Lander, Wyoming’s Independence Day is a good old-fashioned jamboree that brings hordes into the town. Enjoy the sights and action of last year’s celebration as this year’s edition draws near.
The community of Lander, Wyoming, is serious about Independence Day.
Locals don’t even mention the word “July” when referring to the holiday that helps the town’s population temporarily swell to many times its normal 7,551.
Here in Lander, you just say “the Fourth.”
The festivities involved with Lander’s annual rodeo and celebration can often feel like family reunions.
Campers with out-of-state plates invade, and electrical cords snake across sidewalks. The guests are encouraged to help out, too. There are floats to decorate and firework displays to plan. Fireworks are legal inside city limits on the Fourth, a blessing for the many residents who buy up pallets of them.
The Lander Community Foundation always hosts a half-marathon, a 5K, and a kids’ 1-mile mad dash to kick off the Fourth. At the race finish line in Main Street’s Centennial Park, the runners line up for the Kiwanis International’s pancake breakfast. Competitors and their cheering squads grab second cups of coffee and head directly to Main Street to watch the parade.
Family of the Eastern Shoshone Chief Washakie take part in the parade.
The sun’s heat is typically turned up to “high,” so the crowds always welcome water gun spray from floats. The most clever of the bunch place themselves at the corner of Fourth and Main streets. There, at the parade’s big finale, the Lander fire trucks park and open their water hoses onto the audience.
Already stuffed with pancakes and parade candy, folks then head over to City Park for the Rotary Club’s Buffalo BBQ. To the tune of live music, people visit across picnic blankets, throw horseshoes, swing dance on the turf, hustle on the sand volleyball court, and splash in the irrigation ditch.
As the day progresses, it’s time to turn the focus to rodeo. As many Western towns do, Lander hosts one every July 3 and 4. This year, the Pioneer Days Rodeo marks its 125th edition.
And as soon as the last event’s done, it’s time to light up the night. The controlled explosions puncture the sky so quickly and expansively that you have to pivot your head to take it all in.
With a perfect view from the hilltop rodeo ground, this is the place to relax, sip on a nightcap, and relish small-town American life.
Photography: (All Images) Melissa Hemken.
From the July 2019 issue.