The CFD experience is now at your fingertips
Feb. 18—History is never truly behind us. That seems to be the essence of Cheyenne Frontier Days' latest development in community engagement, as on Thursday afternoon the organization unveiled an augmented reality (AR) project more than two years in the making.
In partnership with West Edge Collective, the local marketing and content creation firm, the history of CFD — from behind-the-scenes footage to historical events — has been made available to the masses both in person and in a digital archive.
Tom Hirsig, president and CEO of CFD, gave a short presentation at the unveiling in the CFD Event Center to introduce the new AR experience, touching on CFD's Strategic Trail Guide to the Future program.
Introduced in 2018, the program seeks to improve attendees' engagement with CFD through technological innovation.
"(Trail Guide to the Future) comes with a lot of components as far as what's really popular in entertainment," Hirsig said. "We talk about cowboys and military, all those things that are important to Frontier Days that we feel will survive the test of time.
"Trail Guide to the Future evolves how we incorporate technology in the Old West."
Rather than read about some of the draws to one of the biggest rodeos in the country, people can now witness the highlights in about as immersive an experience as one can get without actually attending.
Jesse Sevier, client services director at West Edge, explained how the experience is crucial to preserving the history of Cheyenne and its rodeo.
"As we realized that (we had) a lot of opportunities from augmented reality to 360 video," Sevier said in a brief speech, "we moved on to the next stage of what we felt could really help Cheyenne Frontier Days in telling its story to the rest of the world, both during the show, but also on the other 355 days here.
"We went down the path of developing 360-degree video projects to capture those impactful moments that keep people coming back."
Since 2021, West Edge Collective staff has dedicated time during Frontier Days to capturing video for 27 different archival clips using special 360-degree cameras. During this year's rodeo, the collective will gather around 15 more experiences to add to the archive, but it's an exhaustive process that's taken a significant amount of planning and work.
This is evident in the footage that CFD and West Edge have already published. The videos show how each camera was incorporated into critical places throughout Cheyenne, from the middle of a bustling pancake breakfast, to the saddle of cowboys sorting stock, a Frontier Nights performance by Ned LeDoux, and Miss Frontier and her lady-in-waiting saddling up for their final ride.
There's only one video in the entire collection that West Edge staff couldn't personally film, and that's the first-person clip of the Leap Frogs Navy Parachute Team gliding into the stadium at Frontier Park.
One of the strongest aspects of this new immersive experience is not only how it allows those unfamiliar with CFD to experience some of the larger events of the rodeo, but that longtime attendees can now get a behind-the-scenes look at how the rodeo comes together.
"(It's about) experience — why you should come here and why you want to bring your family," Seveir said after the presentation. "It's just a snapshot of what it is. We just want to continue to tell the story."
After the presentation, attendees had the opportunity to test out the AR experiences that were provided. To access the experience in person, one uses their smartphone to scan a QR code printed on what initially passes for little more than an average sign. Once scanned, the link automatically takes the user to an immersive 360-degree video, allowing a full range of view throughout the clip.
West Edge also debuted a series of eight CFD rodeo moments that can be scanned and viewed automatically when a phone is raised to a specific poster. While these videos are more about understanding the events than they are highlighting specific competitors, they do contain iconic runs.
One video captures the entirety of Nellie Miller's winning run in the 2018 barrel racing event, which she claimed during a heavy hailstorm.
For now, the clips compiled span across the 2018 and 2019 seasons, but Seveir said West Edge plans to expand this series with more archival footage of historic moments across all events.
These videos are available around the statue of Chris LeDoux, located just outside Frontier Park. The entire archive of 360 videos also can be viewed online at tour.cfdrodeo.com/360.
Ultimately, Seveir is happy to see CFD open to introducing new technology for attendees to learn about the historic event. He said that West Edge, after originally approaching them with the idea, has had a close working relationship with CFD. The hope is that this relationship can continue for years to come.
Now, it's good to see the collective's work pay off and potentially increase people's chance to learn more about the history of both Cheyenne and the city's premier event.
"I appreciate the Western heritage that we've got going on here," Seveir said. "I'm not from Cheyenne, I didn't grow up here, but it's always been a big part of me. To be able to work on an account like this and do cool stuff with technology, it's really fun.
"To have (CFD) understand and appreciate it and be able to speak to it themselves — they actually understand what this is about."
Will Carpenter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's Arts and Entertainment/Features Reporter. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 307-633-3135. Follow him on Twitter @will_carp_.