Every summer, hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls from around the country come to Casper, Wyoming, to compete in the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) as they try their hand at becoming rodeo champions. Slated for June 9 – 15, 2019, CNFR and Casper will welcome competitors from colleges and universities from 38 states and two Canadian provinces.
CNFR will have collegiate rodeo athletes competing in events that include bareback riding, tie-down roping, breakaway roping, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, goat tying, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding, with the largest number of athletes coming from Texas, California, South Dakota, Utah, Oregon, Idaho, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana.
And while rodeo is the main event at CNFR, there are plenty of ways to experience the best of the West in Casper.
Pre-CNFR festivities include a pancake breakfast at City Park on Saturday, June 8, as well as the weekend-long event, Nic Fest. Slated for June 7 – 9, Nic Fest transforms downtown into a hub of arts and culture, with live music, vendors, family activities and food trucks. Rodeo festivities officially begin on Sunday and include matinee and evening performances, with daytime slack and additional evening performances held throughout the week.
But it’s not all just about rodeo. Additional CNFR festivities include a softball tournament, sporting clay shoot, golf tournament, cowboy church service and Cinch style show, as well as three live music performances throughout CNFR week.
An up-and-comer in the country music scene—and a native of Wyoming—singer-songwriter Ian Munsick will start the week of free musical performances with an acoustic show at Casper’s newest brewery, Gruner Brothers on Wednesday, June 12. Munsick, and his song “Horses are Faster” took home the award for best song at the Third Annual Rocky Mountain Country Music Awards in Colorado earlier this year.
After the CNFR performance on Friday night, country singer Jake Mauer will play an outdoor concert at the Casper Events Center, while Saturday festivities include the Downtown Hoedown, a new event at David Street Station that includes more music from Lacy Nelson and the Jake Mauer Band, as well as mechanical bull riding, food trucks and more.
With competitors, their families and travelers coming to and through Casper for CNFR, there are plenty of ways kick up your heels in central Wyoming.
A downtown staple, Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters has 55,000 square feet that is full of all things Western, including custom-shaped hats, 10,000 pairs of cowboy boots and plenty of clothing options to get you decked out for the nightly CNFR performances. Plus, they’re celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.
The North Platte River also runs through the heart of Casper and offers some of the best fly-fishing in the country. And with up to 5,000 fish per mile, it’s a great location to cast a line, whether you’re a novice or expert fishermen. An added bonus: Casper is home to experienced fly shops and guides to take you on the river.
Casper also sits on the convergence of the Oregon, California, Mormon and Pony Express trails, with hundreds of thousands of pioneers and early settlers passing through on their way West. The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center sits less than a quarter mile away from the Casper Events Center, where CNFR is held, and introduces visitors to the incredible history of the area through immersive exhibits and hands-on learning opportunities. Plus, entry is free.
Additional boot-stomping highlights include hiking on Casper Mountain, walking along the Platte River Trails and visiting the Tate Geological Museum at Casper College to see Dee—a giant Columbian wooly mammoth—and abundant dinosaur fossils, including the skeleton of a T-rex that was found nearby.
Casper’s food and drink scene, along with its 192 restaurants, offers plenty of ways to taste Wyoming, from locally raised beef to hand-tossed pizza and mouthwatering barbeque. Take advantage of specials throughout CNFR, including daily happy hour at The Branding Iron in downtown from 2-6 p.m.
For more on planning a trip to this year’s CFNR and Casper, Wyoming, at www.VisitCasper.com.