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America's sports bucket list: Frontier Days

Cheyenne, Wyo. 
Old Faithful, the Statue of Liberty and the National Mall are tops among the places everyone must experience in the United States, but someplace on "America's Bucket List" should include the pancakes in Cheyenne.

BMB_5134-EditFree pancakes in Cheyenne. Not the "free" that comes with a hidden price tag, like "free shipping." This is the type of "free" where you walk into a place, sit down, and someone you've never met flops down a plate full of flapjacks, and you leave without spending a dime. This is all part of Frontier Days.

You don't have to love the rodeo or know a single particular of what a bull rider must do to even call it a "a ride," to appreciate the honest beauty of Cheyenne, Wyoming during Frontier days every week in late July. Frontier Days is one of those American sports' experiences that can be appreciated by anyone who wants to take in something that is unlike anything else in the world. The same as The Kentucky Derby, an LSU-Alabama football game, or the Indy 500; some sporting events transcend knowledge, or interest, in the race, or game. You go for the experience.

America offers a buffet of sports experiences that could justify a vacation, and on this long table of options should include Frontier Days. There isn't a rodeo, or even another event, like this. For the town. For the participant. For the fan. For the tourist.

"It is a great place to be if you're a competitor or a cowboy. It is almost unlike any other event you've ever seen," retired bull rider Cory Melton said. "Just the scale of it. You have people from all over the world who come there. It's a collection of everything, and you get all of it in one place."

Every July the PRCA and PBR comes to Cheyenne for a variety of competitions that take place in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Arena. The name of the facility alone should give you an idea of how old school this event is; there isn't a corporate name in front of the building. The arena, which was originally an airstrip, seats 19,000 to make it the world's largest outdoor rodeo.

The event began back in 1897, when it was just a modest one-day occasion, long before anyone had a clue that it would become "The Daddy of 'em All."

Today, Frontier Days is more than a week and it's complete with the rodeo, bull riding, and concerts. Imagine a state fair with a county fair with a concert with a rodeo, and you'll have one 24-hour period of Frontier Days. There is some sort of appeal for every man, woman or child of any age.

Unlike the Houston Rodeo, which has become renowned for its nightly lineup of top musical performers, Frontier Days' priority remains the rodeo but it has enhanced its overall experience by adding top concerts. Just because this is a rodeo in Big Sky country does not necessarily mean the night's headliner will be your standard country performer. Jason Aldean is on the schedule, just like Ludacris and Jelly Roll.

Frontier Days is the ideal setting just to stand outside and enjoy the air. The average high temperature in Cheyenne during the event is a heavenly 82 degrees. The town is located at a little more than 6,000 feet, almost ensuring even if you're standing directly under the sun, you won't be too hot.

The town basically shuts down for this event, ensuring the fan/tourist is the priority. This includes the daily free pancake breakfast in downtown Cheyenne. Just ask someone who lives where to go, and they'll know. It's the place where about 8,000 people arrive to eat.

"This is one of those events that's just different. Sitting in that arena with the outdoor sun shining on you, it's second to none, really," Melton said. "You can mill about on the grounds, there is a lot to see in the city, and it's all tied into the events. It all makes for a great experience."

Plus, free pancakes.


Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis, Ind.
The largest one-day sporting event in the world remains unlike anything else on the planet. The first five laps of the Indy 500 are an assault on the senses. Approximately 345,000 people attended the 2024 edition of the Indy 500. The venue opened in 1909, and it remains the top of the international motor sports' pyramid. A venue of this size would never be built today; you have to see it to believe it exists.

Men's basketball game Allen Fieldhouse, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan.

The only reason this is selected ahead of Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium is the size; Allen Fieldhouse seats 16,300 to Cameron's 9,500. Allen opened in 1955, and it's a museum to college basketball. The university made the wise decision to clean up the building to make it center piece of the school's campus, and a tourist destination. The original rules of basketball, as written by the game's founder, Dr. James Naismith, are housed in a Hall of Fame attached to the arena.

