I Should’ve Been a Cowboy

…Or Maybe I Should Just Write About It

A challenge for our growing tourism practice can be learning the various audiences destinations market to and how we, as communicators, convey experiences to media. Many of us have visited national parks, so we can easily refer to what that might be like, but some destinations, events and audiences are more niche. An example of a recent learning experience was when earlier this summer, a few team members set out to learn the literal “ropes” of cowboy culture with our Wyoming Office of Tourism client at Cheyenne Frontier Days, the world’s largest outdoor rodeo.

Going into the trip, I felt as though my journey began some time ago, when I first answered the standard, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question with, “A cowgirl,” for most of my youth. Raised on a rural Ohio farm, I had a vague picture of what that entailed but was admittedly more fascinated with John Wayne westerns than the rodeo lifestyle itself. Flash-forward 20-some years later, and as part of our work with the Cowboy State, my colleagues and I are learning a lot more about rodeo, grasslands, cattle and cowboys.

We’ve read books, conducted interviews and are even in the process of publishing A Guide to Rodeos and its History in the Cowboy State e-book. We also have working relationships with relevant media, pitching rodeos, working, dude and working ranches and historic sites.

While learning and reading about cowboy history is informative, the opportunity to take in the experience at such an iconic place as Cheyenne – considered to be the nation’s rodeo and railroad capital – was both necessary and memorable. We know from previous trips that immersing ourselves in a destination allows us the chance to have the same experience as a tourist or member of the media, giving us an authentic voice and knowledge for reference.

Our Cheyenne Frontier Days experience held up to the event’s reputation as “the Daddy of ‘em All.” The event is a true taste of the Old West, with nine days of PRCA Rodeo, USAF Thunderbirds, cultural villages, free pancake breakfasts for thousands, nightly concerts and more.

By our second day of rodeo activities, I quickly caught on to event rules and performances. I could distinguish between bareback and saddle bronc riding, knew when the crowd would go wild for any steer rider who rode for more than six seconds and could guess the approximate time a cowgirl was rounding out the cloverleaf pattern during the barrel racing event.

Cheyenne Frontier Days wasn’t my “first rodeo,” as the popular saying goes, but it was undoubtedly the most complete experience I could have asked for. As I’m reflecting on the trip from my desk in downtown Denver, I know my team members and I are more confident and comfortable in writing about and speaking to the cowboy experience, no longer held back by the unknown, which can be intimidating. Maybe “I should’ve been a cowboy,” but I am happy just to talk about it for now.


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