Celebrate July 4 in a Big Way in the Small Town of Cody, Wyoming
CODY, Wyo., March 28, 2017 – It takes Cody, Wyoming five days to celebrate the Fourth of July, and town leaders are already fine-tuning plans for the country’s big birthday bash this year. Just as they have been every spring for the last 98 years.
The celebration is called the Cody Stampede, and nearly every event – from the rodeos to the parades – reflects the equestrian heritage of this tiny northwestern Wyoming town. Horses have been a big part of Cody’s heritage ever since Buffalo Bill rode through this region and envisioned a town there.
This year’s events kick off on Friday, June 30, with the Cody/Yellowstone Bull-Riding Event. The fun continues Saturday, July 1 through July 4 with four Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA)-sanctioned Stampede Rodeos; a Kiddies Parade July 2; Stampede Parades July 3 and 4; a 5K/10K run/walk July 4; and the three-day Wild West Extravaganza Craft Fair July 2 – 4. There are also musical performances by regional acts in outdoor venues throughout town.
The Stampede Parade on the mornings of July 3 and 4 is especially fun, with at least three marching bands from around the country parading down Sheridan Avenue, Cody’s main street. The parade’s 2017 grand marshal will be announced soon. Last year’s grand marshal was storyteller Red Steagall, and previous years the town has welcomed John Wayne, Steven Seagal, Chuck Yeager and Wilford Brimley.
Following the Cody Stampede Rodeo on July 4, Cody caps the annual celebration with the Cody Skylighters Fireworks Show.
“Right around now, the town’s residents begin sketching plans for parade floats, training for races and rodeo events and speculating about who will be named this year’s parade grand marshal,” said Claudia Wade, director of the Park County Travel Council. “The Cody Stampede is one of the longest running July 4 celebrations in the country, and after nearly a century the goals of the event’s original planners have remained the same.”
The Start of the Stampede
In April 1920, a group of local leaders including a lawyer, dude ranch owner, newspaper editor, and a publicity-savvy and nationally known female novelist met to talk about how to transform 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.
Among the most vocal of those leaders – and the only female present – was Caroline Lockhart, whose best-selling novels in the early 1900s had earned her fame and fortune. Once the group settled on naming the event the Cody Stampede and sketched a general framework, Lockhart took the reins as president. She set about publicizing it in the Park County Enterprise – Buffalo Bill’s newspaper, which was later renamed the Cody Enterprise, and is still in operation today. She also organized fundraisers and invited famous rodeo performers to demonstrate their skills at the nightly rodeos.
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.
Visiting during the Cody Stampede
Wade advises travelers to plan far ahead if they want to experience the Cody Stampede. The town’s inns, lodges, hotels and guest ranches offer more than 1,600 rooms, and most of those sell out during the Cody Stampede.
Visitors will find an array of activities to keep them engaged when not enjoying Cody Stampede events. Among them, the Sleeping Giant Ski Area Zip Line, Cody Firearms Experience, Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue, Heart Mountain WW II Interpretive Center, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Old Trail Town and the Cody Trolley Tour. There are also many outdoor adventures such as hiking, rock climbing fly fishing and whitewater rafting.
Yellowstone Country is comprised of the towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park.
The area of Park County is called “Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country” because it was the playground of Buffalo Bill Cody himself. Buffalo Bill founded the town of Cody in 1896, and the entire region was driven and is still heavily influenced by the vision of the Colonel. Today its broad streets, world-class museum Buffalo Bill Center of the West and thriving western culture host nearly 1 million visitors annually.