CHEYENNE, Wyo. — About 60 percent of Cheyenne Frontier Days’ 2,900 volunteers are over the hill.
That’s according to Andrea Allen, chairwoman of the CFD Indians Committee and head of the Recognize, Retain and Recruit (RRR) Subcommittee.
Allen said the RRR Subcommittee’s annual volunteer satisfaction survey shows the majority of the volunteers are older than 40.
“We really have a gap in that 20-30 range. If we can get them interested when they’re in high school, maybe we can get those 20-year-olds to volunteer,” she said.
That’s why the RRR Subcommittee started the Youth Volunteer Program this year. It’s an effort to bring in new volunteers aged 14-18.
George Geyer, director of the Youth Volunteer Program, said he and his coordinators, Kayla Foster and Amanda Trammell, first began seeking applicants to the program in January. They have 15 teens participating now.
“We had no idea how many we were going to get,” Geyer said, though he added that they wanted to keep it fairly small during the first year.
Geyer said that among efforts to reach teens, he and his coordinators worked with Laramie County School District 1 to send information to student organizations, such as DECA, FFA and Future Business Leaders of America.
Each participant receives a volunteer badge, a 10-day carnival armband and a Youth Volunteer Program T-shirt, Geyer said.
He explained that they divided the kids into three smaller groups, and they are rotating those groups between the 10 CFD committees to let the kids get a feel for what each committee does.
Those committees include Rodeo, Indians, Tickets, Grounds, Security, Contract Acts, Military, Concessions, Public Relations and Parades.
Foster said it’s important for the teens to try out the committees because sometimes it’s hard to switch committees if someone decides the committee they’re on isn’t a good fit.
“This way they kind of get a taste of every committee and then can pick for themselves,” she said.
Foster began volunteering on the Concessions Committee at 16 and stayed for six years before switching to the Indians Committee last year.
Geyer said the chairman of each committee selected a mentor to teach the teens about the committees. Those mentors show the kids what the committee members do during work days and during the week-long show.
“Today is a great example,” Geyer said. On Sunday a few teens gathered with veteran volunteers to paint the steps and platform to Chute 9, where the announcer’s box is located within the arena.
Cole Allen, 14, said he joined the program because it helped him get involved in the community and because his friends joined too. He helped paint the stairs Sunday.
Karl Brennecke, 15, and his brother Karrol, 14, also helped.
Karl said he currently serves on the Parades Committee, but the program allowed him to learn more about other committees. He said he likely will switch to the Rodeo Committee when he turns 18.
Cole said it is difficult to find time for the program, however. All three boys are teen rodeo contestants.
Geyer said he will hand out a questionnaire to all the teens after CFD ends and ask them what they thought of and learned from the experience, and if they identified what committee they might want to join.
“If they’re old enough, I have applications available and they’ll be able to sign up for a committee,” Geyer said. The committees have various age limits, depending on the job requirements.
Geyer said you have to be 21 to serve on the Contract Acts Committee, but only 14 to serve on the Parades Committee.
Teens who aren’t old enough for the committee they want to serve on can continue in the Youth Volunteer Program next year, Geyer said.
He or Dawn Thompson, CFD’s volunteer coordinator, will send out notification that they are accepting applications to the program ahead of time.
Foster said the program will allow the teens to begin volunteering together and grow into the regular volunteer force together.
“Everyone was older and had been doing it for so long, and I didn’t have anyone to really talk to or relate,” she said.
Allen said the program also offers the teens experience toward qualifying for CFD’s scholarships.
But above all, they want the kids to enjoy the experience.
“We just want to make it an enjoyable experience for the kids. This is a big deal. It’s the world’s largest outdoor rodeo,” Geyer said.
Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com