CHEYENNE – Cheyenne Frontier Days boasts 126 years of history, heritage and tradition.
There’s the rodeo, of course, and the parades. The pancake breakfasts, the carnival, the Gunslingers, the night shows, the chuckwagons, the melodrama and so much more.
Perhaps the most hallowed of traditions is the time spent serving the community.
“The thing I look forward to the most is helping people out,” said Brent Hunter, a CFD volunteer of 26 years. “That’s what we do.”
For a lot of Frontier Days volunteers, it’s not any physical thing or event that keeps them coming back; it’s a feeling.
Frontier Days simply would not happen without the volunteers who are spread out across the nine committees, consisting of Concessions, Contract Acts, Grounds, Indians, Military, Operations, Parades, Public Relations, and Rodeo.
More than 3,000 volunteers help put on the 10-day event famous to Cheyenne, and Frontier Days has fewer than 20 paid full-time employees.
Many volunteers will take a vacation from their regular jobs in order to be at Frontier Park all day, every day during the “Daddy of ’em All” rodeo.
Hunter said that he used to work until noon and then head out to the Cheyenne Frontier Days grounds in the afternoons to volunteer. Since he was elected to the Heels of CFD, he takes the whole week off because he has more responsibilities.
Cindy Braden, the co-director of the youth volunteer program in the Public Relations Committee, said she used to do the same thing before she retired.
“I worked for the State Treasurer’s Office, so as soon as I got my work done in the morning – I’d go in early, get it done, and then leave and come volunteer,” Braden said.
Ginni Stevens, the co-director of the youth volunteers alongside Braden, said she always uses her vacation time to help out.
“This is part of my vacation,” Stevens said. “Serving my community, being part of Cheyenne and being part of the greatest rodeo that ever was.”
Volunteering is not restricted to people who can be there the entire time. Hunter said that a great thing about volunteering with Frontier Days is people can commit to however much time they want.
“If you want to come out and work three days for three hours, you can come out and work three days for three hours,” Hunter said. “If you want to be out here like we are, you can be out here like we are. If you can only work afternoons, you can do that.”
Hunter said it’s fulfilling for him to work with disability services and help transport people across the park.
The volunteers others can see zooming across the park on golf carts are making the park a more welcoming, accessible place for its visitors. Hunter said they’re really just trying to help people have a good day.
“That’s the other thing that we try to do. (If) you’re having a bad day, we swing in and pick somebody up, even if they’re not disabled,” Hunter said. “It’s a long ways around out here.”
Ricky Roberts, a volunteer with disability services in the CFD Operations Committee, said it’s hard to explain what it is he loves most about Frontier Days. Roberts said he enjoys “just being out here, meeting people,” and getting the chance to talk with people and make connections.
Roberts said that over the 20 years he’s volunteered at Frontier Days, his favorite thing to do is meet people from other countries. He’s met visitors from Australia and at least six European nations. Roberts said that when he volunteered in the arena stands, he would see the same people come back year after year, even if they were coming all the way from France.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Roberts said. “Everybody that comes out has a good time. You get frustrated sometimes and everything, but … we tell all of our volunteers: You’re here for a good time; try to have one.”
While meeting people from all over the world, the volunteers also get to make close connections with the people right here in Cheyenne. Hunter said he and his wife met while volunteering.
“Another thing is, it’s just all the friends you meet,” Hunter said. “We have friends on multiple committees, and it’s just a big family.”
The 2021 CFD economic impact study reported that “direct visitor spending surrounding the event” reached nearly $40.3 million. Hunter said that it’s special to be a part of something that has such a significant impact on the community.
Each committee has a different atmosphere and a different purpose, but all of the volunteers love to interact with each other, work together and contribute to something bigger than themselves.
“It’s a community thing to do,” Braden said. “It gets in your blood. Everybody just volunteers for Frontier Days.”