The “romance of the Wild West” – specifically the “Wild West” of the United States of America – has long intrigued city-dwellers around the world who have never seen a horse up-close, let alone ridden on one. They’ve seen movies featuring the laconic cowboy, the Native Americans who can be villains or victims, mustachioed bandits after gold, and the Calvary that rides to the rescue at the last minute.
Many cities throughout the Western United States are proud of their cowboy heritage and hold a yearly festival celebrating those long-ago days. One of the key events taking place at these festivals is a rodeo, in which cowboys will compete in such contests as calf roping, steer wrestling and bronc riding. Cowgirls usually compete in only one event – barrel racing.
Most of these events are relatively small, taking place over the course of the weekend, but there are a few events that last for ten days, and these are world famous.
Here’s a list of three of the most famous Old Time Wild West events.
Greeley, Colorado. Held for two weeks, ending on July 4
Greeley, Colorado, a city named after New York newspaper publisher Horace Greeley who was famous for the phrase “Go west, young man!” – hosts an annual Wild West event called the Greeley Stampede, held for two weeks and ending on 4th of July – the United States’ Independence Day.
The Greeley Stampede, which brings in over 250,000 people from the United States and around the world features a carnival midway, and a Superstars Concert usually featuring country-western singers. In 2017, the musicians are Chase Rice, Barenaked Ladies, Locash, Toby Keith, and Clay Walker.
Their rodeo events include the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Rodeo Series, American bullfighting (which differs from traditional bullfighting in that the cowboys are in close-quarters with the bull at all times, and have no weapons), and Xtreme Bull Riding. There’s also a kid’s rodeo. For those who like a good old fashioned Demolition Derby, the Greeley Stampede offers this popular event as well.
The Greeley Stampede also features an 8-acre living history display called Centennial Village which enables visitors to step back in time to truly experience an immersive history of the Wild West.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Usually scheduled after the Greeley Stampede in July.
Many people think that only the USA has an Old West tradition, but Calgary has hosted the Calgary Stampede every year since 1923, with over a million people visiting the city over the ten days of the event.
Like the Greeley Stampede and Cheyenne Frontier Days, the Calgary Stampede features other events besides world-class rodeo events. There’s a carnival midway featuring dozens of rides popular with children and adults, with rides such as the Crazy Mouse, Giant Wheel Ferris wheel, Wave swinger, Outlaw, Polar Express, the Mach 3 and the Spin Out.
The Greeley Stampede is unique in that it features a Dog Bowl – where performance dogs perform stunts and participate in obstacle races that galvanize the crowds.
The Calgary Stampede also features concerts, with performers such as Johnny Reid, Brooks & Dunn, Alabama, and Usher & the Roots, as well as comedy acts like Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy.
Calgary’s rodeo features such events as barrel racing, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, and bareback riding.
Cheyenne Frontier Days
Cheyenne, Wyoming. Held the last full week of July.
Cheyenne Frontier Days was founded in 1897 – when the Old West was already in danger of being just a memory. It has been held every year since then, celebrating its 120th anniversary in 2017.
The ten-day long celebration takes place at Cheyenne’s Frontier Park, which features an open-air stadium that hosts rodeo events during the day, and concerts at night. A carnival midway features a variety of rides such as carousels and roller-coasters. There’s a Frontier Town in which re-enactors portray characters from the Old West and interact with visitors. At the Indian Village, audiences can enjoy traditional Native American dancing and music.
But there’s more. Ironically, one of the highlights of Cheyenne Frontier Days is a flyover by the United States Airforce aerobatic team, the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds, first organized in the Air Force in 1953, actually performed their very first show at the 1953 Frontier Days, and they return each year.
A variety of musicians perform in the nightly concerts – not always country-western stars. For the 2017 edition, the line-up includes Brantley Gilbert, Little Big Town, Sawyer Brown, Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett, Jason Derulo and Jason Aldean.
The finals of the Championship Bull Riding “Road to Cheyenne Tour” are also held here over a two-day period.