SHERIDAN — By building on Sheridan’s long-standing traditions, locals hope to create a new one with the Sheridan WYO Winter Rodeo, which will kick off its inaugural event next month. Sheridan Travel and Tourism Director Shawn Parker said while Sheridan’s tourism industry thrives in the summer, it has historically dropped off in the winter. Boosting winter tourism is Sheridan’s best opportunity to grow its tourism industry, Parker said, because Sheridan’s winter recreation options are an untapped resource and space and lodging is limited during the busy summer months.
“Winter is sort of a dead zone for us,” Parker said. “So we really want to do something that juices interest in Sheridan because we know this isn’t a place that doesn’t have anything going on in the winter. The winter out here is phenomenal. Winter recreation has so many opportunities.”
February is traditionally the slowest month of the year for tourism, Parker said, and the winter rodeo will attempt to change that. The event will also tie into Sheridan’s signature event, the Sheridan WYO Rodeo, which is coming off a record year for attendance. Tickets for the summer rodeo will also go on sale during the winter rodeo, giving those sales a head start.
“We’re really leveraging that partnership and honestly, experience in running our premiere event to hopefully host something that is successful right out of the gate,” Parker said.
Sheridan Travel and Tourism is anticipating a significant economic boost from the event. If the winter rodeo draws 500 overnight guests, which Parker said is a “very conservative estimate,” the event will bring in $172,224.
“We know we can pull this kind of stuff off,” Parker said. “We’ve seen it over the last couple of years with things like The Dead Swede (race).”
Skijoring races through Sheridan’s downtown will serve as the centerpiece of the WYO Winter Rodeo. Skijoring is a sport where a skier is pulled through a course of jumps and other obstacles by a horse. The skijoring course will be installed on Broadway Street, stretching between Luminous Brewhouse and Black Tooth Brewing Company.
Parker said skijoring was an ideal event for the winter rodeo, both because it is a spectator sport that can be run through town and because the equestrian aspect draws on Sheridan’s ranching heritage.
Nearby communities have also had success with skijoring events that attract several thousand visitors during the winter. Sundance, for instance, has been hosting skijoring races for the past five years and attracts more than 5,000 visitors.
The construction and maintenance of the course will require the closure of Broadway from East First Street to Grinnell, as well as East First Street and Alger Street between Gould and Broadway streets; Grinnell will remain open. Streets will close Thursday, Feb. 22, and reopen Sunday, Feb. 24.
Sheridan Director of Public Works Lane Thompson said a local contractor has volunteered to build and maintain the course over the weekend, and the city will only have to assist with clean up. He estimated the total cost to the city would be $2,500. Parker said the total cost of the event would be between $20,000 and $24,000, a price that has been reduced significantly by community contributions.
The WYO Winter Rodeo will take place over the course of a weekend, starting with a kickoff event at Smith Alley Brewing, scheduled to open next week, on Thursday, Feb. 21. The festivities will continue with a “registration ice breaker” at Black Tooth Brewing Company the next night, which is where ticket sales for the Sheridan WYO Rodeo will officially launch. Skijoring races will run through the city’s historic downtown starting Saturday morning.
After the races, an award ceremony will be held at Black Tooth Brewing Company followed by an Ian Musnick concert at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center. The event will conclude with a family ski and sled day on Sunday morning, for which the Sheridan Community Land Trust will open the Red Grade Trails.