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I realize the days are still short – but, yay, getting longer – and many of us are tired of winter, but it’s a great time to think of our summer plans.

Personally, I love spontaneous trips, but there are times when planning a vacation is just plain fun. My sister-in-law told me in the fall she had signed up for a group tour to visit China this spring. As we exchanged e-mails and spoke on the phone I found myself wishing I was going with her. She didn’t invite me, so I just had to make do with researching her itinerary and buying her some guidebooks for Christmas. I also added a similar trip to my “Some Day” list.

Last year I thoroughly enjoyed learning about some self-guided walking and biking tours in an unnamed location north and west of my beloved Cody, Wyoming, and I followed through with a vacation that was equal parts active, relaxing and educational. That sounds a lot like my life, except the vacation did not include cowboy musicians.

As part of my job, people ask me for recommendations for accommodations, food, shopping, hiking trails, fishing streams and the like. A common question revolves around “secret” times of the year to visit. The week after Memorial Day and the week before Labor Day are pretty good because most schools are in session and the empty nesters are more likely to stick closer to home. Winter is the best time to go ice climbing because there is, well, ice. And there’s no bad time to listen to the Empty Saddles Band.

Here’s a tip you might find surprising. Because Independence Day falls on a Wednesday think about visiting during the Cody Stampede Rodeo. When the big day falls on a weekend or a Monday or Friday, many of you turn the holiday into a long weekend getaway filled with parades (we don’t settle for just one), rodeo, bullfighting and general socializing.

With this year’s Independence Day in the middle of the week, however, we anticipate fewer short-getaway visitors. That means road trippers taking longer vacations will find more lodging options, better rodeo seats and fewer people watching parades and strolling through the outdoor fairs.

Here’s what’s happening.

Why THis is the Year to Experience the Cody Stampede

Our PRCA-sanctioned rodeos are always exciting.

The Cody Stampede events kick off this year with the Cody/Yellowstone Extreme Bulls event on Saturday, June 30. The fun continues Sunday, July 1 through Wednesday, July 4 with four Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA)-sanctioned Stampede Rodeos. Visitors and locals alike overload on cuteness watching the annual Kiddies Parade, this year scheduled for Monday, July 2. Stampede Rodeos are set for Tuesday and Wednesday, July 3 and 4. There’s also a 5K/10K run/walk on July 4, and the three-day Wild Extravaganza Craft Fair July 2-4.  Additionally, you will find a variety of musical performances by regional acts in outdoor venues throughout town.

Why THis is the Year to Experience the Cody Stampede 1

Who doesn’t love a parade?

The Stampede Parades on July 3 and 4 are especially fun, with at least three marching bands from around the country parading down Sheridan Avenue, our main street. Our parade’s 2018 grand marshal will be announced soon. Last year’s grand marshals were actors Robert Taylor and Adam Bartley, who play Sheriff Walt Longmire and Deputy Archie “The Ferg” Ferguson in the A&E “Longmire” series.

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Who will succeed “Longmire” as the parade’s grand marshal?

This year’s Cody Stampede is marking its 99th year. The Stampede got its start when a group of local leaders met three years after the death of Buffalo Bill Cody to talk about how to transform the town’s small annual July 4 celebration into an event that would showcase Cody’s authentic Western dude ranches and other attractions as well as its proximity to two entrances to Yellowstone National Park.

These town leaders had little idea that they would create an annual event that would be enjoyed and remembered by generations of Cody residents and visitors from around the world.

Even with the fortunate July 4 timing this year, I suggest you plan soon if you want to experience the Cody Stampede. Our inns, lodges, hotels and guest ranches offer more than 1,600 rooms, so you will find plenty of lodging choices.

Until next week, I am lovin’ life in the Rodeo Capital of the World.