Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cheyenne's people are not exactly retiring types

Typical Cheyenne volunteers
In my previous post, I was a bit unfair to both AARP The Magazine and Cheyenne The City. Cheyenne is a great town with many amenities. Yes, it has low taxes, which makes many retirees happy. But it also has the 115-year history of Cheyenne Frontier Days, not only a Western tradition but one that depends almost entirely on volunteers.

Not every century-old event can say this.

I am a volunteer at the Old-Fashioned Melodrama, now in its 55th season. It's the summer offering of the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players, now in its 85th year. Easterners used to counting events and buildings and neighborhoods in centuries might scoff at the idea of anything in two figures being a tradition.

But just think about how tough it is to get an organization up and running -- and then to keep it running. I've been a member of organizations that have disappeared after a decade. I've participated in events that start with a bang but end with a whimper a few years later.

So, a 55-year-old volunteer-run event is a thing of beauty.

Yesterday evening, my wife Chris and I were part of a melodrama volunteer corps at the Historic Atlas Theatre. I was house manager and Chris ran the box office. Jim the retiree and Lexie the high school girl ran the concessions. An Air Force retiree and an attorney and a computer guy staffed the bar. Carol ran the 50/50 raffle table. She took a tumble recently and is using a walker. There is nothing on heaven or earth that will interfere with Carol's volunteer time at the melodrama. That includes cancer, which she's been battling bravely for years.

The sheriff is a high school teacher who also coaches the speech-and-debate team. His deputy is a Cheyenne native, brilliant actor and waiter at a local bistro. Jim the emcee works for the state and Jenny the card girl work full time and also is in the melodrama cast. Cast members are teachers and students and entrepreneurs and government employees. All volunteers.

That's what it takes the make this big event work. We represent only a few of the many hundreds who run the parades and night shows and rodeos and pancake breakfasts. We get a lot of fun and satisfaction from our activities. Hey -- CFD is one cool party. But civic pride is also at work. Speaking of work, our police and sanitation workers and firefighters and EMTs all work over time during this ten-day period. And some, in their very spare spare time, volunteer for other things. Officer Colby White is on stage every other summer as a melodrama emcee. There are many others.

Takes more than no income tax and low taxes and conservative politics to make a city appealing to young people and retirees alike.

It takes people who care.

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