CHEYENNE — The Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum recently announced the upcoming induction of eight legends into the rodeo’s Hall of Fame.
They will be recognized for the exceptional service and value they have brought to Frontier Days during a reception on Sept. 8 and join hundreds of others revered in the Western community.
Morgan Marks, executive director of the CFD Old West Museum, said inductees are selected for several different categories — from music performers and rodeo heroes to the families who have spent generations volunteering for the “Daddy of ‘em All.” It is a testament to the integral impact each has had on the 10-day celebration.
“The people are what makes Cheyenne Frontier Days happen,” she told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. “Without all of the people over the 128-year history of Cheyenne Frontier Days, it wouldn’t exist.”
The inductees who will be honored in the Hall of Fame’s class of 2023 are: Brooks and Dunn, Riley Busacker, George S. Geyer Jr., Lester A. “Les” Gore, Dwayne “The Amazin Razin” Hargo, the Romsa family and Darin Westby.
Brooks and Dunn have returned time and time again to Cheyenne Frontier Days for roaring crowds of cowboys and cowgirls ready to dance and sing along. They sold out three shows in the 1990s and came back four more times to attract astonishing numbers of attendees.
Their legacy at CFD is historic, and museum officials wrote that “their performances have pushed the boundaries of entertainment, raising the bar higher and higher year after year.”
Whether it be creating a rodeo night show experience that brought a wider national audience, or mesmerizing fans with their songwriting, vocal and musical talents, they have always cherished country music.
They also have a personal relationship with the rodeo, as both Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn have embraced the rodeo with their families and take time to see the sport or explore the park whenever they headline the event. Dunn also showcased his talent as a photographer at CFD, “where his photographs have frozen rodeo contestants (both human and animal) in moments of incredible action and detail.”
“When Brooks & Dunn returned to CFD in 2022, it had become evident that over all these years, their concerts were not just performances, but cherished occasions for the artists, fans and the community as a whole,” according to the CFD Old West Museum. “Each one of Brooks and Dunn’s concerts at CFD ultimately became noteworthy additions to the rich history of the ‘Daddy of ‘em All.’”
Westby rose through the ranks in the rodeo after moving with his family to Cheyenne in 1994. He offered his support and volunteered for the Concessions Committee and was named Volunteer of the Year in 1997 for his dedication and hard work.
Accolades continued to pile up as he joined the CFD Scholarship Foundation, was named Salesman of the Year in 1999 and eventually was elected to HEELS and selected as the Concessions Committee chairman. He also joined the Scholarship Foundation Board and served for several years on the CFD Hall of Fame Committee.
“In 2011, Darin was elected to the CFD Board of Directors and served diligently in this position until he was elected CFD General Chairman in 2012, assuming the role for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 shows,” according to the museum. “Under Darin’s leadership as General Chairman, the General Committee set unprecedented records for success and profitability. While the all-time record for Cheyenne Frontier Days had been set by the 100th show in 1996, the 2013, 2014 and 2015 shows surpassed all other previous records and secured the fourth, third and second spots, respectively, (until each record was pushed back by the 125th show).”
He found his way into leadership both as the General Chairman and CEO of Cheyenne Frontier Days during a transition in 2014. While officials looked for a new CEO, he took on leadership for five months and still worked closely with the new CEO afterward to produce the record-setting show of 2015.
“Darin’s impact during his tenure as General Chairman was far-reaching,” officials said. “He played a vital role in assisting in the development of key initiatives, such as the Master Entertainment Plan, Master Land Use Plan, a business model, a long-term strategic plan and the establishment of a new 501(c)(3) foundation. Darin was also a major contributor in establishing the Trail Guide for the Future.”
There are countless other ways Westby stepped up to the plate for Frontier Days, and his contributions even go as far as project manager for construction of the new Headquarters and Event Center and volunteering to bring horses down for parades.
Cheyenne native Busacker first became intertwined with Cheyenne Frontier Days by volunteering as a teenager and transporting hay from a local ranch to the park. But when he joined the Contestants Committee in 1971, it marked the beginning of his 50 years of service.
He made an impact on multiple committees, served in the HEELS organization for 45 years and participated in nearly every construction project within Frontier Park.
“His contributions encompassed a wide range of endeavors, from demolishing the old A-Stand and the HEELS hangout to assisting in the construction of ‘Wild Horse Gulch’ (now known as Old Frontier Town),” officials said. “Riley played a significant role in pouring and finishing a substantial portion of the concrete throughout the park and assisted in the construction of various Grounds buildings. In the spring of 1996, Riley dedicated numerous nights and weekends toward working on the construction of the base for the volunteer monument bronze, which was dedicated for the 100th annual Cheyenne Frontier Days.”
Busack was also revered as a longtime supporter of the museum and helped build displays in the early days for art shows, donated artifacts and was a museum member.
“During CFD, Riley was a familiar face behind the chutes, ensuring they remained in working order. He served in various positions and was lead assistant on multiple occasions. Riley loved to be behind the chutes and loved to be able to talk to the other volunteers, stock contractors, cowboys and bullfighters.”
Another Cheyenne local with a lasting influence on Frontier Days was Geyer. He and his wife moved to the capital city in 2005 and quickly found that his dedication and enthusiasm were a fit for the rodeo community. He joined the Tickets Committee and fell in love, eventually assisting many committees and taking on leadership positions. He was also elected to the HEELS in 2019.
