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I want to talk about dirt.

I spent part of Thursday at the Casper Events Center learning about everything that goes into putting on the country’s paramount college rodeo. What I took away from it was a lot of dirt — figuratively and literally.

In the literal sense: I wore the wrong shoes and left with a lot of dirt in my sneakers, yes. But in the figurative sense, I left with a deep respect for the quantity of dirt it takes to turn the events center into a rodeo arena.

Before I get to the good stuff (the dirt) you should know how this article was reported. I did not plan to use any of this information for my weekly column. I went to the events center Thursday with a genuine curiosity about what went into preparing the space for the week’s events. In the course of reporting that story, I found another one.

One of the things I struggle with most about being a reporter is deciding what ends up in the final article. When we do our jobs right, we end up with a lot of information, and not all of it fits into the story we end up writing. I think you will enjoy the story that grew from this effort, which will be in tomorrow’s paper, but the dirt is the unfortunate martyr of that process.

Still, I wanted to recognize the process I wasn’t able to write about in that story. Hence the dirt.

A crew of about two dozen people comes to the Events Center a week before the College National Finals Rodeo actually begins. Some of them are local high school students, a lot of them are rodeo coaches or otherwise have been involved with CNFR since it started in Casper.

Anyway, the crew shows up Monday morning at 5 a.m. and waits for the dirt. And it’s no small amount. Two thousand tons of dirt is delivered by Natrona County Road and Bridge. It comes in semitrucks that are driven straight into the Events Center. The dirt is dumped and the crew starts combing it out and flattening it down.

The dirt this year was pretty wet, according to the crew members, so they had to add sand.

Thirteen dump truck loads of sand! (I’m not allowed to use expletives, but you see what I mean, right? Like, wow.)

Anyway, they mix it all together and when everything is said and done, dirt is everywhere. Dirt surrounds the outside of the center where the animals and contestants will wait to compete, and dirt coats the cement floor where the competition will actually take place. In the arena, the dirt is 14 to 18 inches deep. Again, crazy.

Okay, so after the dirt is all set, the crew sets up the big green stainless steel panels that become the tunnels and stockades where the animals are kept. It takes two people to put up the small panels, more for the large ones. It takes the better part of a day to get those up.

After that there are a lot of smaller details that get ironed out. The banners and signs with the sponsors go around the arena and against some of the bleachers. And then the crew goes around and spray paints the panels to touch up any spots where the paint has chipped or looks rough. It’s a lot of work and the crew spends 9-12 hour days getting things ready.

CNFR is a huge event for Casper. It brings in thousands of people and highlights the talents of superb college athletes. But I also think it’s cool to recognize the people behind the scenes who make it happen.

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Follow city reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @morganhwrites.

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Local Government Reporter

Morgan Hughes primarily covers local government. After growing up in rural Wisconsin, she graduated from Marquette University in 2018. She moved to Wyoming shortly after and covered education in Cheyenne before joining the Star-Tribune in May 2019.

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