The Cheyenne Christmas Parade is back to full capacity for its 31st year on Saturday, Nov. 27 with the added hope that the festivities might attract visitors from the surrounding region.

This year, the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce is partnered with Visit Cheyenne to present an array of Old West-themed holiday spectacles. The goal is to have a celebration that is representative of Cheyenne’s unique western history, which can’t be found anywhere else along the Front Range.

Visit Cheyenne introduced their Old West Holiday event last year, though the theme of the Christmas parade was “Deck the Halls Y’all.” In the midst of COVID-19 restrictions, the first year of the event attracted tourists like never before.

“The big thing is it gave us an opportunity to bring more tourists to Cheyenne. too,” Sarah Fanning, events specialist for Visit Cheyenne, said. “Since we’re such a huge destination in the summertime for Cheyenne Frontier Days, we wanted an opportunity to keep on driving tourists here throughout the entire year.”

To do so, they are hosting scattered holiday stops throughout the city from Nov. 27 through Dec. 18.

From 10 a.m. to. 5 p.m. every Saturday, kids can meet Santa Claus at the Tivoli Building, drop their letters to Santa off at the Pony Express or Chronicles Distilling, where riders on horseback will carry the letters to the post office twice a day.

Other self-guided events throughout the month can be found on the Visit Cheyenne website under the “Old West Holiday” and “Santa’s Stops” tabs. They will also provide maps of the stops at the Cheyenne Depot Museum.

Because they introduced their Old West Event during the pandemic, they aren’t sure what to expect in terms of turnout. With Colorado reinstating some COVID-19 restrictions, there is a hope that the Christmas Parade will draw Colorado residents up to Cheyenne more than in previous years.

“I’m really excited for it because you hear people from surrounding states say that there’s nothing to do in Wyoming, and there’s nothing to do in Cheyenne,” Fanning said. “That’s the big thing that we’re trying to prove to people. There’s plenty of things to do when you’re here.”

Esther Gonzales, business development and relations specialist for the Chamber, echoed the need to market Cheyenne and give residents something to be proud of.

“It makes a really huge difference with people being able to come here and experience the novelty of the West, the wagons and the reindeer,” Gonzales said.

The event will kick off at 4 p.m., when city officials and cowboys on horseback will participate in a wreath hanging ceremony, running from halfway up Capitol Avenue to Depot Plaza. Once the wreaths are presented and hung, the Depot Plaza will be illuminated during the annual tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m.

Gonzales said these events initiate a celebration that brings Cheyenne residents together in holiday spirit.

“This is the one thing that everybody can do, no matter if you’re rich or if you don’t have very much,” Gonzales said. “It’s something that you can sit there and smile and have a good time with your family, friends and your community leaders.”

To fit within the theme, many of the floats this year will honor Wyoming’s western history.

Saturday’s parade starts by traveling down Carey Avenue at 5:30 p.m. In total, there will be about 125 floats to see, a significant increase from last year’s 78.

Those in attendance can expect to see an array entries. The Chamber has seen registrations that range from classic Chevrolets to horse-drawn carriages and even tractors.

Many of the floats are returning from previous years, but there is certainly no lack of variety. Boy Scouts, veterinarians, school marching bands and the police department can all be seen presenting a different flair in the huge event.

It all goes back to representing Cheyenne’s culture.

“We want to help be that driving force trying to get people here for the holiday by making it very unique and something that people can relate to,” Gonzales said. “It kind of has that home feeling.”

Initially, the planning committee designed the parade to have food trucks strategically placed in various alleyways throughout downtown. Not only would this have blocked off traffic from interfering, it would have given attendees the chance to wander downtown from truck to truck.

Blocking off surrounding side streets was ultimately deemed unsafe, though main roads will be barricaded for the parade beginning at 3 p.m. anyway. Food trucks are still welcome to park outside of the closed-off spaces downtown, but trouble with coordinating this potential aspect of the parade presented too many difficulties.

Instead, Gonzales sees this as an opportunity to stimulate the local restaurant economy, and on Shop Small Saturday, no less. Low temperatures are expected, so when teeth start chattering after the parade concludes, the hope is that the crowd might funnel into local downtown restaurants.

“It’s the Chamber’s way of saying thank you to the community and just bringing the holidays together,” Gonzales said. “We support a lot of business. Christmas is about being with family and loved ones and traditions, but it’s also about our economy.”

Some nonprofit organizations will also be handing out free coffee and hot chocolate during the holiday parade.

Will Carpenter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s Arts and Entertainment/Features Reporter. He can be reached by email at wcarpenter@wyomingnews.com or by phone at 307-633-3135. Follow him on Twitter @will_carp_.

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