The 89th Sheridan WYO Rodeo is here. That’s 89 years of pomp, pageantry, red-blooded Americana, thrilling athletic feats and tremendous displays of hometown pride.
But the truth about the WYO Rodeo is that it’s not about rodeo at all. WYO Rodeo Week is really about culture, history, pride, family and the enduring legacy of Sheridan County’s finest men and women. That the WYO continues to grow, year after year, both in number of spectators it attracts as well as the number of athletes and participants, is a testament to the drawing power of Wyoming’s history and heritage.
I have the unique honor of seeing the WYO Rodeo from the inside and the outside every year. I am fortunate to glimpse behind the scenes at the work put in by the WYO Rodeo Board and its substantial force of volunteers; I get to meet barrel racers and bronc riders and rodeo clowns when we put together promotional material and advertising campaigns; and I get to see how the city and county work through logistical challenges of an event that doubles the population of our small town. The thread that binds of all of these people, the singular sentiment encouraging them to volunteer their time to organize the event or to put their bodies on the line in the arena, is a love for their community.
Visitors — tourists, folk coming home for the week, and those just passing through — sense this when they visit Sheridan. My staff meets with hundreds of these visitors during Rodeo Week, and they often hear of how people are stunned to see what the community does as a whole to welcome the world to Sheridan, Wyoming. The same goes for the media we host every year — this week, we have guests from C-SPAN, National Public Radio, Ride TV and numerous other outlets in town to experience the WYO. They’re blown away with the rodeo experience, the beauty of the mountains — one reporter told me that he took more than 700 photos of a moose near Bear Lodge — the buzz of our historic downtown, and the friendly, welcoming nature of our local people. And what’s never lost is that sterling sense of local pride that bubbles to the surface every July. It may manifest in what we wear — I do indeed don a cowboy hat for one week a year — or how we celebrate, but what remains the same for every resident of Sheridan is the pride we wear, like a badge of honor, upon all our sleeves.
Be safe, have fun, and Get WYO’d.
Shawn Parker is the executive director for Sheridan County Travel and Tourism.