The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

The Rose Bowl game itself doesn't carry the weight it once did but nothing in college football beats the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. Located in a neighborhood in Pasadena, Calif. the Rose Bowl offers a vista of the San Gabriel Mountains to create one of the best scenes in American sports.

Day game at Wrigley Field, Chicago

Even when the Chicago Cubs stink, their fans win. Along with Boston's Fenway Park, Wrigley is one of America's few working "museum" stadiums. Wrigley opened in 1914, and it's a time warp to an era when baseball was America's lone sports priority.

Saturday night Edmonton Oilers game, Edmonton, Alberta

The building where Wayne Gretzky made the Oilers an international name is no longer in use, but the spirit of the fans who would take a bullet for this franchise lives on. An Oilers home game, especially in the Stanley Cup playoffs on a Saturday night at Rogers Place, is the best of Canada.

Green Bay Packers game at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisc.

Lambeau Field opened in 1957, and it is the only stadiums in the NFL that feels like how the NFL used to be. With a population of 106,000, Green Bay is a college town with an NFL team. Tickets for the Packers games are in demand, and hotel space for those weekends are difficult. If you can swing both, it is the best experience in the NFL.

The "races" at Keeneland Race Track, Lexington, Kent.

Horse racing remains a stable niche sport in America, and there are few places other than the Triple Crown races that are wonderful "tourist" type experieces. Along with Saratoga, New York, horse racing at Keeneland in Lexington is a memorable because it's so far off the grid. The facility is immaculate, and the fan experience is damn near perfect.

NASCAR race at Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Ala.

This is the atypical pick for NASCAR because it's not Daytona. The track at Talladega has to be seen with your own eyes to fully appreciate the insanity of it; the turns at Talladega are 33 degrees, which creates more speed, and dangers. Television does not do justice for one of the most breathtaking designs of any sports facility in the world.

New York Knicks home game, Madison Square Garden, New York City

New York's "garden" has been updated, and while the team may not always be one of the NBA's best, the atmosphere is unmatched. Because of the people. There are few places where the anger from a fan sitting next to you can fill your soul like a Knicks home game.

Major prize fight, Las Vegas

The days of Tyson and Ali are long gone, but every now and then a major boxing match can pull in all of the A-listers and pretty people from Hollywood to watch two guys beat each other's brains out. If you can score a seat at the MGM Grand, Ceasar's Palace, or some other hotel arena on The Strip to watch a boxing match, it is the best arena experience in sports.

Night game, University of Washington, Husky Stadium, Seattle

College football typically offers the widest variety for sports experiences in the U.S, but few can match the beauty of a UDub home football game. You can ride a boat on Union Bay, dock and then walk to the stadium. At night, fans will turn on their cell phone lights to provide a "starry" experience. If you can somehow figure out how to get close, you can get a picture with DUBS, the University of Washington's live mascot, a beautiful Alaskan Malamute.

Upper deck behind home plate San Francisco Giants home game, Oracle Park, S.F.

One of the few instances when sitting far away is better than close to the field. The view from the upper deck of the Pacific Ocean between San Francisco and Oakland is serene, and worth the price of a ticket.

The Masters golf tournament, Augusta, Ga.

The hardest ticket in sports. Most people who go landed a ticket through a lottery system. Cell phones are not allowed. The souvenir shopping experience is nothing like you've ever seen. Drunken or rowdy behavior is not tolerated. You're there to watch the best golfers in the world try to win the most prestigious tournament in the sport. The end.

Saturday night match, Arthur Ashe Stadium, U.S. Open, USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows, New York

The annual U.S. Open is America's annual chance to make tennis the focal point. Between the venue itself, the amount of tennis being played all over the place, the quality of the players, and the people watching it's one of the more underrated experiences on the calendar. The intensity of a big match at Arthur Ashe Stadium is sensory overload. The fans routinely "cross the line," and with a seating capacity of 23,771 it's the biggest venue for tennis in the world.

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