by Lenice Basham, PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo.
I am not sure why - but we had the opportunity to attend the Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration this year for the first time. It is an amazing event and I would encourage anyone who has a day or two available at the end of July to go to Cheyenne Frontier Days.
One of the highlights of 122nd Cheyenne Frontier Days was the parade. The parade, held four times during the 10 day event, is held in downtown Cheyenne, beginning at the Wyoming Capitol. It is an incredible parade. There are the typical marching bands, bicycles and floats, but the team and wagons are the star of the show.
“At the end of WWII, teamsters from across the United States gathered in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Parade and Grand Entries. The teamsters brought a variety of heavy draft horses, light draft horses, mules and saddle horses. Some came early enough to round up cattle to be used during the parade” (cfdrodeo,com). In modern day, teamsters are invited to submit an application to be included in the parade to the Parade Chairman. All teamsters are screened looking at personal attributes, dedication, work ethic, commitment, animal handling skills, desire to carry on the Western traditions and if they live the Cowboy Code of Ethics. They committee then invites those applicants to be a part of the celebration.
The teamsters bring their own teams and harness. The teams are housed at the fairgrounds. Teamsters are required to bring their own supplies needed to take care of their teams. Stalls are provided for their stock. The teamsters and outriders are from all over the United States - with some coming from as far as Wisconsin or Texas. The wagons used are a part of 126 wagons restored by the Carriage Committee and Tom Watson’s Wagon Doctor’s volunteers. The Wagon Doctor’s take care of all of the historic wagons which are on display at the fairgrounds during the Frontier Days. Tom Watson is a certified wheelwright (someone who can build or repair wagon wheels). Each year his volunteers restore a new wagon or carriage.
For each of the four parades, the teamster is assigned a wagon. The wagons are also used to transport VIP’s during the grand entries each day at the rodeo. These wagons are amazing and the variety of wagons on display in this collection is incredible. The collection of wagons was valued at over $1.75 million in 2013. Many of the carriages and wagons come from homes and ranches around Cheyenne. “When automobiles replaced the wagon, most sat abandoned in barns and yards” (cfdrodeo.com). A museum was built in 1978 to house the collection. Before that the wagons and carriages were stored under bleachers and outside. They had to be cleaned each summer for the event. Cheyenne Frontier Days believes that it is the world’s most extensive and impressive horse-drawn carriage collection. There is a great deal of information about the collection if you visit the Cheyenne Frontier Days Museum.
The parade participants are required to dress in vintage clothing. They can wear clothing that meets the criteria that they bring with them - or they can dress in vintage clothing supplied by the Parade Wheels Committee. Each teamster has an outrider during the parade to ensure safety. The outrider is also required to dress in vintage clothing.
It takes 450 volunteers helping to run each parade. The parade lasts approximately 1-1/2 hours. There are announcing posts located at various places along the route for the announcer to share information about each participating included in the parade.
Lee and Stacy Marriott, of Stover, Mo., have been participating in the parade for the last few years. They have a four-up of gray Percherons. They head to the Cheyenne Frontier Days seven days prior to the first performance with their Jack Russell, Jack. They stay until the last performance participating in the Grand Entry. They even participate in the cattle drive the same way that the teamsters did at the end of World War II. There are multiple videos that they have posted on their Facebook page, Rockin M Ranch Western Emporium about behind the scenes of the horses and the parade. Seeing the view from the prospective of the teamster during the Grand Entries on the track is a view you will rarely get anywhere else.
Jerry and Yolanda Stroup, Western Rose Ranch, Lowndes, Mo., have participated in the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade for 14 years and 56 parades. This year Yolanda hauled the main Committee chairman in the Yellowstone coach in the Grand entry.
Cheyenne Frontier Days is known as the Granddaddy of them All. They will hold their 123rd Cheyenne Frontier Days from July 19-28, 2019. Take a few days and experience this parade.
(These photos by Lenice Basham)