It was Nov. 17, 2017, when fans of the popular television series “Longmire” were last able to watch a new episode featuring their favorite Wyoming sheriff, Walt Longmire, and his friends (and enemies).
In Episode 10 of the sixth season on Netflix, followers of the series watched their hero ride off into the mountains in search of treasure in an episode titled “Goodbye Is Always Implied.”
And that’s the last we’ve seen of Longmire.
On screen, at least.
Every year since the show ended, love for “Longmire” is revived as fans meet their favorite television characters at the annual “Longmire Days” celebration in Buffalo.
And despite the last episode having aired more than five years ago, plans are in place to hold Longmire Days again this summer, July 20-23.
Jennifer McCormick, director of the Longmire Foundation, said that at least “Longmire” stars have committed to attend.
• Rob Taylor, the actor who portrays Walt Longmire.
• Louanne Stephens, who plays dispatcher Ruby.
• A Martinez, who portrays casino executive Jacob Nighthorse.
McCormick told Cowboy State Daily that organizers of the event are still in talks with the rest of “their” actors, many of whom continue to come to Buffalo each year to celebrate the show.
“They kind of belong to us,” she said. “It’s like the way you talk about how your family is ‘yours.’”
Drawn To Durant
Wyoming author Craig Johnson created Sheriff Walt Longmire and based his adventures in Buffalo, changing its name to “Durant,” and setting the town in the fictional county of “Absaroka.”
Since 2004 when his first book “The Cold Dish” was released, readers have followed the adventures of the aging sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, and his band of devoted friends: Vic Moretti, Walt’s deputy and lover; Cady Longmire, his daughter and the mother of his beloved granddaughter, Lola; Henry Standing Bear, Walt’s best friend and a member of the Cheyenne tribe; and Lucian Connolly, his mentor and the former sheriff of Absaroka County.
With the exception of holding Longmire Days virtually twice because of COVID-19, the town of Buffalo has celebrated its most famous fictional son annually since 2017, inviting fans to come to Wyoming, meet their favorite actors and live a little of what makes Wyoming and the West unique.
And despite a growing window of years since the last episode aired, McCormick said organizers are amazed each year the show not only retains its popularity, it’s grown as people continue to discover the show, which is still available on Netflix.
“People are showing up as if the show is still making new episodes,” she said. “They’re still watching it, they’re still in it. They’re still discovering it.”
McCormick said that many new fans of the series found the show when they were shut in during the pandemic.
“Longmire trended in the top 10 on Netflix throughout the pandemic,” she said. “People were discovering it because they were working from home or they were home with kids, so they were just checking out more and more new stuff.
“And they were really turning on to Longmire.”
Declining Numbers Not A Deterrent
McCormick said that at the peak of its popularity, Longmire Days attracted an estimated 10,000 people who flocked to Buffalo to get a glimpse of their favorite actors and go behind the scenes with their beloved characters.
When COVID forced the suspension of the live event in 2020 and 2021, there was some concern the in-person celebration might suffer in 2022 – and it did, with just over 2,000 people attending.
But organizers were delighted to discover at last year’s Longmire Days that an overwhelming majority of the attendees were new to the event.
“We did some polling during some of our larger events, and we believe that fully 70% of our crowd was first-time Longmire fans,” said McCormick. “And half of those people had never even heard of the event before last year.”
Concern about pandemic travel was only one of the contributing factors to last year’s lower numbers. McCormick said the foundation had limited funding to bring actors to last year’s August event, but made sure they at least could bring in the highest-profile celebrity – Taylor, who lives in Australia.
“Once you buy that plane ticket from Australia, that was a huge expense,” she said. “But this year, everything seems to be falling into place.”
Hope For The Future
McCormick said the actors who starred in the six-season show forged a bond that has remained past the end of the series.
“I think they became an actual family while they were filming together,” she said. “I see posts on Instagram, Facebook, where they’ll all be getting together, ‘Hey, we were all in LA at the same time,’ and they’re all drinking beer in somebody’s backyard, hanging out.
“And we’re blessed for that because they all still want to see each other, so it’s helpful to our event that they have formed this connection with each other.”
That relationship, along with devoted fans that attend year after year, gives McCormick hope that Longmire Days will continue.
“Our fans usually comment on social media posts, and they’re all wanting to know the dates, they’re really interested in coming back this year,” she said.
And the legend of Walt Longmine may greatly outlive the timeline of his exploits. One only has to look at what fans of the original “Star Trek” series – Trekkies – have created. That series only lasted three seasons, but continues to grow and build a following across the more than five decades since it went off the air.
“We’ll see what our numbers look like this year, ” said McCormick, “and if we draw numbers like we did back in 2017, who knows what will happen next year.”