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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
It’s been two years since Walt and “The Ferg” patrolled the streets of Buffalo.
Robert Taylor and Adam Bartley, the actors who played Absaroka County Sheriff Walt Longmire and Deputy Sheriff Archie Ferguson in the television show “Longmire,” are returning to Buffalo, the inspiration for the fictional community of Durant.
“Longmire Days,” a festival centered on the books and television show created by local author Craig Johnson, is returning on August 18 – 21 after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
On the schedule for the four-day event are horseback rides, author talks, a live charity auction, a 5k fun run, a street dance, a rodeo, and of course, opportunities to interact with the show’s stars.
Although the television show itself ended in 2017, its characters live on in the hearts of fans.
The show, which ran for a total of six seasons, starred Robert Taylor, Katee Sackoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Cassidy Freeman, Bailey Chase, LouAnne Stephens, Zahn McClarnon, A Martinez and Adam Bartley, along with high-profile recurring guest stars like Peter Weller, Graham Greene, Charles S. Dutton and Gerald McRaney.
Of the regular cast, only Taylor and Bartley are confirmed to attend this year’s Longmire Days.
“We are thrilled to have Rob and Adam,” said Jennifer McCormick, director of the Longmire Foundation. “I think we’re five years past the TV series, so we’re excited that they still want to participate. Rob is coming clear from Australia for the event.”
“We couldn’t do Longmire days without Walt Longmire and Robert Taylor,” Johnson told Cowboy State Daily. “He was going to have to be on the short list of individuals that we would get here for Longmire days – and without his sidekick, Adam, the Ferg, that probably wouldn’t work either.”
The Longmire Foundation
The over-arching purpose of the annual festival is to raise money for charity, said McCormick.
“Last year, we were able to donate $30,000 to the national Indigenous women’s resource center,” she said. “We donated $10,000 to Johnson County Search and Rescue. We donate $5,000 a year to our local rodeo. It’s a good way for us to support something that is uniquely Western and is a huge benefit to our community.”
Johnson took the blame for having a slightly smaller budget for the event this year, saying he pushed to give away more funds after last year’s virtual event.
“We gave away close to $50,000 last year,” he said. “And so, if anybody is to blame for us cutting down a little bit this year, it’s probably my fault.”
But Johnson clarified that the charitable aspect of Longmire Days is what drives him to support it. every year.
“I’m kind of proud of the fact that the amount of money that we’ve given away to charity has grown practically every year,” he said, “to the point now where we’re giving away close to $50,000 a year, which is really kind of wonderful.”
Johnson said in order to plan the event with a smaller budget, charities had to be the priority.
“The thing we’re trying to make sure happens is that we don’t spend all of our money, and not have any money for charities,” he said. “Charities are really are kind of like the lifeblood and the whole purpose and reason behind Longmire days.”
But Johnson said he has hopes that next year, funding will allow for more cast members to attend.
“We have great hopes that next year we’ll be all back up on our feet, with the whole cast and everything,” he said, adding that the actors have been more than willing to work with organizers.
“They’ve been wonderful and understanding, what it is that we’re attempting to do,” Johnson said, “and why it is that we had to do it this year with a smaller cast.”
General Aadmission tickets, which are necessary to participate in any of the workshops or other special events, went on sale last week. McCormick said ticket sales are going well.
“We’re just kind of comparing it to the last two years, (which were) a virtual event, and we seem to be getting a great response,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “Ticket sales have been brisk yesterday, and then today. We’re still selling general admission tickets.”
Johnson said a new event on the schedule this year that he thinks will be of great interest to fans is called “The Hardware of Longmire.”
“We have a wonderful exhibit expert coming over from the Buffalo Bill Museum right there in Cody,” he said, explaining that the Firearms Museum at Buffalo Bill Center of the West recently put together an exhibit of the weapons used in the Longmire books and television show.
“They’ll discuss the weapons that are used in Longmire, and discuss which ones came over from the books, you know, why do we use them.”
Johnson said that event will also feature one of the unofficial cast members – Walt’s patrol vehicle, a beat-up Ford Bronco.
“I think we’re going to have one of the Broncos parked there at the Jim Gatchell for the event,” he said, “and people will be able to go over and get their photo taken with the Bronco.”
Other special events on the schedule include a new activity that McCormick said she is thrilled about.
“We’re working with the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum this year on a brand-new event that is going to be centered around the history of Johnson County,” she said, “with Robert and Adam doing diary readings and reading confessions of individuals from back during the Johnson County Cattle War.”
Additionally, Johnson plans to host a workshop for budding authors titled “So You Want To Write A Book,” featuring his publishing agent, Gail Hoffman; as well as a session led in which Johnson will partner with Taylor to talk about the differences between Walt the book character and Walt the television character.
“I came up with the original idea for Walt, and populated him from an awful lot of sheriffs that I know here in Wyoming and Montana,” said Johnson. “And I approached it as an author approaching a standalone book, and then a series of books.”
But Taylor had a completely different approach to bring the character of Walt Longmire to life, which Johnson said he noticed as soon as he watched Taylor’s audition.
“I actually voiced the opinion, I thought Robert was the most ‘sheriff-DNA’ actor that we had to try out for the role,” he said. “His approach, and how he built the character and how he decided different things that he wanted to do, and how he wanted to do it.”
“Hell And Back”
For the first time in the ten-year history of “Longmire Days,” the man who started it all will be previewing the next adventure of Walt, Deputy “Vic” Moretti, Henry Standing Bear, Walt’s daughter Cady, and the rest of the beloved cast of characters.
“I had viewers and readers and everybody that jumped all over me,” Johnson said. “They said, ‘How come when you’ve got a book coming out about two or three weeks later, we don’t get a book event at Longmire Days?’ And I was like, ‘That’s actually a really good question.’ Because it is an opportunity to do a little bit of a preview for the next book that’s coming out, which is I think number 18 in the series.”
Johnson’s “Longmire” books have been on the New York Times bestseller list since the beginning, and translated into about 30 languages. His latest book, “Hell And Back,” is slated for a Sept. 6 release.
But Johnson said he doesn’t know why he hasn’t thought to do an author talk at the annual event that celebrates his characters – but is remedying that oversight with an event on Thursday evening, August Aug. 18, at 7:00 p.m. titled “Hell and Back With Craig Johnson – A Longmire Novel Event.”
“It’s going to be just like a regular book event that will happen with the book tour a couple of weeks later,” he said.
Bringing Back the Live Events
Johnson said resuming the in-person event brings its own uncertainties.
“After not doing a live Longmire Days for two years, we’re kind of like walking-before-we-run kind of a thing,” he said, “because it’s an extraordinary amount of effort and labor. It’s something akin to herding cats, to a certain extent.”
Johnson said he was surprised at how well-received the virtual events have been the last two years.
“The virtual events were extraordinarily successful, much more successful than I thought they would be,” he said. “And that kind of opened up the event to a worldwide audience. And so, for a lot of people, for whatever the reasons are – their health, financial reasons, all these different things – they might not have ever gotten the chance to really partake in Longmire days.”
The Lasting Appeal of “Longmire”
Although production of the TV show ended more than five years ago, McCormick said there’s something about the show that keeps fans coming back to “Durant” year after year.
“I think they connect with Walt Longmire as a character – as something that they feel we’ve lost now in our way of life, as we get more modern in our society,” she said. “And I think a lot of people come out, too, because they’ve made so many great friends during Longmire days.”
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