Saturday, July 22, 2017

Seventy years after his first visit, what would Sal Paradise think about Cheyenne Frontier Days?

"Hell's bells, it's Wild West Days!"

A line from Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." A character named Slim can't restrain himself when he finds he's landed in Cheyenne during Frontier Days in 1947. Kerouac dropped in on his way to Denver. Sal Paradise (Kerouac) spends some time exploring Cheyenne before he sets off to see Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) down on Larimer Street, the place where all the rootless ones hang out. In the 1950s, my parents warned us kids about all the bums on Larimer Street. It now boasts a better class of bum. Good eats and great beer. Major League Baseball only a few blocks away. Light rail at the no-longer-decrepit Union Station. In a 2015 post, I wrote a bit more about Kerouac and Frontier Days.

Cheyenne Frontier Days is celebrating its 121st year. That's a lot of years to put on an event. The year 1896 was many American wars ago, many cowboys riding broncs, many kids chowing down on carnival funnel cakes. I appreciate how much it takes to put on "The World's Largest Outdoor Rodeo" and attendant events. Volunteers make it work.

I've volunteered at the Old-Fashioned Melodrama (in its 61st year) for many years at downtown's Atlas Theatre. I've been on stage as emcee and served in many capacities at the front of the house -- bartender, house manager, concessions, etc. The Atlas is going through exterior renovations. Interior looks great. Revamped theatre, new tables and chairs, and -- finally -- AC. The new lobby bar looks great. Beyond that, there is still millions of dollars in work to be done to the building and its upper floors. Anyone involved in the non-profit arts world knows that the work is never done. The Cheyenne Little Theatre Players was founded in 1930 and now owns two theatres, which is quite a task for a community theatre organization. A small staff, a dedicated board, and dozens of volunteers keep things moving along. And welcome to CLTP's new ED,

The City of Cheyenne celebrates its 150 year in August. You can find a schedule of events at It's a newbie when compared to some East Coast cities. But a lot can happen in a century-and-a-half. Our kids, who live elsewhere, contend that nothing happens in Cheyenne. I have a different perspective. When Chris, Kevin and I moved here in 1991, we found few things to do outside of Kevin's school and youth sports. Adults hung out at bars. Teens and young adults and Warren AFB personnel drove to Denver and Fort Collins for amusements. Cheyenne still challenges them. Colorado still beckons. Liberals in this conservative bastion seek comfort in togetherness and in activism, sometimes the same thing. Still, the Know Nothings make life a struggle for the Open-Minded. I have blogged quite a bit about Cheyenne .Its people are a treasure. The politics are a challenge. I love it. I hate it. But I have always been actively involved in the community and plan to continue.

Happy birthday, Cheyenne.


RobertP said...


Debbie, Sam and I have good memories of you and Chris hosting us during the 2004 Frontier Days. Got to see the parade, the Rodeo and of course, the Old-Fashioned Melodrama.

Good times and thanks for the hospitality


Michael Shay said...

Good times. My emcee years are good memories. Chris and I have scaled back our involvement in the melodrama. I do other volunteering for the theatre now. Wild West Days in full swing. No sign of Kerouac.