Why Cheyenne Can Thank Greeley For Frontier Days
This year marks the 120th anniversary of the "Daddy of 'Em All", Cheyenne Frontier Days. But did you know, Cheyenne Frontier Days would have never happened were it not for the town of Greeley, Colorado?
According to an Empire Magazine article published in 1997 and later recounted in the Denver Post, the idea for the first Cheyenne Frontier Days was hatched when two local businessman attended the Potato Days Festival in Greeley.
Seeking a festival of their own, Cheyenne Sun Leader editor Edwin Slack and Warren Richardson, a former newspaper editor who owned the Tivoli Saloon and Hotel, struggled to find a theme. After all, Cheyenne wasn't known for its fertile agriculture and didn't have a local cash crop to celebrate.
One day, they saw a Union Pacific railroad agent struggle to load horses into a freight car and the idea for a rodeo was born.
Together, Slack and Richardson raised a total of $567 to fund the first Cheyenne Frontier Day. The inaugural event was a one-day festival featuring a parade, horse races, and steer roping, along with bronc and bull riding.
The rodeo drew an estimated crowd of 3,000, including over 1,500 spectators from Denver who paid the $1 train fare to attend the event. The celebration quickly turned into an all-night party where rowdy visitors drank whiskey, gambled and shot their pistols into the air.
After breaking even their first year, the "Daddy of 'Em All" was expanded to two days in 1898, and Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show was hired to lead the elaborate kick-off parade.
At the time, the event was held in September. Unfortunately, a cold front had moved the area and only a few spectators braved the frigid temperatures and wind. In spite of the weather, organizers turned a profit of $26.
Wisely, Frontier Days was moved to July in 1899, which helped attract more tourists from across the region.
After President Theodore Roosevelt rode into Cheyenne on horseback to attend the event in 1903, Frontier Days was firmly established as the premiere rodeo in the region, drawing annual crowds over 20,000.