CHEYENNE – 2020 was supposed to be a banner year for Nate Janousek’s Fun Biz Inc.
It was the year the company was going to take over as the new concessionaire at Cheyenne Frontier Days, unveiling a line of new and classic fair food made fresh daily.
But as everyone knows, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and caused most of Wyoming’s rodeos, including the “Daddy of ‘em All,” to be canceled. Nothing like this had ever happened before in CFD’s more than 120 years in operation.
Janousek was disappointed, but he also felt like he could take the downtime as an opportunity. He knew everyone was expecting a typical midway experience when they get their food and drinks at CFD, and he wanted to blow those ideas out of the water.
“We want people to know they’re the most important part of this operation out here,” Janousek said. “For us, the experience starts from the time they step onto the food court.”
So Janousek has spent the last year taking his time improving the concessions area on the midway, redoing the layout and implementing many new upgrades, literally from the bottom to the top.
“We laid down new asphalt so no one will slip, trip or fall,” he said. “We’ve leveled everything and asphalted, so it has a much nicer look.”
The company has also added in a number of hand-washing and sanitizing stations throughout the midway.
They have also installed a new point-of-sale system that allows for touchless transactions and will provide receipts for everything purchased. Cash and credit cards will be accepted at all of the vendors.
Plus, the food served will only be of the highest quality, with nothing frozen being sold out of the Fun Biz kitchens. Some of this year’s menu items include Nathan’s hot dogs, a Fruity Pebbles shrimp po’boy, tater twisters, all types of barbecue (Janousek particularly hyped up Fun Biz’s smoked brisket), chicken and steak kabobs and turkey legs, just to name a few of the options that will be available daily at the midway.
There will also be a few third-party vendors selling food, such as authentic Chinese dishes, but Janousek assured everyone he works with has been vetted and serves top-notch items.
“We don’t have anything phoned in,” he said. “When we started looking for suppliers, I knew that if we wanted to sell chicken tenders, we wanted to buy locally sourced chicken and fry it fresh. We don’t have a lot of processed products here.”
However, it’s not just food that Janousek has been working on improving. Fun Biz has also gone through all of the CFD kitchens and repaired or replaced anything that needed it, along with repainting and making minor improvements throughout the area.
Fun Biz has also created some small stage areas throughout the midway to provide some other fun activities for the children coming through, such as musicians, balloon artists and more.
They are also bringing back the Buckle Club, the steakhouse at the top of Exhibit Hall. Janousek said he brought in a team from Minneapolis to reimagine the space, and noted that when a customer gets in the vicinity of the restaurant, they will notice a change.
“The menu is drastically different, but this is going to be the best restaurant in town during the rodeo,” he said. “It’s super important to us that people come into the Buckle Club and feel like they’re in an awesome restaurant space.”
Reservations for the Buckle Club can be made through Yelp, but walk-in customers will be able to get a seat at the restaurant.
CFD Concessions Committee chairman Brad Westby praised Fun Biz for the work they have put into improving the midway over the last year.
“When you get to the park this year, you will notice the paving and new food court layout prepared specifically for the 125th ‘Daddy of ‘em All,’” Westby said. “They will still have the carnival food that we have grown accustomed to, like funnel cakes, and added new selections that our customers will be excited to try.”
But the concessions area isn’t the only thing to see something new this year. Carnival Americana owner Alan Cockerham said there will be two added thrill rides to the midway: the Rainbow and the Cuda (like Barracuda).
“The Rainbow is more family oriented – one where parents and grandparents can ride with the kids,” Cockerham said. “Whereas the Cuda is better for more mature riders, like teenagers and adults.”
Westby added that the CFD General Committee rode the Rainbow and can attest to how fun it was.
The CFD midway will be open daily from 10:30 a.m. to midnight. Season armbands to ride the rides on the midway are $130, while a daily armband is $30.
Ellen Fike is a freelance writer living in Cheyenne. She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @EllenLFike.