“However, through the creation and leadership of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Youth Volunteer program, George’s most important legacy emerged,” officials said. “In 2016, George became the program’s first coordinator, entrusted with shaping the program and developing a new generation of volunteers for CFD. With his background as a retired teacher, a former high school football coach, and a born leader, George possessed the perfect blend of communication skills, organizational skills and integrity essential for the job.”
Geyer was inspirational to the young volunteers in the program, who quickly bonded with him and began actively participating, many of them eventually moving on to serve on one of the many CFD committees.
“In 2021, George passed away due to complications from COVID-19 right after CFD’s 125th show, leaving behind a lasting legacy through the Youth Volunteer program and his hard work as a CFD volunteer,” according to the CFD Old West Museum. “George’s leadership of the program proved so remarkable, in fact, that following his passing, it became evident that no single individual could adequately fulfill the multitude of duties he had carried out. It now takes two directors and an army of mentors to continue the work and logistics of the successful Youth Volunteer program.”
Gore was a rodeo hero throughout the West, but he was born in Marshall, Wyoming, in 1925 and considered it home. He grew up on a local ranch, attended high school and enlisted in the U.S. Navy before ultimately embarking on his rodeo career at the University of Wyoming.
His first major rodeo was Cheyenne Frontier Days, where he placed second in Amateur Bronc Riding in 1947 and 1948. The next year he would win the Amateur Bronc Riding event, a ride that was later captured in a painting and turned into a bronze sculpture.
His status in the rodeo continued to grow, and he competed in five events nearly every year from 1947 to 1969. Even in the few years he couldn’t compete due to injuries, he would participate as a judge.
Gore would later form the Summit Rodeo Company and get involved in the rodeo stock business, as well as star in a television episode of a series after producers at CFD met him and were impressed by his skill. He traveled across North America, competing and winning championships at many top rodeos, leading him to hold scores on 73 bull rides in a row, the second-highest record in the PRCA.
“Les would compete in his last professional rodeos at age 54, but he would not stop participating altogether,” his inductee biography stated. “In 1979, Les played an instrumental role in forming the National Old Timers Rodeo Association (NOTRA, now the Senior Pro Rodeo Association) and became NOTRA’s World Champion Bareback Bronc Rider in 1983.”
He finally retired from riding at 64, but he still never stepped away from his passion completely. He passed away in 2016 after being recognized the year prior as “not only the oldest living NFR bareback rider, but also for his Gold Card number, 66C, which held the second-lowest number.”
Dwayne “The Amazin Razin” Hargo
Hargo was a renowned bullfighter and barrelman who first became interested in horses in his youth, when his father would drop him off for fishing expeditions near where the riding stables were located. He’d go across the lake to the stables to watch the horses, and the owner gave him the chance to work in exchange for riding lessons. Although the stable closed, he was introduced to a local rodeo stock contractor who would further his education.
He worked for a rodeo company in southern California and became a test pilot for riding bucking horses and bulls that were new, and one day replaced a scheduled bullfighter who was nowhere to be found at an event when he was 15 years old. It would be the start of a lifelong career in rodeo.
“In 1984, Dwayne went to a bullfighting school taught by the legendary bullfighter Wick Peth, where Dwayne impressed Wick so much that he signed Dwayne’s application card to join the PRCA that same year,” according to the museum. “Dwayne was then chosen to be an alternate on the 1985 Wrangler Bullfight Tour, where he participated in his first bullfighting competition after he was called to fill the spot of an injured bullfighter at Cheyenne Frontier Days. The first bull Dwayne drew was the infamous Crooked Nose, but he went on to win the round and the competition at CFD.
“In 1986, Dwayne became a regular on the Wrangler Bullfight Tour and qualified for the NFR in his rookie year. A couple of years later, he was back at CFD when Rick Chatman was injured during the bullfighting event. Dwayne stepped in and was eventually hired to work as a bullfighter at CFD in 1990, continuing to work there for the next 14 years.”
He ultimately achieved a long list of accomplishments, such as being a six-time Wrangler Bullfight NFR qualifier and winning the Wrangler Bullfighter World Championship in 1989.
The Romsa family was recognized for their longstanding involvement with Frontier Days that came to fruition in 1947.
“At the age of 10, Larry Romsa began volunteering at CFD,” the CFD Old West Museum noted. “He carried state flags during parades and Grand Entries and continued to volunteer in various capacities throughout the following decades. He assisted Orval Epler with the kids’ Shetland pony riding, helped the Bruegman family as an outrider for their chuckwagon team, and even competed in the Wild Horse Race as a rider.”
It would trickle down generations after Larry and his wife, Marilyn, were awarded a parade contract and opened a whole new era in the Parade Lot. They reached out to drivers across the country who could bring their own trained horse teams to use in the parades, and it turned CFD into a destination worldwide for teamsters.
Their children and grandchildren have left their own mark with proving bucking stock, competing in the rodeo, assisting the museum and even becoming Miss Frontier and Miss Rodeo Wyoming.
“In the early 2000s, Larry handed over the reins of parade contractor to his son, JD, and his wife, Beth,” officials stated. “Quade, Kim, Lane and Blare continue to assist Beth and JD with these duties, ensuring the smooth operation of the parades, special events, sponsor presentations, and Grand Entries. The Romsas bring their personal horses and work closely with many of the invited teams to ensure that they are all looked after and show ready.”