Montana-based fine-art photographer Erika Haight went on assignment for C&I to Wyoming’s Cheyenne Frontier Days — and captured some of the experiences in and out of the arena.
If you’ve ever been a photographer on a press trip with a bunch of writers, you can relate: When Erika Haight’s photography needs intersected with the writer-centric itinerary of a press trip to Cheyenne Frontier Days and the transportation designed around them, her shot list contracted.
No worries, though. Singer and accomplished photographer Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn was also on the case, and he got to devote plenty of time to the action for a photo feature of his own in our July 2018 issue.
And there was so much to see and do in and around Cheyenne that Haight’s Plan B worked out just fine. Here are some of her impressions of the action inside and outside of the arena and show grounds.
Bling Capital in July
Cheyenne Frontier Days — July 20 – 29, 2018 — is a good-time spectacle of dust and sparkle. Where rhinestones are the only things that outnumber the cowboys.
Historic and Happening Downtown
Who knew Cheyenne used to be in Dakota Territory. When it was first plotted by Gen. Grenville M. Dodge and his crew on July 5, 1867, it wasn’t yet in Wyoming Territory. This is where the Union Pacific Railroad crossed a South Platte River tributary called Cow Creek. Named Cheyenne for the Great Plains tribe, it got the nickname “Magic City of the Plains” when rapid growth from the railroad — which arrived on November 13, 1867 — rapidly accelerated the city’s growth.
Downtown, you can really get a feel for Cheyenne’s Victorian frontier past — on foot or on wheels. There are historic downtown walking tours and the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley has fully narrated historic tours that start at the Cheyenne Depot.
A multitude of vendors are strategically placed throughout the city, and the pubs are packed. My favorite stop was at the Freedom's Edge Brewing Company, where the High Noon Chili Ale with Jalapeno was simply amazing! When it’s time to eat there’s definitely no shortages of steakhouses and fine dining. T-Joe's Steakhouse & Saloon will come through with really good steak and nice cold beer.
Prepare to Shop
At the big red “Famous for Ranchwear Since 1943” Wrangler store I picked up my new two-toned American hat and had it personally steamed and shaped into a Cool Hand Luke. The store is striking inside and out and I could have shopped for days. I was already rocking Western jeans and boots, and now I a brand-new hat. And, believe me, when you are in the arena at the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo, Western wear is a requirement. Cheyenne prides itself on keeping the experience authentic.
Luxe Bunking in the Historic District
The Nagle Warren Mansion B&B is absolutely beautiful! Innkeeper Jim Osterfoss is a delightful man. I would have high tea with him any day — and the mansion’s high tea is unforgettable whoever you’re enjoying it with. From the wallpaper to clawfoot bathtubs, the owner has done a masterful job with the restorations of the grand old property. It was originally built in 1888, and then restored in 1997. There are 12 guest rooms, a beautiful dining area, and an intimate garden spot in the back. And did I mention high tea?
Piece de Resistance: The Rodeo
The rodeo is truly something else! Bareback, saddle bronc, barrel racing, team roping, bull riding, and action-packed intermissions. Trick shooting, horse races, and the Dandies light up the arena with their synchronized horsemanship work and flags. Top competitors come out of the woodwork and go for broke hoping to win some of the $1 million in cash prizes. I gather this is why they call it “The Daddy of Them All.”
There is an Old Frontier town you can shop and get a quick bite to eat in, an Indian village with traditional music and dance, and a carnival. And the parade downtown is spectacular!
Nightly concerts and street dances are all part of the experience. And honky-tonkin’ is right around the corner. At The Outlaw Saloon I happened to run into both Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith. Of course I was instantaneously star struck — only to find out later that they were impersonators.
I’m told at the Little American Hotel & Resort there’s a good chance of running into some actual famous people, as Miranda Lambert has stayed there on several occasions.
Where the Buffalo Roam
A half-day trip to the Terry Bison Ranch was entertaining. The ranch is so big it has a train to take you out to see the bison. There’s a trading post, a restaurant, and horseback riding with lovely views, but for me getting while feeding treats to the bison herd had to be the highlight.
A Victorian Good Time
We found this interesting article on the Nagle Mansion Website about the history of high tea in Cheyenne and at the regal B&B property.
“When the Transcontinental Railroad opened the Great Plains to productivity, Cheyenne became the business and social hub of the Rockies. Merchants shipped goods north as far as Canada and as far south as Mexico.
“Cattle raising became the most common product and people came from all over the world to participate in the land rush. As the country doubled in size, ranchers were taking control of tens of thousands of acres and thousands of cattle. Many of these ranchers were landed gentry from Europe. These men saw the living standards at the ranches and quickly hired managers to run them. They built their elegant homes in Cheyenne. These wealthy cattle barons brought the customs of fine living to the West. One of these Victorian customs was English high tea.
“During the Victorian period, people were accustomed to eating a meal at noon and a meal around 9 p.m. Queen Victoria is credited with having the munchies is the late afternoon. She added sandwiches and biscuits (that’s English for cookies) to an afternoon tea break. When there was a special occasion, or company, the menu was expanded. It then became known as high tea. It is still a very special event and includes lots of delicious goodies.
“The English high tea that is served at the Nagle Warren Mansion has developed a reputation for being an elegant and fun occasion. Fresh teas of fine quality are imported from the United Kingdom and frozen to keep their freshness. Tea is brewed with care and served to the guest at their table by cheerful ladies clad in period dress. Cream, lemon, and hand-decorated sugar cubes may be added to suit each person’s taste. The mansion’s staff bakes scones, tarts, biscuits, and cakes. …
“High tea is served in the distinguished parlor, sitting room, and library at Victorian tables topped with refined lace table cloths, antique china, and a silver tea service. Classical and jazz music plays softly in the background.
“The best part of high tea is the company. Conversation varies from humorous to serious and casual to formal. Mothers bring their daughters and guys bring their girlfriends, or vice versa. It’s a group of close friends or an office getaway. Whichever it is there is always a convivial chatty atmosphere.”