CFD Old West Museum stronger than ever
2020 challenges galvanized support and strengthened base
The year 2020 impacted everyone. Whether personally, professionally, or from the standpoint of an organization, it was a challenging year. For the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, it could have been devastating. While a third of museums nationwide were not able to survive the economic crushes in 2020, the Cheyenne museum not only survived, but came out on the other side in good shape.
“It was not easy,” said Morgan Marks, director of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, about 2020. “We are a very social museum and Frontier Days is a huge part of what we do. We are open year round, so we get to tell the story of Cheyenne Frontier Days all year, which is amazing for visitors who can’t come during the last 10 days of July to see the story of Cheyenne Frontier Days and it is such an important part of Cheyenne. So the shutdown did hurt. It was of course necessary, but it was painful.”
Missing out on the 20% of annual visitors that the cancelled 2020 Cheyenne Frontier Days would bring in, along with the 20%-25% of the annual revenues those visitors usually brought with them, the museum reached out to its support base and found willing partners.
“People care so much about the story we tell and our mission,” said Marks. “Last year really proved how much they care. We needed help, we asked for help and they stepped up in a big way and are continuing to step up.”
Since Cheyenne Frontier Days itself had to cancel in 2020, the museum searched for alternative ways to hold its annual art show.
“We did have an art show, but it was fully virtual,” said Marks of the process. “We have incredible supporters and they were able to help us a lot.”
Although virtual support was solid, being able to fully open and have in person events in 2021 has been big for the museum.
“Having (the art show) in person this year has made a huge, huge difference for us,” Marks revealed. “People this year want to be out. Our daily visitation over Frontier Days is up probably by a third from 2019. I need to double check my numbers, but we’ve had incredibly high visitation. Our art show has done so well. These are numbers I have not seen since I have been here (over the last six years). We sold out of our art show attendance for the first time in my history. People have been buying art and coming to the museum and visiting, they are enjoying what we have to offer here.”
On top of the art show exhibit that will be available to see in person through Aug. 15, the exhibits and items throughout the museum change each year and even throughout the year. For 2021, the museum has a display of banners hanging throughout one of the exhibit halls in honor of the 90 years of Miss Frontiers. Going back to Jean Nimmo Dubois in 1931 and moving forward all the way to 2021’s Miss Frontier, Bailey Bishop, the banners hanging from the ceiling show every single one of them.
“The past year and half has been a very concerted effort to have a banner for every single Miss Frontier from the very first year,” said Marks. “We are really proud that we are able to recognize the history of these 90 years of ambassadors. It is the 90th year, this year, and we are really trying to celebrate Miss Frontier.”
Among the items that will be in the museum for a limited time are memorabilia from the 2020 Hall of Fame inductees, which includes the four-time CFD champion barrel racer Kristie Peterson and her famous horse “Bozo.” Local Cheyenne saddle bronc phenom Brody Cress has a limited time exhibit as the only saddle bronc competitor to ever win a Cheyenne Frontier Days buckle in three consecutive years, and there are Casey Tibbs memorabilia, Chris Ledoux items, and even a souvenir ribbon from the very first Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration in September of 1897.
“I am so proud,” said Marks of how the museum has stood strong over its 43 years of existence, especially regarding its strength after having weathered 2020. “We have come through so much in the past year and the past 40-some years. (This museum) was started by a group of incredibly passionate volunteers to a professional institution that survived the pandemic and is continuing to survive and thrive. We have the best volunteers around, the best staff, and the best supporter base. I am so proud of what we do and what we represent,” she added with conviction. “I am also so thankful. We couldn’t be here without our supporters, volunteers and our staff. We couldn’t be here without that.”
For more information on the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, you can find them online at https://www.cfdrodeo.com/cfd-old-west-museum/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cfdoldwestmuseum/.
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