After having to cancel last year's Cheyenne Frontier Days performance, the skies over Wyoming’s capital city will thunder again next summer when the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds return.
The Thunderbirds have released their 2024 show schedule, which includes a July 24 demonstration in Cheyenne that coincides with the 128th Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Retired Col. Tucker Fagan, former wing commander at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, said he’s thrilled the Thunderbirds will return to Wyoming. The Thunderbirds have been a fixture at Cheyenne Frontier Days since 1953, the squadron’s first year of operation.
“We had the longest tenure of really anyplace that the Thunderbirds are,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “There's been a symbiotic relationship between Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Thunderbirds. They're always there.”
CFD A Top Priority
The Thunderbirds are the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron from the 57th Wing based in Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Teams of four pilots flying F-16 fighter jets tour the world performing precision formation and solo flying.
Fagan explained that getting any of the U.S. military’s air demonstration squadrons is an intense process. Everyone wants an appearance from the Thunderbirds, the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels or the U.S. Army Parachute Team, called the Golden Knights.
“The Thunderbirds, Blue Angels and the Golden Knights would sit at a table in the Pentagon and say, ‘All right. Where’s each of us going?’ To get the Thunderbirds to your base, you have to compete,” Fagan said.
But the Thunderbirds always had one weekend booked — Cheyenne Frontier Days — and everyone else worked around it.
“For years, the Thunderbirds would always come in and say, ‘That last week in July, we’re in Cheyenne. That's already there. So now we work around that,’” he said. “No other base has that.”
An appearance and demonstration by the Thunderbirds has been one of the signature features of Cheyenne Frontier Days for decades. Fagan said the longstanding tradition stems from a genuine connection to history and community.
“We do take care of them,” he said. “When they come, they bring their families, which is very unusual. That doesn't happen in other places. We take care of the families, get tickets to the night shows, the rodeos and whatever else they want.”
The Return Flight
After a tumultuous CFD demonstration in 2022 that saw the Thunderbirds F-16s diverted to airports in Colorado, the 2023 show was canceled while the runway at Cheyenne Regional Airport was undergoing repairs. It was only the second time since 1953 that Cheyenne Frontier Days went without a Thunderbirds demonstration. The first was in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With a 2024 appearance in Cheyenne on the official schedule, it shows that the bond is still strong.
Fagan admitted he was concerned that the Thunderbirds might have written off Cheyenne Frontier Days and the unique connection between the squadron and FE Warren Air Force Base would be lost. In the past, it was so important that new Thunderbird pilots were told to expect a trip to Cheyenne.
“When you get on the Thunderbird team, they'll tell you in July, they’re going to Frontier Days. Bring your families, and we're going to have the greatest old time up there,” he said.
It’s not just Fagan and those at the base who look forward to the Thunderbirds. The group is a favorite of attendees and sponsors.
Pace-O-Matic, a longtime top sponsor of Cheyenne Frontier Days, said its organization, which distributes Cowboy Skill Games in Wyoming, was thrilled to hear the Thunderbirds are coming back.
“We are really excited that the world-famous Thunderbirds are returning to Cheyenne Frontier Days,” said Pace-O-Matic CEO Paul Goldean. “They put on a spectacular show, and our hundreds of guests will be happy to hear that they are back.”
Andrew Rossi can be reached at: ARossi@CowboyStateDaily.com
Andrew Rossi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.