Apr. 8—CHEYENNE — Saddle up, rodeo fans. The 125th anniversary of Cheyenne Frontier Days is on.
CFD CEO Tom Hirsig began a press conference Wednesday with "any tears that will be shed will be tears of joy," and brought Gov. Mark Gordon up onstage to make the official announcement.
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"This is Wyoming, and we know that the show will go on," he said.
"I am really proud today to say that this is our chance to step up and have Cheyenne Frontier Days this summer. ... We are monitoring our health metrics and looking at our hospitalizations to make sure that we can do this safely."
Hirsig added that the event will take place as usual, at maximum capacity and without a mask requirement, but he noted these measures can change due to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic.
Hirsig said this summer's event will feature a brand-new health and safety protocol focusing on increased cleaning and sanitization, completely digital ticketing, more cashless payment opportunities and a new clear bag policy. The website explains the protocol as follows:
All areas of Frontier Park and Park-n-Ride will be cleaned and sanitized regularly with a disinfectant proven to kill 99.9% of bacteria/viruses.
All event tickets and parking passes for Frontier Park will be digital to allow for touchless scanning from mobile devices.
Cashless payments will be taken in more locations at Frontier Park. Acceptable forms of payment include debit cards and credit cards.
Guests are encouraged to bring only necessary items into Frontier Park in a clear bag to limit contact with personal items at security entry points.
All guests, volunteers, competitors and performers are encouraged to wash their hands several times throughout the day, and use the hand sanitizing dispensers placed throughout Frontier Park.
All guests, volunteers, competitors and performers are encouraged to cover their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing with a sleeve or a tissue, and then disposing of the tissue properly, and sanitizing hands immediately afterward.
If you or any member of your party is feeling sick or has symptoms associated with COVID-19, please stay home and do not come to Frontier Park. People who have COVID-19 symptoms should get tested right away and stay home unless they're receiving medical care.
"The main focus is cleaning and sanitizing high-traffic areas and cleaning those constantly as people come in and out," Hirsig said. "Turnover of our stands from day to night and making sure they're cleaned. Contactless payments, digital tickets, no arm bands ... so people don't have to handle money or touch anyone. It's more of a focus of being clean and having people where they can do things without passing things to each other."
To create the new protocol, Hirsig said the General Committee tasked CFD's volunteers with taking a hard look at every high-trafficked area of the grounds and determining how to keep everyone safe without limiting the size of the crowds.
Then, the committee ran it by partners at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, which helped CFD officials tweak it. Once it was finalized, the plan was presented to local health officials, who "didn't have a lot of questions" and gave it the green light.
"We're also going to be flexible," Hirsig added. "If there's a strain that becomes dangerous and we have to social distance and mask, we're ready. We've talked through those scenarios."
Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins also spoke at the news conference, adding that last year's historic cancellation was devastating for both the local and state economy, particularly the hospitality industry.
"What we need now is a shot in the arm, literally, a vaccine, and some good news for our economic future," Collins said. "A strong and vibrant Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration is just what the doctor ordered."
The full Frontier Nights lineup won't be announced until Thursday evening, but Thomas Rhett (July 24), Eric Church (July 29) and Blake Shelton (July 31)'s previously announced concerts are still on the schedule. Tickets for the concerts and all other CFD events go on sale next week.
Hirsig confirmed that the full lineup will include a few non-country artists, but wasn't ready to reveal who they will be.
"Of course we'll be heavy on the country genre, but we've tried to incorporate a few of those acts that probably trend more toward the younger generation," he said. "So I think we have a really good mix. I think there's something for everybody."
Although there are no plans for reduced seating at this time, Hirsig said the party zone will be partitioned in half so instead of having 2,500 people on top of one another, it'll be split to 1,250 on each side. They'll also install two more big screens and move the food services farther down the track to segment the crowd further.
"So if you're the customer that wants to come and see a show, but maybe you don't want to be in the mix ... if you buy something in the party zone, you can go stand down at the end and watch it on a big screen probably pretty much by yourself," he said. "So the party zone works for a couple different customers now."
One of the biggest lessons the General Committee learned last year, Hirsig continued, was that scalpers pose a huge threat to the CFD box office, so he encourages event-goers to buy their tickets directly from the CFD website when they become available next week.
"If you're paying more than $120 for a ticket, you're not buying it from us," he said. "People need to be very aware of where they buy their tickets."
Niki Kottmann is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's features editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-633-3135. Follow her on Twitter at @niki_mariee.