CFD Hall of Fame honors contributors
Cheyenne – “I started with Cheyenne Frontier Days when I was five years old, riding in my first parade,” said Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame Class of 2010 inductee April Jones at the Sept. 15 ceremony at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum.
The daughter of Al Belecky, a HEEL and chuck wagon outrider, and Fern Belecky, a flag bearer, April was involved in Frontier Days since even younger than age five. After many years in the event, she was chosen as Lady-in-Waiting to Miss Frontier 1961, Mary Weppner.
April’s husband T.V. “Tommy” Jones joined her in the 2010 class of Hall of Fame inductees. April and T.V. met in 1961, while T.V. was working with the Wyoming Stockman Farmer and was hired to announce the Chuck Wagon Races at Frontier Days, as well as night show events.
“I was an aspiring young announcer, and I wanted to announce Cheyenne,” said T.V. at the ceremony. “They took me on to do the chuck wagon races and slack events. The first year I announced the chuck wagon races I did it out of the box, and couldn’t see anything. We had a spotter on the backtrack with a telephone, and he’d give me the placings as they were running. The race was a figure eight around the barrels, then around the track, and all hell would break loose.”
“It was truly exciting,” said T.V. of announcing the races. “They came from the north, and it was truly a sound of ‘thunder out of the north.’ It was a phenomenal event, and a lot of fun, and I’m sorry it’s gone. It’s a great part of Cheyenne’s history of Frontier Days.”
T.V. went on to announce the “Thunder Out of the North” for the next 32 years.
Meanwhile, as Miss Frontier Days 1962, April instituted an important organization to the grand entry.
“The grand entry was such a mismash when I was Miss Frontier, so I took it upon myself to organize it,” said April, adding she realized many girls passed the grandstand before or after their name was called. In 1963 she began doing a line up for the announcer, and continued to do so for over 20 years, in both parades and grand entries.
In addition to their visible involvement in Frontier Days, April and T.V. hosted many of the notable people who attended Frontier Days. As night show committee hosts for 15 years, they entertained the likes of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Roy Clark, Tanya Tucker, Barbara Mandrell and Pete Fountain.
T.V. said at one point their kids met two cowboys in Denver, Colo. at the National Western Stock Show, and told them to stay with them when they were in Cheyenne. “Those first two who came were Glenn MacElvay and Lane Frost. They stayed in our ‘bullrider bunkhouse’ downstairs, and we never knew if it would be four or 14 coming up the stairs the next morning. And April, with all she was already doing, would fix a big dinner for all of them. Nobody ever knows all the things she does through the course of Frontier Days.”
In 1980, they were also founding members of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Western Art Show – a chief fundraiser for the CFD Old West Museum.
“April and I went to North Platte, Neb., where they had a good art show already, and if we had known how little we knew about what we were getting into, we wouldn’t have stayed five minutes,” said T.V. “The first year we went to North Platte and Phoenix, Ariz., and came up with 26 artists. They told us if we made money in the first five years we’d be lucky, and that most art shows die within three years. After the first year we made $13, and we’ve never looked back.”
Over the course of time, T.V. said the art show has generated over $3.5 million for the CFD Old West Museum. “It’s been a labor of love,” he said.
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.