LCCC’s Zink saddles up as CFD volunteer

Bill Zink in front of a bull statue and the carnival at Cheyenne Frontier DaysCHEYENNE, Wyoming – It seems as though destiny has always called Bill Zink to Cheyenne Frontier Days. 

Zink, Plant Operations director at Laramie County Community College, is a long-time volunteer at CFD, the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration held each year at the end of July. For decades, he has dedicated his time to occupying various important roles that make the massive cultural event a success each year. 

The journey began in 1992 when Zink, an airman in the U.S. Air Force, came to Cheyenne with the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds are the Air Force’s elite aerial demonstration squadron whose pilots for years put on breathtaking shows for CFD crowds. Zink, who was in charge of the team’s aerospace ground equipment, was immediately attracted to the welcoming culture he found at CFD. 

“They treated us well, and I got to know a lot of people that first year who I got to know better in the next couple of years,” he said. “After I left the Thunderbird team, they said, ‘You need to come up and volunteer and have a good time.’ So I actually kept coming up.” 

An Indiana native, Zink’s career in the Air Force took him to various communities across the U.S. and South Korea, but all through the 1990s, he would always find his way back to volunteering at Frontier Days. At one point, his orders even brought him to F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne. 

“It was a fluke, or it was destiny,” Zink said with a laugh. 

In 2001, Zink took a role on the important Concessions Committee, which oversees all activities pertaining to the carnival midway and the food and beverage concessions, exhibits and free entertainment “The Garden” area at Frontier Park. 

Zink would help to stand up the all-important Volunteer Crisis Fund, which was established to provide emergency monetary assistance to the CFD volunteer family when faced with adversity.  Through fundraising efforts dating back to 2007, the community's support has allowed the fund to provide 173 families with more than $417,000 in financial assistance.

He said he’s even been able to benefit from the fund’s assistance in a time of need. 

“When my son passed away, they helped pay for the funerals,” Zink said. “It’s a really important organization.” 

These days, Zink puts much of his volunteering effort toward the Heels of Cheyenne Frontier Days. During the Great Depression, CFD nearly was lost to history as organizers could no longer afford to pay staff to support the event, as had been the case up to that point. 

“They couldn’t afford to pay people,” Zink said. “That’s when a group of businessmen in Cheyenne got together, understanding they needed to support Frontier Days because it helped the community. They said, ‘We’d be heels if we didn’t volunteer to work out there.’ That first group that volunteered at CFD was called the Heels.”

For Zink, the nature of the work speaks to what keeps him returning to Frontier Days. The grit demonstrated by the original Heels that established the volunteer tradition at CFD, as well as the Volunteer Crisis Fund, makes clear that people’s hearts are in the right place. 

“I have friends out there who would help out with anything in an instant,” Zink said. “They’ll bend over backward to help you.”

After 22 years in the Air Force, Zink retired and moved to Indiana to be near family. One day in 2012 while at CFD, Zink opened a copy of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Cheyenne’s local newspaper. A job opening at Laramie County Community College caught his eye. It all may have seemed too perfect to believe he could return to settle in the community so close to his heart, but Zink applied for the job anyway. A few weeks later, he was hired at LCCC and was moving his family to Cheyenne. 

This year, Zink will be focused on managing the Heels’ 50/50 Raffle. The proceeds all go to charity, with $14,000 donated in 2022. 

Whether it’s through charitable donations, economic vitality brought to southeast Wyoming by CFD or just the fact that it provides a source of entertainment for thousands, Zink sees the value CFD brings to the community. That, he said, is something he wants to continue to be a part of. 

“It’s tremendous how much (CFD) brings to the county and the city,” Zink said. “Everyone has their own opinion about CFD, but I think it’s a good organization that does a lot of good for the community. So, I try to help out as much as I can.”