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Cheyenne Frontier Days Faces Boycott Over Competition Changes

Larry Jacobsen / Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

At over $1 million, the prize money for Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo is the most it's ever been. But that's not enough to stop the country's top tie-down ropers and steer wrestlers from boycotting America's largest outdoor rodeo.

Known as the "Daddy of 'em all," Cheyenne Frontier Days will be changing to a knock-out style tournament. This means the top cowboys could end up competing for multiple days instead of just two days as they do now.

Chad Mathews is rodeo chairman for Frontier Days. He said the organization knows from market research that most of its audience is novice rodeo fans, so this will make it easier for them to understand.

"Everybody that is involved or interested in athletics at all or anything of that sort understands a tournament," he said. "If you win, you move forward."

But the athletes say these changes mean more wear on their bodies for less money. Plus they'll have to spend more time in Cheyenne which will interfere with their circuit schedules.

In a Facebook post, Hunter Herrin with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association wrote, "The calf ropers along with the steer wrestlers are tired of having no say in how we get to make our living."

Typically about 1,200 people compete at Cheyenne Frontier Days.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Maggie Mullen is Wyoming Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. Her work has aired on NPR, Marketplace, Science Friday, and Here and Now. She was awarded a 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her story on the Black 14.
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