Over 999,000 readers this year!

Market organizers, county commissioners reach consensus on Cowboy Christmas scheduling conflict

The Cowboy Christmas Market will retain its second-weekend dates for December 2024 at Event Center at Archer.

Cheyenne business owners, vendor organizers and county commissioners meet with one another Thursday for a public meeting inside the County Commissioner Board Room in Cheyenne. (Jared Gendron/Cap City News)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Laramie County Board of Commissioners and a local vendor planning organization have come to an agreement regarding a scheduling conflict at Event Center at Archer.

On Thursday afternoon, event organizers with the Cheyenne-based, women-owned organization Simplicity 307 Vendor & Event met with the Laramie County Board of Commissioners and director of Event Center at Archer to discuss the board’s controversial decision to bring East High School’s Charlie Lake Wrestling Competition to the Event Center at Archer. The sports tournament takes place on the second weekend of December, which is when Simplicity 307’s hugely successful Cowboy Christmas Market has taken place over the past four years.

Thursday’s meeting, which took place inside the Laramie County Commissioners Board Room, served as a follow-up to Simplicity 307’s public meeting with Commissioner Troy Thompson on Dec. 3. Around 40 members of the public sat in on Thursday’s meeting.

Simplicity 307 chief operating officer Lindsey Taylor Groves reiterated much of the same statements her organization made to Commissioner Thompson at their previous meeting. To begin Thursday’s meeting, Groves told commissioners that rescheduling the Cowboy Christmas Market would produce an economic ripple effect that “wipes out money that goes right back into the community.” 

Local businesses and other fundraisers, such as the Alta Vista Craft Show and Christmas House holiday vendor events, have already locked in their 2024 holiday vendor dates, Groves stated. Each of these annual events have historically taken place on the first weekend of December. So although Simplicity 307 is open to the idea of rescheduling its Cowboy Market for 2025 and beyond, changing plans for 2024 will bring about detriments to Laramie County businesses all around.

The 2022 Cowboy Christmas Market. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Tompkins/Simplicity 307 Vendor & Events)

Impact statements

Vendors, local organizations and shoppers have felt so passionate and distressed by the scheduling conflict that they have penned impact statement letters to Simplicity 307. In total, 21 separate entities reached out to Simplicity to express how the commissioners’ proposed changes would impact their businesses and livelihoods.

The overwhelming consensus Simplicity has heard from vendor partners is that they want to continue holding Cowboy Christmas on the second weekend of December.

“The vendors, we listen to them, just like you listen to your constituents and voters,” Groves said, addressing the five commissioners. “They don’t want it. They’re saying they don’t want it right now for two weekends. They just want one.”

The Women’s Civic League of Cheyenne, which hosts Christmas House, stated it anticipates raising only 30% of its normal profits for 2024 if Christmas Market were to change to the first December weekend. Last year, Christmas House raised $60,000, all of which was dispersed back into the community in the form of grants and scholarships, Women’s Civic League of Cheyenne treasurer Deb Fairchild said at the Jan. 3 meeting.

“Many of our vendors participate in both shows and since the other one is much larger, we would not be able to fill our spaces,” Alta Vista Elementary School records clerk Casey Candiracci said in a letter. “This would likely make us cancel our craft show, which is a disservice to the vendors we have had a partnership with for the last 32 years.”

The Cheyenne Winter Farmer’s Market would also lose all but five of its vendors if it competed with Cowboy Christmas Market, another letter stated. The farmer’s market usually receives 24 sellers total.

One writer stated that, quite literally, Cowboy Christmas Market changed their life. The event helps provide them with income to support their family, including their disabled partner, as well as other local vendors who are trying to make it through the holidays.

Another pair of business owners describe how the proposed changes would impact their operation: “Personally, this change means that I must choose between two events that carry my small business through the off months,” the letter states. “The probability of our business surviving the loss of potential income is bleak at best in this economy. … The Cowboy Christmas Market has become a standing tradition. It brings in people from several surrounding states, who pour their dollars into the Cheyenne economy.”

County commissioner concerns

At Thursday’s meeting, Commissioner Gunnar Malm sought clarity as to why placing the market on the second weekend of December would be more beneficial than on the first weekend. Groves and the other Simplicity partners say that moving their Christmas Market to coincide with Alta Vista and Christmas House means each event would be competing with one another. Vendors who normally set up shop at both Christmas House and Cowboy Christmas would be forced to attend only one event, reducing potential profits for everyone.

Furthermore, the Cowboy Christmas Market wouldn’t be as successful to vendors if it’s on the third weekend of December. As Groves explains, people typically finish shopping prior to the weekend before Christmas. Placing the market on the third weekend of December would result in significantly less foot traffic.

Commissioner Gunnar Malm, center, speaks during a public meeting about the Event Center at Archer scheduling conflict Thursday inside the County Commissioner Board Room in Cheyenne. (Jared Gendron/Cap City News)

Chairman Brian Lovett pressed Simplicity 307 to comment on the market’s potential safety concerns, particularly about the high volume of attendants who visit the market in just one weekend. According to Groves, the market attracted between 8,000 and 10,000 attendees across two days in 2023.

“I’m concerned, if there was a fire or some type of emergency in the building where now it’s to the point where people are evacuating,” Lovett said. “So in my mind, going to two weekends might be part of the answer to that.”

Commissioner Buck Holmes shared similar sentiments, stating that Simplicity 307 could be limited in the future due to the growing number of attendees and limited space available to people allowed in the venue.

Groves said Simplicity 307 is willing to work with county officials to address safety concerns. However, vendors have communicated with Groves and other Simplicity organizers about the possibility of moving the event to two weekends.

Linda Heath was the first of the commissioners to speak in favor of honoring Cowboy Christmas Market’s 2024 date. Heath previously told Cap City News that she was in favor of supporting local businesses, which she reiterated at Thursday’s meeting. She said she recognizes the economic impact changing the market’s date would cause.

“I want to see a solution here,” Heath said. “I think it’s perfectly reasonable for 307 to ask for the date for this year and then move forward with the wrestling tournament in 2025. … I think we owe that to our small business community.”

Following brief discussions, Lovett and rest of the commissioners came around to Heath’s proposed solution.

“Linda makes a valid point,” Lovett said. “These are all decisions that are going to be difficult. … It seems to me we came here to find a path forward. I feel like we have one.”

Near the end of the discussion, an audience member vocalized her gratitude to both Simplicity 307 and the commissioners for coming to a consensus.

“It just shows our children, if there’s a problem, there’s always a solution,” the crowd member said. “It may not be the nicest way or the best way, but we can come together. That’s one of the things I love about Wyoming, and particularly Cheyenne, is we can make it happen together.”

Simplicity 307 stated on Facebook it had received its venue contracts and counter-signatures from Event Center at Archer events director Dan Ange on Friday morning.