- Published: January 26, 2022
- Updated: January 26, 2022
- Language: English
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As I finished eating the last delicious morsel on my plate, I looked around and admired the old wooden chuck wagons, and the tables that sat in front of them stacked two feet high with steaming hot pancakes. The people, who stood in lines waiting to be served, were moved quickly and efficiently through by servers. There were city slickers, country folks, bikers, cowboys, Indians, mothers, fathers and children all enjoying their morning breakfast under the vast blue Wyoming sky. By the end of the ten days, the Kiwanis club will have made and served around 100, 000 pancakes. It never failed to amaze me how the people and the park came together, and how energized they were by keeping its western vitality. Frontier Park is a memorable park, and quite different from other parks. It is the point of attraction for visitors and travelers joining together to commemorate the traditions and cultures of the Old West. It is situated next to the center of the city of Cheyenne, better known as a “ hell on wheels town,” and comes alive for ten short days every year.
Here you can take a step back in time and celebrate Cheyenne’s western heritage. As I eagerly start my journey in the southeast part of the park, I can see the tops of the tee-pees in the distance, where Indian Village is located. At the village, Native American Indians gather, wearing electrifying multi-colored costumes of red, blue and green. They sing and chant and tell stories of their past, while Native American men and women dance like butterflies, wearing intricately beaded costumes and spiked feathers that shake atop their heads and backs. Pueblo, Arapaho, Lakota, and Cheyenne all gather here, to educate and share their traditions and culture. They are beautiful red skinned people, with dark mysterious eyes full of energy and life. The intense sound of the drums and the tinkling bells on their ankles can be heard from quite a distance, and as I walk farther away from Indian Village and head towards Wild Horse Gulch, the sounds of the drums fade off in the distance.
As I walk through Wild Horse Gulch, there are cowboys and cowgirls dressed in Western style outfits filled with glimmering sequins, and shiny silver spurs clanking with each step they take; The Rodeo queen wears a red ruffled Western style shirt, and a red cowboy hat with a glittering diamond crown placed at the front. She holds a bouquet of beautiful red roses in her delicate hands, and smiles and waves to the crowd atop her painted pony. The gulch is filled with the spirit of the Old West. It attracts people from all over the world with its rich and colorful lifestyle and romantic temptation of the West. At the gulch you can find store owners, traders, craftsman, and even a few special guest characters like Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, Lillie Langtry and Wyatt Earp. Here you will find the Old West spirit, and enjoy its friendly Western hospitality. As I continue walking, children hurriedly run past me, giggling and screaming, on their way to the carnival midway to ride the rides. In the distance I can see a giant Ferris wheel, and smell the pleasant odor of buttered popcorn, corn dogs, and cotton candy that fill the air with a delightful familiar smell of good times spent.
Towards eight o’clock, the championship bull riding event is getting underway, and I make my way up to the top of the stands. Dusty paddocks full of bulls being sorted out can be viewed from here. The competitors can be seen scampering in making last minute preparations— bullfighters, stroking their ropes in downward motions applying rosin to make them sticky; Angry bulls with downright nasty tempers and fire in their eyes being loaded into chutes waiting to be ridden; Cowboys with electric hot shots, waiting to encourage the bulls with electric force, if they have a mind to go down on their bellies; Bull fighters, dressed humorously like clowns in a circus, getting ready for a death match with a 2500 pound devil ready to hook. Thousands of people around me, sprinkled throughout the stands like a mixture of salt, and red cayenne pepper, waiting in excitement for the announcers call out, for the first competitor of the evening. The park is liveliest in the evening. People of all cultures gather to listen to country music, Native American songs and stories, and cowboy poetry. The air is electric, and the sounds of laughter, exploding fireworks, and tired little ones crying, who have been up too late, fill the air with continuous noise. People walk elbow to elbow to get from one place to another interwoven like the tight braids of a bull rope done right, and every now and then you can hear a concession person loudly yelling out, “ beer…popcorn.”
Next to the park, the streets are blocked off and the rowdy town bars that stand next to elegant opera houses are filled with rednecks, Indians, sheep herders, stock contractors, rich and poor, all content to be sharing the moment. Loud country music blares from within the walls, and the sound of glass breaking can be heard. For ten days the town is denied sleep while the park is alive. For ten days, this “ hell on wheels town” relives the Wild West. On the afternoon of the tenth day, however, changes occur rather quickly. As I stand and look out the window of the Old West Museum, I watch the crowds diminish until the only people left are vendors scurrying around tearing down their tents, and volunteers cleaning up the trash left behind.
Nearly all the people have left on their journey to get back home. It is quiet and the sounds of yesterday are gone. There is a lonely feeling as I look out the window, and I wish it was all just beginning again. I can see the dusty empty midway that had been trampled by thousands of feet, and the square tops of the city buildings. Beyond that, I can see the unspoiled mountain vistas, tipped with snow. I go back even farther, but this time in my mind, when I was a child coming here, when the vast plains were sprinkled with buffalo and antelope by the hundreds. I can see unbelievable blue skies stretching from horizon to horizon, and the memory of yesterday’s golden sunset. The Old West and the vigilante days are gone, but their spirit still comes to life each year as people from all over the world come together to celebrate Cheyenne’s heritage. I adore this place, and my memories of Frontier Park will always linger inside of me.
“ Hell on Wheels.” American Experience. WGBH, 2010. Web. 1 Oct. 2012.
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