CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A year after Cheyenne Frontier Days closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers say they are breaking records with ticket sales for their return and their 125th anniversary.
"Our ticket sales are through the roof. We're expecting record crowds," said Chad Mathews, the rodeo chairman of Cheyenne Frontier Days. "We may sell out a rodeo performance before we open the gates, which has never happened."
The rodeo is expecting major crowds, but the real draw this year is the star-studded country lineup. The headline quests include Garth Brooks, Thomas Rhett, Eric Church, Maren Morris and Blake Shelton, among others. Many of the acts were re-booked from last year's performances, which were canceled because of the pandemic.
The two opening acts, Garth Brooks and Thomas Rhett, have nearly sold out, according to organizers. Hotel rooms are so sparse, organizers are sending visitors to nearby cities for lodging.
"We have a lot of folks are going to Fort Collins and Laramie to find hotel rooms," Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins said. "The numbers that we see so far, just in presales, are blowing history out of the water."
In 2020, Cheyenne Frontier Days was canceled over concerns that it would be a spreader for COVID-19. This year, as coronavirus numbers decline and vaccinations increase, leaders believe it will be safe once again for visitors, even visitors attending in record numbers.
"We'd be foolish to not admit that somehow some way. COVID is also the rebound we're seeing coupled with the 125th anniversary," Mathews said. "We have done everything we can do to make this as safe and secure for everybody coming to town."
The event comes in a time of increasing concern over the delta variant and its spread in the United States. There was a weekly average of 35,000 new cases across the country on Tuesday, a 60% increase in cases from the week before. The variant accounts for 85% of the new cases, and the vast majority of new cases are spread to unvaccinated individuals.
"Virtually all the inpatients who are in the hospital at the moment in the state of Colorado are the delta variants, and they're not vaccinated," said Chief Medical Officer at Presbyterian Saint Luke’s Medical Center Dr. Reginald Washington. "If you're vaccinated, you're probably going to be okay. If you're not vaccinated, you run the risk of catching COVID."
The organizers designed a plan with the state of Wyoming to reopen the rodeo, including new entrance and ticketing procedures, sanitation areas and crowd control. They say they are ready, no matter how many people show up.
"I just, I can't wait," said Mathews. "This year is going to be the best Cheyenne Frontier Days we've ever had."