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The Depot plaza during a pancake breakfast.
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Pack your cowboy boots and hat when you travel to Cheyenne, Wyoming, which almost feels like traveling back in time to the USA’s Old West.

Known as the national rodeo capital, the city has embraced the label with plenty of Western-themed attractions and historic hotels and mansions. Once a year during the Cheyenne Frontier Days, part of the city transforms into something out of a cowboy movie with some modern twists for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Start of a U.S. Tradition

Cheyenne Frontier Days — an annual tradition in Wyoming’s capital city since 1897 to celebrate early explorers, hunters trappers and settlers of the area  — has grown to become the world’s largest outdoor rodeo, bringing in some 200,000 spectators each year. Professionals travel from all over the world for a chance to win for more than $1 million in cash and prizes over the nine rodeos held during Frontier Days.

The first Frontier Days event was a single day of excitement designed to jumpstart the local economy after a decade of particularly harsh winters. In the years to follow, the festivities expanded to cover numerous days, and in 1915 it was established as an annual event to be held at the end of July.

But Frontier Days aren’t just about the rodeo competition: Visitors are invited to explore the Old West through a Native American village with food vendors, arts and crafts with special entertainment; and the popular Old Frontier Town, which celebrates Cheyenne's Western heritage. You might just run into old Western stars from the past like Buffalo Bill Cody, who led the first Frontier Days parade is 1898. And don’t be startled if you see a showdown in Gunslinger Square — reenactments of gunfights and other Wild West folklore takes place regularly throughout the week.

Over the 10-day spectacle, there are plenty of scheduled events to take part in: Chuckwagon cook off, an art show, a carnival complete with rides, an air show by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, concerts from country music stars as well as popular pop artists and nearly daily parades. Don’t miss out on the pancake breakfasts that have their own entertainment: Cooks throw the hotcakes from the griddle into the air, which are caught on cookie sheets before serving.

Rodeo during Cheyenne Frontier Days

Rodeo during Cheyenne Frontier Days
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Start of U.S. Rodeos

Rodeos were not intended to be the grand event they are today in the U.S. In fact, many of the competitions were originally cattle-ranching duties in areas of Spanish influence like the Southwestern U.S. that U.S. cowboys continued to use throughout the centuries. Rodeos take place around the world, but they’re not nearly as popular as they are in North America.

Today, about half of U.S. states hold annual rodeo competitions and not all are in the West as you might assume. The biggest events include the Pendleton Round-up in Pendleton, Oregon, which takes place every September; Dodge City Days in Dodge City, Kansas during mid-summer; and Prescott Frontier Days in Prescott, Arizona, which is said to the be oldest rodeo in the world — it’s taken place around Independence Day weekend each year since 1888.

There’s much more to see once the excitement of the Cheyenne Frontier Days ends. Be sure to make room for Wyoming’s stunning scenery at its national parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

A rodeo in South Dakota

A rodeo in South Dakota
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