Bronc rider Stetson Wright of Utah reacts after his ride through the rodeo arena at Cheyenne Frontier Days on Saturday. Cheyenne Frontier Days is beloved by throngs of fans of rodeo, country music, Western dress and culture, but at the center of all the pomp and pageantry, the rodeo still rules. (Mike Vanata)

Western pomp and cowboy and cowgirl pageantry are fixtures at Cheyenne Frontier Days, host to the rodeo nicknamed the “Daddy of them All.”

For 10 days superstar rodeo athletes compete in front of a stadium that can seat 15,000 while rodeo princesses tour the arena and performers amuse with everything from trick riding to gun play and flaming bull whips. Actors stage stagecoach holdups and gunfights while adjacent the rodeo grounds dancers from the Wind River Indian Reservation perform at the “Indian Village.” 

Wyoming politicians get in on the action, too. Both Gov. Mark Gordon and U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi visited the announcer’s booth Saturday to address the crowd, welcome visitors to Wyoming and tout cowboy culture. Enzi and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso helped kick off the rodeo with laps of the arena in horse drawn buggies. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney also attended Frontier Days events. 

Cheyenne Frontier Days is as much Western performance art as it is sport. Strict costuming rules dictate that photographers must wear “a long-sleeve western style shirt, long pants, boots and western hat” to take photographs from behind the chutes where riders mount bulls and broncs, or “the pit,” a sunken arena-side’ bunker. 

The requirements exist for both safety and “flavor,” the media guide says. “The rodeo is highly photographed for both television and print media; The clothing requirement ensures the western flavor of the event and the safety of working media in and around the arena,” the guide says. 

Cheyenne Frontier Days is beloved by throngs of fans of rodeo, country music, Western dress and culture. At the center of all the pomp and pageantry, the rodeo still rules. Around 1,800 contestants compete for cash prizes that can reach $1 million, according to event organizers. The best rodeo riders in the world compete with the toughest stock each July in Cheyenne, devotees say. 

Photos from Saturday, July 20:

(Mike Vanata)

A horse recently freed of its rider sees “the pit,” a sunken photographers’ bunker on the edge of the arena.

(Mike Vanata)

Bareback bronc rider Jeffery Zdziarski of Weston grits his teeth, grips the rig, and hopes for eight seconds.

(Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Rodeo announcer Andy Stewart gestures from his perch above the crowd and the chutes where rodeo riders mount bulls and broncs. 

(Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Cowboy hats crowd a platform behind the chute that recently released a bucking bronc and rider. Rodeo rules dictate western attire for the chutes and other highly visible spaces of the arena to maintain a western flavor. 

(Mike Vanata)

Gov. Mark Gordon (center) waves his cowboy hat from the announcer’s booth after greeting the Saturday crowd at Cheyenne Frontier Days.

(Mike Vanata)

Norman Iron Cloud Jr. performs at the Indian Village on Saturday as a member of the Little Sun Drum and Dance Group, from the Wind River Indian Reservation.

(Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Cowgirls in matching Wyoming logo jackets watch the rodeo from a VIP tent.

(Mike Vanata)

Miss Frontier Halley Jankovsky, right, poses for a photograph alongside her “lady-in-waiting,” Bailey Bishop.

(Mike Vanata)

“Barrelman” Cody Sosebee is all smiles. The barrelman provides comic relief from the dirt of the rodeo arena, often at his own peril — the comedian spends much of the rodeo cracking wise from the open lid of a barrel, one he ducks down into if bull or bronc comes too close.

(Mike Vanata)

Photographers inside “the pit,” a sunken arena-side bunker from which they can take ground level shots of the rodeo action.

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