By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Buffalo is in the spotlight for a new HGTV show that intends to give parts of the town a makeover.
But some residents fear the attention might backfire for the community with a population of 4,593 nestled at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains in northern Wyoming, best known for its annual “Longmire Days” festival.
The “Home Town Kickstart Presented by PEOPLE” program has three goals for each community it visits, according to HGTV.
First, refresh the home of a local hero; second, give a small business a beautiful upgrade; and third, reinvigorate a public space.
“I think it is a great thing for Buffalo and the people and small businesses,” said Krista Palmer, who has lived in Buffalo her entire life. “It will let people know how special a place Buffalo really is.”
Staff at Buffalo City Hall agree, according to City Clerk/Treasurer Julie Silbernagel.
“It all started with someone nominating Buffalo,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “I have no idea who nominated us, but production company representatives visited Buffalo this summer and determined that our town would be a good fit for the show.”
Buffalo is one of six communities selected from thousands of submissions to HGTV to receive this “kickstart.” Others selected for the show were Cornwall, New York, Winslow, Arizona, LaGrange, Kentucky, Thomaston, Georgia, and Minden, Louisiana.
According to the network, each communities will benefit from the expertise of the popular network stars used to lead the makeovers and added visibility from an appearance the popular magazine “People.”
“We are thrilled to highlight stories about everyday heroes working towards positive change in their communities,” commented Dan Wakeford, People magazine’s editor-in-chief.
But not everyone is excited about the attention. Comments on Sheridan Media’s story about the selection revealed concern by some residents.
“This a terribly sad thing,” said one commenter, who said he grew up in western Wyoming and watched his community be destroyed by development and media exposure. “Rural gentrification rips apart long standing communities and upends the values that make small towns special.”
On the other hand, some residents see this as an opportunity to breathe life into what is primarily a tourist town.
“Buffalo needs something that caters more to its locals,” said Penny Corbett, who has lived in Buffalo her entire life. “I, for one, am someone who shops out of town, shops on Amazon, because I don’t want to buy my kids and grandkids birthday presents at Family Dollar, nor do I want to buy a $55 blouse for my 5-year-old granddaughter at a downtown store.”
Corbett pointed out that since Shopko closed down a few years ago, the town doesn’t have any sort of department store that provides essentials for residents.
“When I was growing up, we had The Cobbler (shoe store),” she explained. “We had the New York Store and the Pants and Tops Shop. We had places in town where you could go and get what you needed.”
But because of the town’s small size, Corbett said residents pay more for services and goods in Buffalo than they might in nearby Sheridan (with more than three times Buffalo’s population), even though both towns are on interstate highways.
“One of the things that I’ve learned about Buffalo as an adult is that we pay higher shipping rates,” she said. “Nobody has an explanation for it. Two major interstates go through here — the gas truck has to drive right by Buffalo to get Sheridan, and yet (Sheridan’s) gas prices are lower than ours. Makes no sense.”
So from Corbett’s perspective, a little “revitalization” might go a long way towards giving the town a much-needed economic boost.
“To have somebody come in here, like HGTV, to help revitalize a downtown business and help maybe a couple of other stores that are trying to cater more towards locals, with a flair to attract tourists as well, it could show Buffalo in a different light.”