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The Dad

It’s the people behind the scenes that make CFD happen.

History in the making All photo credits to “Cheyenne Frontier Days”

Cheyenne Frontier Days™ received the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Large Outdoor Rodeo Of The Year award for the sixteenth time overall, and eleventh consecutive time at the National Finals Rodeo awards banquet held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Young cowboys and cowgirls for years have made countless runs at “The Daddy Of     Em’ All” in the practice pen. As we grow up,  there seems to be an unsaid but fully known fact in cowboy culture: To win The Dad is to put a stamp on your resume as a real cowboy. Long scores, fresh cattle, and a third barrel in timbuktu makes this rodeo tilt towards the favor of those best prepared with not only skill, but strategy. The added element of an electric crowd, competing on historic grounds and huge paychecks puts it to the top of many rodeo athlete’s bucket lists.

The Daddy of ’em All has been kicking up dust since 1897 with the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western Celebration. The first Frontier Days was held as a cowboy roundup that featured bronco busting and steer roping contests as well as pony races. Given the nickname “Daddy Of Em’ All” by the contestants, Cheyenne Frontier Days is a rodeo that has held weight in the hearts of cowboys, the community, and rodeo fans for 127 years. Whether you are there to volunteer, nod your head, or enjoy the show, when you walk the grounds of the Frontier Park you can feel the greatness in the air.

The magic that happens at Frontier Park is brought to life by over 3,000 community volunteers. This group of volunteers work well beyond the nine days of CFD to make this rodeo a success. But to volunteer at  The Daddy doesn’t mean just being another set of hands, these volunteers execute daily operational decisions to make sure all the gears are turning and well greased for the whole machine to run smoothly and efficiently. Tom Hirsig, CEO at Cheyenne Frontier Days , points to these volunteers as being what sets The Daddy Of ‘Em All apart from the rest. “This has been built on the backs of volunteers,” Hirsig says. “Every other rodeo or fair grounds is built on city, county or state tax dollars and that just isn’t the case in Cheyenne. That’s a heck of a feather in our cap to have a $40 million economic impact in the community and no tax dollars went into that.”

As a kid,  Tom remembers loading up the horses, making the drive into town and volunteering every year at CFD. Some of those memories might have been volun-told due to the fact that his dad was the arena director for 36 years, but even as he got older Tom continued to volunteer every year. Volunteer, competitor, contestant chairman, arena director, and CEO are just some of the many hats that Hirsig has worn at Cheyenne Frontier Days. Today as CEO, Tom deals mainly with contracts, logistics, and the business aspect of The Daddy. But if you were to look back in time to 2002 you would have seen Tom volunteering as the rodeo chairman and competing in the steer roping. Winning Pendelton, Cheyenne, and making the National Finals were at the top of this cowboy’s bucket list. In 1987, Hirsig was able to check off winning Pendelton and making the Finals.

Cheyenne celebrates its Authentic West roots each year with the world’s largest outdoor rodeo. The event draws top professionals cowboys, competing for more than $1 million in cash and prizes.

It wasn’t until 15 years later that he got to check off winning Cheyenne. In 2002, Hirsig had a lot on his plate and was so busy as arena director he decided not to enter The Daddy that year. Luckily for him, Harold Baumgarner had his PRCA card number and entered him anyway. Busy with arena director duties, Hirsig did not even have time to practice before the rodeo! Making it back to the short go, Hirsig had made up his mind that no matter what this would be the last steer he would rope. “If I am going to run my last one, it is going to be in this arena,” said Hirsig the night before the short go. Switching from director to competitor with little time to get nervous, Tom backed in the box to run the last steer of his career and to check off the trifecta of his bucket list. As Hirsig took the victory lap in 2002, the pick up men who he had worked alongside for years joined him in celebration.

It was a special win for him, the community and the family that has grown out of the team of people who make Cheyenne Frontier Days possible. As Hirsig took the stage to receive the legendary trophy saddle and buckle from The Daddy Of ‘Em All, Tom took the moment to give credit where credit is due. “When I got up on stage my comment was ‘This is for all the volunteers,” said Hirsig.

With over 40 years of volunteer service, Hirsig then and now recognizes the fact that without all the amazing people in the community making the rodeo possible his win and the wins of countless others would be less glamorous or nostalgic. Tom stood where many legends before him had stood. Now he and the family of volunteers who make Cheyenne Frontier Days possible are looking into the future to continue to make the dreams of the next generation of cowboys and cowgirls who will stand where he stood come true.

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