20190728-cfd-planning-mc-1 bkm

Rocker Steiner walks back to the chutes after a successful rookie bareback bronc ride Friday, July 26, 2019, at Frontier Park Arena in Cheyenne. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – As the 123rd annual “Daddy of ’em All” comes to a close, executive staff and committee members are already thinking about next year’s celebration.

Planning the world’s largest outdoor rodeo requires extensive collaboration among hundreds of volunteers, contractors, talent agencies and athletes. Organizers use market research, exit surveying and product testing to make regular changes.

“We do our exit surveys and focus groups in Denver, Fort Collins and Cheyenne, where we test new products and ideas,” said CFD CEO Tom Hirsig. “When we talk about projects like the Sidewinder Saloon or The Garden, those took a couple of years to get laid out to make sure we are doing what our customers want.”

Because Cheyenne Frontier Days wouldn’t exist without the help of thousands of volunteers, their thoughts are considered invaluable, too.

“Our volunteers build it, so we ask them for input on what we can do better or more efficiently,” said General Committee Chairman Jimmy Dean Siler.

Even without implementing changes, though, planning for CFD begins roughly 14 months in advance – especially booking contract acts for night show performances such as Miranda Lambert and Post Malone. Event staff worked with agents to discuss availability, ticket cost, venue specifications and other details before solidifying an agreement more than a year ago.

“We only have a 10-day window, and it’s really hard because of their tour dates,” Siler said. “There are a lot of acts that want to be here.”

Securing contracts with cowboys and other rodeo performers starts early, as well.

“We start working on planning the show by September,” said CFD Rodeo Committee Chairman Chad Mathews. “We talk to all of our contractors whose contracts are up to figure out how we can move forward and make adjustments.”

One high-profile change to this year’s rodeo was adopting a tournament-style for the first time in the show’s history. This led some of the country’s top tie-down ropers and steer wrestlers to boycott the show amid changes they say will result in less financial gain and more wear on athletes.

But Mathews said the decision was based heavily on what audiences asked for.

“Fans wanted something that’s easier to understand,” he said. “Eighty-five percent of our fans said this is the first rodeo they’ve ever seen, or the only one they go to. At the same time, we want to protect our brand enough that the long-term fans are not alienated. We’ll see what the market research says this year and what the crowd thought of it and go from there.”

Next year, CFD’s new Park-n-Ride location on Southwest Drive will officially open to better streamline traffic flow to and from the park.

And organizers are still developing a vision for the rodeo, assisting with product development, infrastructure upgrades and organization planning tools to help keep it relevant in the modern world.

Officials anticipate technological advancements in entertainment and competitive sports, and the committee may incorporate emerging technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality to enhance the visitor experience.

The organization will also consider participatory experiences with future CFD events.

“This year, we introduced a website where rodeo fans can guess the scores of contestants during each ride,” Hirsig said. “If you’re the closest guess, you can win a Wrangler certificate. The high-point person for the day gets a $300 gift card, and the highest guesser for the week receives a $3,000 gift card. The technology piece is a big one; we want people to get more interactive and involved with rodeo.”

New security measures may be added next year to keep up with new and evolving safety concerns, and Hirsig said CFD will also continue to prioritize animal safety and transparency in discussing participant and animal injuries.

“And, the year after next, it will be the 125th Cheyenne Frontier Days,” Hirsig said. “So the expectations for that will be particularly high.”

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