Go Big This July 4 in the Small Town of Cody, Wyoming
CODY, Wyo., March 17, 2021 – July 4 is the biggest holiday of the year in the small northwestern Wyoming town of Cody. So big, it takes five days to pack in all the fun.
The event, which Travel + Leisure called one of the most “unconventional” Independence Day celebrations in the country, kicks off on June 30 with a special Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA)-sanctioned bull rider rodeo event called the Cody/Yellowstone Extreme Bulls. The fun continues over the next four days with four PRCA-sanctioned Cody Stampede Rodeos, parades, the three-day Wild West Arts Fest, the 40th Annual Runners Stampede and musical performances at outdoor venues throughout town. The annual celebrations conclude following the July 4 rodeo with a spectacular fireworks show over the rodeo grounds.
The event will be especially popular this year as many travelers – after more than a year of staying put – are expected to seek outdoorsy, family-friendly, drive-to destinations with an array of recreational adventures and distinctive experiences.
“Visitors have shared with me countless times that they saw their very first rodeo and spotted their first bison during a trip out West when they were children,” said Claudia Wade, the long-time executive director of the Park County Travel Council. “These visitors often return with extended family to relive many of the same adventures. We see many of these multi-generational groups during the Cody Stampede.”
The Park County Travel Council is the marketing arm for Cody Yellowstone, comprised of the towns of Cody, Meeteetse, Powell and the valley east of Yellowstone National Park.
Buffalo Bill’s Lasting Rodeo Legacy
The roots of the Cody Stampede can be traced to 1896 – 125 years ago – when William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody founded the town that bears his name. He chose the town’s location 52 miles from the eastern boundary of Yellowstone National Park. There, he envisioned a town that could support not only the ranches and farms throughout the region but also capture the interest – and dollars – of the tourists who were increasingly passing through on their way to the park.
Buffalo Bill Cody is best known as the legendary showman behind “The Wild West Show,” a traveling extravaganza that entertained audiences in the U.S. and Europe with performances that included skilled cowboys and cowgirls hailing from Western ranches who theatrically demonstrated bronco riding, roping and other rodeo-type skills.
It’s no surprise, then, that ranchers living near the town he founded often entertained themselves during their few off hours by engaging in informal contests such as calf-roping, steer wrestling and horse-racing. The contests became a favorite pastime, with town residents gathering to watch the show.
These rodeo-style contests continued to grow in popularity.
The Cody Stampede is marking its 102nd anniversary this year. The Stampede got its start when a group of local leaders including a lawyer, dude ranch owner, newspaper editor and a publicity-savvy and nationally known female novelist met three years after the death of town founder 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 its proximity 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.
Parade Grand Marshal? Still a Mystery
Much like watching for the appearance of the first bear cubs every spring, a favorite pastime among town locals is to predict the identity of the Cody Stampede Parade Grand Marshal. This year’s Grand Marshal – whoever that may be – will be in good company. Grand Marshals of previous Cody Stampede Parades include Chuck Yeager, John Wayne, Crow Tribe leader Dr. Joe Medicine Crow, Gary Cooper, Longmire actor Robert Taylor, champion bullfighter Dusty Tuckness, Wilford Brimley, Dennis Weaver and Steven Seagal. “Coffee shop chatter about the identity of this year’s Grand Marshal will soon start ramping up,” said Wade. “And it won’t let up until the announcement is made sometime in June.”
Wade advises travelers to book accommodations for the Cody Stampede soon. The town offers an array of lodges, hotels, guest ranches and campgrounds.
Visitors will find an array of activities to keep them engaged when not enjoying Cody Stampede events. Among them, the Sleeping Giant Zip Line, Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue, Heart Mountain WW II Interpretive Center, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Old Trail Town & Museum of the Old West and the Cody Trolley Tour. There are also many outdoor adventures such as horseback riding, hiking, fly fishing, rafting and kayaking.
Home of the Great American Adventure, Cody Yellowstone is comprised of the northwestern Wyoming towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park. The region is known for rodeos, authentic guest and dude ranches, world-class museums and recreational adventures that reflect the adventurous spirit of the visionaries and explorers who brought the remote region to the world’s attention.
Mesereau Travel Public Relations