By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Coming off of a two-year hiatus, organizers weren’t sure what to expect from this year’s Longmire Days in Buffalo, which took place August 18-21.
Since 2012, the annual “Longmire Days” festival has brought together fans and cast members of the six-season television series, which ended its run on Netflix in 2017. COVID concerns caused the celebration to go virtual in 2020 and 2021.
But Longmire Foundation director Jennifer McCormick said the weekend celebration of the television and book series was definitely a success.
“It was a much smaller event than we’re used to,” McCormick told Cowboy State Daily. “But it was a great event for us to be able to get our feet wet again, after being two years virtual.”
After the 2019 event, the last time that “Longmire Days” was held in person, there were reports that up to 8,000 people attended. This year, though, less than a quarter of that number made the trip to Buffalo.
“We won’t get a really good number until we speak with our local police department, our local highway department, to see if they saw an uptick in traffic,” said McCormick, “and they compare it to the same weekend in the last year. That’s how we’ll figure all that out.”
Sold Out Sessions
McCormick said that despite the smaller numbers, every event that was scheduled for the long weekend was sold out.
“‘A Tale of Two Walts,’ we sold 700 tickets,” said McCormick, referring to a presentation that featured both the author of the series and the actor who plays Walt Longmire, Robert Taylor. “For each autograph session, we sold 150; our VIP reception we had 100 tickets – they were $250 each – and we sold them all.”
McCormick reported that two trail rides, in which fans and sponsors could spend quality time with Taylor on horseback, both sold out, as did the meal following the trail rides.
“We did 50 tickets for lunch and a cutting horse demonstration after the horseback rides,” she said. “We sold out of those.”
McCormick said the foundation board is meeting early next week to finalize the numbers and determine how much money was raised this year.
Because of the pandemic, the last two years have forced organizers to do an online-only event. But the series’ creator, author Craig Johnson, told Cowboy State Daily earlier this year that they were still able to raise a significant amount of funds that were given away to charity.
“We gave, I think, $30,000 to the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women’s Resource Center up in Lame Deer (Montana),” Johnson said, “and $10,000 to the Johnson County Search and Rescue, and I think close to another $10,000 in other donations throughout the course of the year.”
However, Johnson said that because of the dollars given away last year, there was less money available to spend organizing this year’s in-person Longmire Days event.
“I’m the one that pushed really hard last year to give as much money to the charities as we could,” he said. ”We gave away close to $50,000 last year, from a virtual Longmire Days, and so if anybody is to blame for cutting down a little bit this year like that, it’s probably my fault.”
McCormick said based on her interactions with visitors over the weekend, this smaller, more intimate version of the fan event was well received.
She said she was approached by a gentleman at the street dance on Saturday night who had come to Longmire Days five years in a row before the pandemic.
“He said that this was their favorite year so far, because it was so relaxed and laid back,” she said. “So it was a smaller event, and it was set very similar to the event we normally put on, but it was way more relaxed.”
In fact, she said nearly half of the attendees had come to Buffalo for the first time this year.
“We heard from them that they were really glad they came this year, because it wasn’t all go-go-go, they had time for a little side trips and time to get used to how the event operates before they come back next year,” she said.
One of those first-timers was Jen Kirby from Belton, Missouri, who came to Longmire Days fully prepared with her own “Deputy Vic Moretti” costume.
Kirby, herself an aspiring actress and freelance filmmaker, said she’s worked at large scale fan events, and praised the organizers of Longmire Days, especially McCormick and volunteer coordinator Dannielle Burton.
“This event exceeded all my expectations,” Kirby said. “It was very well organized, the staff and volunteers worked so hard and did a fantastic job with how much they were doing. Robert Taylor and Craig Johnson were very approachable and highly generous with their time.”
Even though Taylor was the only one of the cast members present for the event, Kirby said the trip was worth every penny she spent getting there.
“Robert Taylor is a very humble, fun, and outgoing person. I couldn’t have asked for a better event to attend, and I am definitely going to make it back next year to don my Victoria Moretti costume again!”