SHERIDAN — Though Sheridan WYO Rodeo is the main event this week, it’s accompanied by an array of events that showcase and celebrate Sheridan’s culture and history.
Rodeo Week always brings an influx of visitors, but Sheridan might have its largest audience ever this year, as it will be the subject of a C-SPAN program that presents detailed portraits of U.S cities to a national audience.
The C-SPAN Cities Tour has explored more than 125 cities throughout the country, Coordinating Producer Debbie Lamb said. The program presents a kind of oral history of cities, letting residents, historians, authors and community leaders describe the city’s heritage, culture and traditions.
Sheridan Mayor Roger Miller said the Sheridan WYO Rodeo would be at the center of Sheridan’s story this week.
“Most everything in the city operates around the rodeo for a week,” Miller told Lamb during a shoot Tuesday.
Lamb said the rodeo week is proving to be a perfect window into both Sheridan’s past and present.
“It couldn’t have happened at a better time for us,” Lamb said. “…(The rodeo) really helps tell the narrative of this city.”
Cable television companies partnered to create C-SPAN in 1979 as a nonprofit public service; the network exhaustively covers the U.S. federal government, giving viewers an unmediated look at the government’s inner workings by broadcasting events like congressional hearings in their entirety.
But as the network grew and expanded its programming, Lamb — who has worked at C-SPAN for nearly 25 years — said it explored ways to give viewers a broader view of the country. With that goal in mind, Lamb helped launch the C-SPAN Cities Tour in 2011.
“The (program) was created as a way to get out of Washington, D.C. and highlight some of these cities that have played a major role — or a role — in the bigger picture of the history of our nation,” Lamb said. “What we’ve found is every city has a story to tell.”
Spectrum’s Senior Director of Communications Bret Picciolo said his company suggests cities that C-SPAN could feature on Cities Tour, and helps it coordinate with local officials in the cities it chooses, but ultimately Lamb and her team choose the cities the program highlights.
After researching the city, Lamb decided Sheridan would be a perfect candidate for the series. Though a small city, Sheridan’s history intersects with dozens of narratives that have shaped the country’s wider history — from the way industries like coal contributed to the country’s economy to how Sheridan played a role in the lives of artists like Ernest Hemingway.
Though the bulk of the Cities Tour is dedicated to detailing the history and culture of various American cities, Lamb said the program can lend important context to the network’s political coverage. Different cities and regions of the country, after all, often have very different needs and priorities, and by exploring the forces that shape different American cities, Lamb said she hoped the program would help viewers understand the importance of issues that may seem distant to them.
Legislation related to something like wildlife management may seem insignificant to someone living in Massachusetts, but by documenting a city like Sheridan and its surrounding environments, the program can help explain why that legislation is crucial to Wyoming, she explained.
“C-SPAN’s mission is to show everything in its entirety that we air, and show a variety of points of view,” Lamb said. “We have the same goal with the C-SPAN Cities Tour.”
Lamb and her crew will spend the week putting together pieces on nearly every aspect of Sheridan, from its connection to Native American culture to its contemporary arts and entertainment scene including, and especially, the 89th Sheridan WYO Rodeo.
The pieces will air on C-SPAN over a weekend dedicated to Sheridan on September 7 and 8.