By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Excitement is building in Buffalo, as townspeople gear up for an influx of fans from all over the world beginning Thursday.
“Longmire Days,” an annual celebration of the characters and stories created by local author Craig Johnson, kicks off on Thursday in the town that inspired the book series and television show.
“I am finalizing and double checking everything,” said Jennifer McCormick, director of the Longmire Foundation in Buffalo. “From making sure that our scheduling is all good for horseback rides, and making sure that the T.A. Ranch is ready and prepared, which they always are, down to making sure we have enough sharpies.”
This is the first year the celebration has taken place since the pandemic shut down the event in 2020. McCormick said that although the virtual events were successful the last couple of years, it’s exciting to have the live celebration again. And ticket sales are going well, she added.
“We’ve noticed an uptick in that, so more people are planning to come, even last minute,” said McCormick.
Johnson’s fictional Wyoming Sheriff, Walt Longmire, is the central character of both the book series and the television show that first attracted fans to the little town of Buffalo, nestled at the base of the Bighorn Mountains in northeast Wyoming.
The Sheriff is also a main draw for those who may travel hundreds – even thousands – of miles to be immersed in the community that is the inspiration for Durant, the fictional town in fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming.
“We couldn’t do Longmire days without Walt Longmire and Robert Taylor,” Johnson told Cowboy State Daily.
But this year, Taylor is the only member of the cast who will be on hand for the event. Adam Bartley, who portrays Longmire’s trusty deputy, “The Ferg,” has had to cancel his appearance at the last minute.
“I was so excited to see you all and will greatly miss being with you in Absaroka,” Bartley told fans in an email. “I got a gig and we couldn’t work it out, but I tried. I will definitely see you at the next one.”
Schedule of Events
Tickets are still available for some of the events scheduled over the four-day weekend, but a few have already sold out, according to McCormick.
“We’re sold out on the autograph sessions,” she said. “We have two of those, we run one on a Friday, and one on Saturday. And so those sold out really quickly. There were 300 tickets available.”
McCormick said the autograph sessions are popular because it’s a chance for fans to get up close and personal to their favorite actors – but it’s a long couple of hours for the cast.
“It takes a lot to do an autograph session,” said McCormick. “We have them sit in one place for hours at a time. But they love getting to meet the fans and talk to everybody and hear the stories.”
Also sold out is the opening event, a trail ride with Taylor Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m.
“The horseback ride is always super popular and sells out quickly,” said McCormick. “This year we (scheduled) two different rides of 15 (horses) each, to get a little more intimate for the fans who were able to get tickets to that.”
The author is very involved in the celebration, as well. Johnson will lead a discussion of the cars and sidearms of the books and the television series on Thursday, which will be followed by a presentation of some of the history of Johnson County, as well as a session focused on Johnson’s upcoming book, “Hell and Back.”
“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 told Cowboy State Daily.
Friday’s events kick off with a 5k fun run, followed by an autograph session, a conversation with the celebrities, and a live charity auction. Saturday’s highlights include a pancake breakfast, another autograph session, and a talk featuring the perspectives of both versions of Walt Longmire – the author’s take, and the actor who portrays him.
“I came up with the original idea for Walt, and kind of populated him from an awful lot of sheriffs that I know here in Wyoming and Montana,” said Johnson. “(And Robert had) his approach in how he built the character, and how he decided different things that he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it.”
Saturday will wrap up with a street dance, followed the next morning by another horseback ride, a rodeo, and a pig roast to close out the event.
Action At the Occidental
David Stewart, who has owned the Occidental Hotel for 16 years, told Cowboy State Daily their historic hotel in the center of downtown is always a hub for activity in the summer. This week, he said, won’t be much different.
“We have a jam session every Thursday night that we’ve had going on for 16 years,” said Stewart. “So there’ll be that jam session Thursday night, and then Friday and Saturday we’ll just have regular regular music beginning at eight o’clock.”
Stewart said he’s expecting the bar to be especially full if Taylor happens by.
“Robert Taylor is the main guy so people love to come see him,” he said. “He loves hanging out at the Occidental, so anytime that he’s here, the saloon is packed.”
Broad Fan Base
Buffalo is not generally considered a hub for international travel, but McCormick said she’s expecting fans to come from across the globe.
“I had a call from a lady in England the other day who didn’t think she was going to be able to make it,” said McCormick, “but now she is – so she just wanted to call to let me know she’s on her way.”
She said in years past, whole groups of fans have traveled to Buffalo for Longmire Days.
“We’ve had book clubs from Australia,” McCormick said. “We’ve had fan groups from all over Europe. It’s been amazing what Longmire has done for our community, and for the Longmire fan community.”
“It’ll be a busy weekend,” said Stewart. “We look forward to it.”