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Chattin'

Susan Thomas, grand marshal for the Central Wyoming Fair & Rodeo Parade, stands for a portrait in the Star-Tribune building on June 26 in Casper. This year's parade theme is "Celebrating Wyoming Women."

This year’s Central Wyoming Fair & Rodeo Parade theme is “Celebrating Wyoming Women.” Wyoming native Susan Thomas is the grand marshal for Tuesday’s 10 a.m. parade through downtown Casper.

The parade will follow a new route this year, beginning at David Street Station and proceeding east on Second Street. A new handicapped accessible parking area for viewing is located at the old Ashley Furniture Store parking lot on Collins. Two “no squirt zones,” will be placed at the Elks Lodge on Center Street between Sixth and Seventh and at the handicapped accessible area in the old Ashley Furniture Store parking lot.

We chatted with Thomas about the honor and her thoughts on Wyoming women 150 years after suffrage was granted.

What was your initial reaction to being named grand marshal? All the women in Wyoming deserve this honor. I’m taking them all in the car with me.

Tell us a little bit about your upbringing. I was born at Barnum at the Hole in the Wall, the middle of five girls. Mother and dad (Toni and Harry Roberts) had sheep and cattle and horses. I went to a two-room schoolhouse before going to Buffalo High School.

You had to go out of state though for your degree? Yes, I got my bachelor’s in special education at the University of Northern Colorado, because at the time, Wyoming didn’t offer that specialty. Then I got my master’s from UW.

How did your dad get from Yale to Barnum? He studied ag and engineering at Yale and he always wanted to come west, so he did. He was a perfectionist and so when he was elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1966, he sold the ranch because he wasn’t able to be there to supervise all us girls. In addition to the sheep and cattle, we grew corn and alfalfa. It was very hard work and the five little girls helped the best we could. I’m sure we drove him crazy.

Part of your life has been very public (Thomas is the widow of U.S. Senator Craig Thomas, who served Wyoming in Congress, first in the House and then in the Senate, from 1989 to 2007). How do you think Wyoming women are received? I don’t view being a Wyoming woman as a negative at all. I don’t have any experience of anything bad happening because of it. I am a strong woman because I am honest and I honor everybody.

What advice do you have for Wyoming women? I think everybody — man or woman — should be fair. Pay attention to ways we can help others. I learned that on the ranch. You see something and you think, “there’s got to be a better way.” There are better ways to do things if we have our heart in it and we care.

The annual fair and rodeo has been a big part of your life. Talk about that. Mother and dad would load us all in the station wagon and we’d all come in for the fair. My sisters and I would hit the midway, and mother and dad would head for the Industrial Building and then we’d all meet, have a hot dog and head into the rodeo. Families can still do every part of that. It’s all about family, all about community. The rodeo is in the top 25 in the country out of 700 rodeos. It’s just a wonderful week for the family.

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Follow community news editor Sally Ann Shurmur on Twitter @WYOSAS

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Community News Editor

Sally Ann Shurmur arrived at the Star-Tribune to cover sports two weeks after graduating from the University of Wyoming and now serves as community news editor. She was raised in Laramie and is a passionate fan of Cowboys football, food and family.

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