CFD rodeo 2019 file

Taygen Schuelka of Newell, S.D., competes in saddle bronc riding Wednesday, July 24, 2019, at Frontier Park Arena in Cheyenne. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Total attendance for the 123rd Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration was slightly higher than in 2018, according to rodeo officials.

Total attendance for all CFD events was around 559,930, an increase of about 3% from the 543,703 visitors who attended last year.

About 252,288 attended paid CFD events this year, an increase of about 1.9% from last year.

“I’m pretty ecstatic about it,” said CFD General Chairman Jimmy Dean Siler. “I think we’ve become a destination for a lot of people. It gives us a chance to show off Cheyenne Frontier Days, Cheyenne and our state. What a great opportunity.”

Siler also praised the work of the volunteers.

“Whether it’s the weather or a sold-out show or taking care of our customers, our volunteers rise to that challenge,” he said. “Our volunteers stepped up and made sure that we put on one heck of a venue.”

Rodeo attendance was 97,373, according to CFD officials, less than last year’s official figure of 101,462, but higher than the 2017 figure of 94,267.

CFD Tickets Committee Chairman John Svoboda said he attributed some of the decrease in rodeo traffic to the cessation of the Denver Post CFD train.

“There would be a huge amount of people that would come up from Denver for the rodeo,” Svoboda said.

The newspaper and its foundation announced in January that the special Denver-to-Cheyenne train would no longer operate, citing Union Pacific’s utilization of its historic rail cars across the country to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad this year and beyond.

The event started in the early 1900s, and as of 2018, the newspaper would bring more than 700 ticketed passengers to Cheyenne on a steam engine train for a day at CFD.

Action in the arena at Frontier Park started with the Wild West Show on July 19 with events that reflected rodeo’s history, including women’s ranch bronc riding.

Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association action took place, and the CFD invitational breakaway roping event started with qualification rounds July 12.

The first full rodeo performance took place July 20.

About 1,550 contestants participated in this year’s rodeo activities, competing for more than $1 million in prize money, with the addition of women’s breakaway roping and a tournament-style format. In 2018, there were 1,350 competitors, with prize money at $845,788.

At the championship finals on Sunday, 13,432 fans witnessed history when local favorite Brody Cress won the saddle bronc riding title for the third time. Cress is the first man to win three consecutive CFD titles since the event started in 1897.

Sunday’s attendance saw an increase of about 1,000 tickets compared to last year.

The highest-attended rodeo was Saturday, July 27, at 14,215.

All rodeo performances were broadcast live on the Cowboy Channel. The Wrangler Network also streamed the semifinals and finals online, bringing the rodeo to a worldwide audience.

Many of the activities during CFD are centered around animals. An estimated 6,000 animals made their way through the rodeo arena, parades and at bull riding, according to CFD officials. Reports showed 140 of those animals were examined, 55 required treatment and all but two were expected to make a full recovery.

A partnership with Colorado State University’s Equine Clinical Services program provided comprehensive care for the third year. CSU Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation veterinarians provided care similar to athletic trainers for contestants. Onsite services included digital radiographs, ultrasound, acupuncture, chiropractic care and shockwave therapy.

The Justin Sportsmedicine Team was on site, and along with local medical personnel, provided more than 400 treatments to rodeo contestants.

Professional Bull Riders hosted their Last Cowboy Standing competition on July 22-23 as part of Frontier Nights. The last bull rider standing on July 23 was Chase Outlaw, who had been seriously injured at the same event a year earlier.

It was one of the best night show crowds since Frontier Days added bull riding, with 9,863 in attendance. The events were broadcast on PBR’s Ride Pass and CBS Sports.

Total night show attendance was 120,518, an increase from last year, when 115,214 visitors showed up for the evening events.

The night show featuring Post Malone boasted a capacity crowd of 22,500 and was the fastest-selling concert in CFD history.

CFD CEO Tom Hirsig said the event’s biggest challenge is providing and improving security. He said they need to “move security up a notch.”

“With the concert scene, the acts, they’re requiring more and more security with good cause,” Hirsig said Monday. “Our park was not designed to do wanding and mactrometers. It was designed for the old days of tearing tickets. We’ve got to do some adjustments with our facility so we can be more efficient with security measures.”

Other numbers were in line with previous years, according to officials. The four parades were estimated to have more than 90,000 visitors.

Cheyenne Kiwanis Club members served 22,713 meals during the three pancake breakfasts, and 50,998 visited the Indian Village.

Military Monday continues to be popular. All branches of the military were honored with active personnel and veterans receiving free admission.

The U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leapfrogs, thrilled rodeo and night show fans by jumping into the arena at Frontier Park, and the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds performed over F.E. Warren Air Force Base, with about 19,500 people in attendance.

“We had tremendous crowds out here, and we want to thank not only the local, but also the regional support,” Hirsig said. “We had visitors from every state and 31 countries. They’re from everywhere. We’re honored to have all those people.”

Steve Knight is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3182 or sknight@wyomingnews.com.

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