Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Matchbox Twenty spurns Frontier Days

The big news in Cheyenne this morning is about Matchbox Twenty cancelling its July 18 Cheyenne Frontier Days concert. The reason, apparently, is that the rodeo at the center of CFD (a.k.a. "Daddy of ‘em All") abuses its animals. I say "apparently" because the only source willing to talk on the record is the animal rights group SHARK – Showing Animals Respect and Kindness. SHARK is the group that filmed a PRC staffer shocking animals in the chutes at last year’s CFD. That caused quite a stir around Cheyenne. CFD is such a sacrosanct institution that even a hint of criticism is seen as heresy. It’s usual response is that it brings millions of dollars in tourist revenue to the city for ten days each July. It does. That doesn’t mean it is beyond criticism and that it shouldn’t be accountable for its actions. It that was the case, well, CFD would be no better than the Bush Administration.

The Matchbox Twenty will be big news in Cheyenne today but will fade away tomorrow. My wife and I were planning on buying tickets. We go to at least one CFD concert each summer. We’re usually involved in the "Old-Fashioned Melodrama" at the Historic Atlas Theatre where I sometimes serve as emcee and Chris volunteers as a waitress. My teen daughter has worked backstage. The melodrama raises lots of money for its sponsor, the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players. Without the tourists that CFD brings in, the theatre group (almost 80 years old) would have to look for another source of funds. It’s only official link with the CFD organization is that the melodrama is featured in the official program and gets a float in the parade. Does the melodrama bear any responsibility for what happens at the rodeo? No. Do I, as a Cheyenne resident, bear any responsibility? Not really, but I do have a voice and a blog and can approach the topic in an open forum. Yes, I’m a flaming liberal with some quirky Western traits. So, I'm not automatically an animal rights activist. I show all my domesticated animals kindness and respect. I don't go to the rodeo. Yet, I grill steaks on my gas grill each summer and cook a mean beef chili for fall football games.

So how far does our responsibility go as citizens? Here’s what SHARK President Steve Hindl said in a press release: "As long as CFD is going to include egregious animal abuse, it will have to find entertainers who simply don’t give a damn about compassion."

That’s a pretty tall order. On its home page, CFD makes statements condemning animal abuse. I bet that most of its committee members do give a damn about compassion. But they definitely don't like the bad publicity. Maybe it's time for them to take a closer look at their policies.

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