And, from the start, they've honored members of Wyoming's military by hosting dozens of servicemen in their sponsor boxes on what CFD calls "Military Monday."

Full Package Of Western Fun

The ties, and the impact, just continue to deepen year after year for both Cheyenne Frontier Days and Pace-O-Matic. Last year and the year before that, Pace-O-Matic flew in 600 people for the event, putting them all up in Cheyenne hotels, taking them out to Cheyenne restaurants, and sending them out to shop in Cheyenne stores.

Everyone gets tickets to all of the concerts, and they also get discounts at selected Cheyenne merchants, particularly those where skill games are operated, so they can buy Western attire and dude — or dudette — themselves up.

“This is not like most corporate events you would go to,” Goldean said. “You don’t wear a name tag at the event. You have to meet people. So, you might be sitting at dinner with us, and you’re sitting next to a national lobbyist or you’re sitting next to the Speaker of the House of Wyoming, and you don’t even know it.”

The informal nature of things keeps it all fun, Goldean said, and it’s part of the charm of the whole event for Pace-O-Matic.

“Plus, you’re wearing cowboy outfits, you’re wearing jeans, stuff you just bought at the Wrangler Boot Barn, or at the rodeo, and everyone’s kind of hanging out, talking about their new boots and cowboy hats, and their bolo and everything else,” he said. “It really puts people in a different environment, gives them a different perspective.”

Goldean has come to look at it as a sort of business retreat for Pace-O-matic’s employees, consultants, operators, and their family members — everyone who comprises the Pace-O-Matic family. 

“Instead of having people go to places like we’ve had in the past, like some resort, where there’s really nothing to do, we go to Cheyenne,” Golden said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to share the beauty, the wonder, the coolness of Cheyenne Frontier Days with a very, very broad group of people, and, we have a captured audience, which allows us to all get to meet each other and get to know each other in a really, really awesome environment.”

  • College wrestlers who fought grizzly bear in Pace-O-Matic sponsor box during Cheyenne Frontier Days
    College wrestlers who fought grizzly bear in Pace-O-Matic sponsor box during Cheyenne Frontier Days (Photo by: Matt Idler)
  • Military Monday in the Pace-O-Matic sponsor box during Cheyenne Frontier Days
    Military Monday in the Pace-O-Matic sponsor box during Cheyenne Frontier Days (Photo by: Matt Idler)
  • Pace-O-Matic hosts dozens of military members in their sponsor boxes during CFD
    Pace-O-Matic hosts dozens of military members in their sponsor boxes during CFD (Photo by: Matt Idler)
  • Natrona County Deputy Sheriff Dexter Bryant receives standing ovation at Cheyenne Frontier Days
    Natrona County Deputy Sheriff Dexter Bryant receives standing ovation at Cheyenne Frontier Days (Photo by: Matt Idler)
  • Pace-O-Matic Paul Goldean with guests at 2023 Cheyenne Frontier Days
    Pace-O-Matic Paul Goldean with guests at 2023 Cheyenne Frontier Days (Photo by: Matt Idler)
  • Pace-O-Matic and Cowboy Skill staff photo at Cheyenne Frontier Days
    Pace-O-Matic and Cowboy Skill staff photo at Cheyenne Frontier Days (Photo by: Matt Idler)
  • The Nacho Men playing in the Cowboy Skill float in the CFD parade.
    The Nacho Men playing in the Cowboy Skill float in the CFD parade. (Photo by: Matt Idler)
  • Every year, The Nacho Men band plays in the Cowboy Skill float during the CFD parade.
    Every year, The Nacho Men band plays in the Cowboy Skill float during the CFD parade. (Photo by: Matt Idler)

Clap Your Hands If You Believe

The first time that employees hear that they’re going to the world’s largest rodeo in Wyoming for 10 days for their job, they do kind of do a double-take.

“I’m new to Pace-O-Matic, and when I started working with them, they’re like, ‘Oh well, every year we go to Wyoming for this big rodeo and we fly all of our consultants and all of our companies out there and they spend 10 days,’” Pace-O-Matic’s Senior Director of Communications Rachel Albritton told Cowboy State Daily.

“Of course, me, being the new person, I’m like, OK, well why Wyoming? Not that I don’t think it’s great, but why wouldn’t we have it in Nashville, or in Austin, or any of the other places that could probably host something of this magnitude.”

But once she had dipped her toes into the Cheyenne Frontier Days water, Albritton became an instant believer.

“There’s just something about this event, and specifically Wyoming, that just cannot be replicated anywhere else,” she said. “This was my first year there, and I’m totally a believer in it now. I wasn’t before, but like I get it now.”

Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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RJ

Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter