(May 15, 2008) ─ What does Cheyenne, Wyo. and Waimea, Hawaii have in common? The answer may surprise you – cowboys and the rodeo!  One hundred years ago, in August 1908, newspaper headlines in Wyoming and Hawaii announced rodeo history when an unprecedented 12,000 spectators watched three Hawaiian paniolo—cowboys— carry off top awards at the world-famous Cheyenne Rodeo.  This initiated a strong bond between Cheyenne and Waimea, a fusion of two cultures that continues today.  In celebration of this centennial milestone, a delegation from Hawaii representing its ranching industry will visit July 18-27 during Cheyenne Frontier Days, bringing with them a sampling of Hawaii’s unique paniolo culture.  Additionally, the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum is currently holding an outstanding exhibit on the paniolo through November 15, 2008.


The Hawaiian delegation traveling to Cheyenne during Cheyenne Frontier Days is represented by the Paniolo Preservation Society (PPS) and its Waiomina (Hawaiian for Wyoming) Centennial Committee.  It includes musicians, artisans, dancers, pa’u riders (females riding in elegant Hawaiian garments) and paniolos from Parker Ranch, one of the oldest and largest ranches in the United States.  They will demonstrate at both the museum and rodeo grounds.

A reciprocal visit to Hawaii will be made in August by a Cheyenne delegation for the PPS-sponsored week-long Great Waiomina Centennial Celebration honoring these rodeo greats.  The celebration is to create awareness of the past, present and future importance of the Hawaiian ranching industry and crucial roles played by the paniolo in developing modern Hawaii. Festivities include trail rides, rodeos, concerts and educational components.  PPS emphasizes the roles of the paniolo, who date back more than 200 years. www.paniolopreservation.org  


The Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum exhibit celebrates the history Cheyenne has shared with Hawaii since 1908.  Its focus is on the impact that the three paniolos— Ikua Purdy, Eben “Rawhide Ben” Low, and Archie Kaaua— had on Cheyenne Frontier Days and the impact Cheyenne Frontier Days had on them.  The exhibit takes visitors back one hundred years to the time when destinies were born and legends were made.  Using popular media of the era, artifacts, educational interactives, and oral and dance traditions of Hawaii, visitors will understand how the culture of the paniolo was a natural fit for the events leading up to the rodeo, the competition itself and how their success fostered legends. 

“The Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum is proud to honor these three paniolos in their accomplishments,” says Wayne Hanson, museum director.  “One hundred years ago history was made, and this year we celebrate the paniolos who took away the breath of the American cowboys.  We also welcome the Hawaiian delegation and look forward to them enlightening our knowledge of the Hawaiian ranching traditions.”


The three Hawaiian paniolo competed in steer roping at the 1908 Cheyenne rodeo.  Unlike today’s calf-roping, riders back then lassoed powerful, full-grown steers.  Under drizzling skies, Purdy won the World’s Steer Roping Championship by roping, throwing and tying the steer in 56 seconds flat.  Kaaua and Low took third and sixth place respectively.  The Wyoming hosts were caught off guard by the paniolos exotic Hawaiian dress, native language and skill.  On arriving home in Hawaii, they were met by thousands of cheering fans, and honored by parades and festivities.  They literally put Hawaii on the map for the ranching world. 

In October 2007, Ikua Purdy was inducted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame with a Hawaiian delegation in attendance.  Citing the important role the paniolo has played in the maintenance and restoration of native traditions and culture, Hawaiian Governor Linda Lingle signed a proclamation declaring 2008 the Year of the Paniolo.  A 16-foot-high statue of Purdy atop a bronco still greets visitors to the Parker Ranch Shopping Center in Waimea.

Paniolo art photography available from the Old West Museum or at 214-252-0900.

Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum

Founded in 1978, the museum is dedicated to interpreting, conserving and exhibiting the history and material culture of Cheyenne, Cheyenne Frontier Days, the state of Wyoming and the American West.  Hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. weekdays and from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. weekends, with extended hours of  8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily during Cheyenne Frontier Days July 18-27.  Admission is $7.00 for adults and free for children 12 and under. www.oldwestmuseum.org  307-778-7290.  Visit Cheyenne Frontier Days at www.cfdrodeo.com.


About Cheyenne, Wyoming

Wyoming’s capital city is located just 90 miles north of Denver at the intersection of I-25 and I-80 on the high plains.  With a comfortable population of approximately 55,000, Cheyenne sits as the northern anchor of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.  The city’s slogan, “Cheyenne, Live the Legend,” is an invitation to explore and step back into the Old West.  The city is considered the nation’s rodeo and railroad capital, with a strong business and economic base.  Cheyenne is home to museums; historic hotels and mansions; casual to upscale restaurants; a collection of steam engines; western-themed attractions and shopping; resorts and ranches; golf courses; botanic gardens; and a thriving art community.  Soft adventure is only 25 miles west.  For more on this magical place that captures the imagination of the American West, visit Cheyenne online at www.cheyenne.org.