CHEYENNE – Cheyenne Frontier Days organizers have expanded security operations for this year’s event, and kept in place some COVID-19 measures first implemented in 2021.
Brian Rico, chairman of the Operations Committee, said the biggest change in security at Frontier Park this year is an expansion of the park’s security perimeter. It now includes Old Frontier Town and the Indian Village, as well as the main park area. This means that, in contrast with past years, attendees will have to go through the park’s weapons detectors to get into both of these areas.
“It just didn’t make sense to us to secure part of the park and not all of the park” that the public has access to, Rico said.
Entrance into Old Frontier Town and the Indian Village remains free, but all individuals older than 2 years who wish to enter the midway area will still be charged a general admission fee of $5. Attendees who have already bought tickets for that day’s rodeo or Frontier Nights, or a carnival armband for the day, can enter free of charge. Additionally, anyone who pays for the $15 park-’n-ride will receive free entrance into the park for everyone in the vehicle, according to the event’s website.
Organizers are also hoping to prevent long admissions lines by adding more entrances to the park, “putting them farther out and not creating choke points at certain entrances,” Rico said.
The new Operations Committee was formed from the now-dissolved Security and Ticketing committees.
The purpose of expanding the perimeter was to “protect our folks,” Rico said.
“We had 450,000 people come through our gates last year, and we detected several weapons, so we removed those weapons from the equation,” he said. “And anytime you can remove weapons from the equation, (it) makes it safer from that perspective.”
Weapons of any kind are not permitted at Frontier Park.
Rico added that bags are not required to be clear this year, but must be smaller than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches. No backpacks are allowed in the park. Diaper bags and medical items will be allowed in after inspection by security staff.
All security workers are contractors this year, and none are volunteers, so “they know what to look for, they know what they’re doing from that perspective,” Rico said.
The chairman noted that the Cheyenne Police Department, which has officers present during every day of CFD and at other events, are “taking added measures to make sure that people are safe” in the park and on parade routes, though he said he couldn’t describe what those measures were.
CPD spokesperson Alex Farkas said the number of officers at the park will vary depending on the day and what events are taking place, “responding to calls for service and monitoring the event.”
“Officers will be present during parades, pancake breakfasts, rodeos, concerts, Friday nights on the plaza events and around Frontier Park. For some of the higher attended shows that may require an increased police presence, we will assign additional personnel,” Farkas said in an email to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. “Manning is usually determined by ticket sales. The police department’s DUI Command Vehicle will also be stationed at the park to help deter underage drinking and driving under the influence.”
After a dispute over funding for officer presence at the park, the city of Cheyenne signed a five-year contract with CFD in 2020. The city received $67,000 from the organization in 2021, and this year is getting $73,700. It will receive $77,050 in 2023 and $80,400 in 2024.
Mayor Patrick Collins said in an interview he’d budgeted $43,300 for the city to spend on this in 2022, meaning a total of $117,000 is budgeted for officer overtime during Frontier Days.
The Laramie County Sheriff’s Office provides security for vendors and provides CPD “with additional deputies to fill security shifts that they need help covering. We do not actively patrol Frontier Park, since it’s located in the city, unless CPD specifically requests our assistance,” Undersheriff Kevin James said in an email.
With the revelry of Frontier Days comes thousands of visitors from outside the county. This influx of visitors, and the nature of virus transmissibility in large crowds, could cause an increased number of COVID-19 cases in the county and among visitors who may take the virus home.
Laramie County, and Wyoming as a whole, have recently seen an increase in COVID-19 cases, which health officials say is likely attributable to the highly transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of the omicron variant.
The county saw a rise in confirmed cases beginning at the tail end of July 2021, coinciding with the last days of that year’s rodeo.
Kathy Emmons, executive director of the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department, said her agency tracked case numbers following CFD last year, and there wasn’t a “statistically significant increase due to the increased size of the population.”
Because of this pandemic, the event’s organizers canceled the rodeo in summer 2020 for the first time since its beginning in 1897.
When asked for recommendations for people who plan to attend the “Daddy of ‘em All,” but want to protect themselves from potential COVID infection, Emmons offered familiar advice.
“First of all, they can definitely wear masks. That’s the easiest thing,” the health department director said in an interview. “Second, if you’re around somebody that seems to be having a lot of trouble coughing and sneezing and putting out a lot of body fluids, I would recommend you find a different place to be – you know, move to a different area. And then, of course, making sure that we’re still diligent about washing our hands and things like that.”
Outside of COVID, the local health department will also be promoting typical public health measures: handing out water bottles and hand sanitizer at the fairgrounds, distributing information about vaccinations and giving out condoms at the park to help prevent sexually transmitted infections.
Although they likely won’t be “as numerous” as last year, Rico said there will still be some hand washing and sanitizing stations around the park.
There also continues to be a first aid tent on the north end of the grandstands, Rico said, that members of the public can visit in case of minor medical issues. American Medical Response is on standby during rodeo events, and other first responders will be present at the park in case of emergencies.