The Roundup: A Conversation With Rick Hoeninghausen

This week, host Wendy Corr has a conversation with Rick Hoeninghausen, who has been the Marketing Director for Xanterra in Yellowstone since 1998. Rick knows more about tourism in Yellowstone than about anyone else on the planet.

Wendy Corr

June 22, 202435 min read

The Roundup Hoeninghausen
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)
Watch on YouTube

Wendy Corr:

Well, hello there, folks, and welcome to The Roundup. We're a Cowboy State Daily podcast that focuses on interesting people in the Cowboy State. And we have had so many amazing conversations with people in the Cowboy State, who have just really influenced the way that we look at the world.

Well, we're talking today to a guy who has been privileged - and he'll tell you he has been privileged - to live the last - we’d have to stop and count up the number of years that Rick Hoeninghausen has lived in Yellowstone National Park. And that is a rare privilege that people just don't have every day, and Rick and his family have been fortunate to do that. 

So Rick is with the marketing department at Xanterra, which works in partnership with Yellowstone, to provide restaurants and hotels and all of these other really important things that we need to go stay in Yellowstone. So, Rick, I should have asked you before we got started, what is your actual title, for a little while longer with Yellowstone, and with Xanterra. 

Rick Hoeninghausen:

I'm actually the Director of Sales and Marketing for Xanterra Travel Collection, but specifically in Yellowstone. I'm just Yellowstone, which is great.

Wendy Corr:

Just Yellowstone, and you've been there since - you've been in this job since 1998. You've been able to live and raise your family in Yellowstone since 1998. 

Rick Hoeninghausen:

That's true. That's true. Although I started seasonally, just for summer, just before I finished college in 1980. So I go back that far, and spent three summers here - doing laundry of all things, entry level job - and the best, best summer I've ever had in my life. And it was also that summer that I met the gal who I ultimately married, and who I've been very fortunate and blessed to share our family with and raise a family here in Yellowstone over the years. 

So yes, this has been a significant, we've been here longer than any other place. 

Wendy Corr:

So you and Karen have raised two daughters, and those girls grew up in Yellowstone. Tell me about raising a family in Yellowstone National Park. How was that, for a couple of girls who eventually become teenagers - Dad?? 

Rick Hoeninghausen:

Yeah, yeah. We actually had them while I was away from the park. One was born in Boise, Idaho while I was working for the Air Force, and the other was born in North Carolina while I was working for the Air Force, so they were actually three and five when we came back.

 And at the time, my wife was teaching in Idaho in a small school system, and I happened to be selling real estate then, in that area, too. And the opportunity came up to come back.

They brought me back - they being Xanterra - at this point, decided to bring the marketing position back into the park. They had centralized it, and they moved it back to the parks.

And my gentleman who was in charge at the time was somebody who was also my first hotel manager when I started working in ‘88 - amazing coincidence, fate intervening. But bottom line is, the job was available. I was thinking about it. And my wife told me, ‘You have to be kidding me. What is there to think about?’ 

It's Yellowstone, first. And secondly, there was a school at that time, there was a school in Mammoth where we would ultimately live, K through six. And she said, ‘You know that school is an amazing school. Now we have children, and if for no other reason, we need to go back for them, for this opportunity to raise them in Yellowstone National Park.’ 

So, A, it was a great job opportunity. B, the Park is what brought Karen and I together, it's been so much a part of our lives, even when we were away. So the opportunity to come back in ‘98 in this job, with our family, to raise two daughters. Again, a little bit of faith, a little bit of luck, but a lot of blessing. That's for sure.

Wendy Corr:

A lot of blessing, a lot of blessing. Now, you started out life back east, you're a Syracuse, New York guy. That's how you started life. Tell us how you got from Syracuse to Wyoming, because that's got to be a journey.

Rick Hoeninghausen:

It was, and again, as I look back now, it kind of all came together. It was kind of meant to be, in a way I guess is about all I can say.

My parents are from Brooklyn, actually, my father was a cowboy wanna-be, you know, he watched all the movies and got me into it. So as a kid, you know, I wanted to be a cowboy. Those were my heroes, as the song goes. 

And, and then later on as I got a little older, I used to watch a lot of wildlife, back in the days of three networks and public television. I could watch, you know, Marlon Perkins or Jacques Cousteau or whatever show was on TV. I think for a while, I might have been the youngest expert on meerkats, but just because I love wildlife. 

But seeing places like Yellowstone and wildlife like we have out west here, and the mountains and all, was just something that fascinated me. And I always thought it was a dream. 

That's where again, fate enters. I'm in college at that point, and this fraternity brother gets a job as a maid. And it's like, how the heck did you do that? Like, well, it’s not that hard, right? There's actually a job placement office with paper applications, and you send them in.

And I did. I got a job in a laundry. I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm going, and I literally rode the Greyhound bus out that first summer. I was one of the first people at Lake Lodge when the laundry was there. 

I did disappoint my folks, I had one semester left. So I was graduating, and between graduation - so I could go to one in May, a little advance of my final graduation, but I actually passed up on my own graduation ceremony to come out west and work a job that's, you know, an entry level job, barely minimum wage, right?

Which my father thought, ‘Well, we really raised a genius, he went to college, has a degree, and this is what we're getting. And my mother was obviously immensely disappointed, because at that point, I was the first one in my family on the Hoeninghausen side to go to college. So thank goodness, my brother, you know, cleaned up after me and got it all done right. 

But all that comes out, I come out here and work a summer, and just the best summer of my life. And I think it changed a little bit for my folks, they decided to help me out and not make me ride a greyhound back to Syracuse. So they actually came out that first summer to pick me up.

And I remember my mother arriving and saying she was worried, because she thinks my dad is going to quit his job forever. Once he hit the Badlands and the Black Hills and Yellowstone, I think that he realized, ‘Yeah, maybe that maybe that man is a genius, I don't know.’ 

But he fell in love with the place, as well as my mother did. And I mean, it's Wyoming, my goodness. And then we started in South Dakota, certainly the Western landscapes that we'd only seen on television, and the Badlands, I know he loved that because that was cowboy country. I mean, that's what it looked like. That's what he was thinking it was all about. 

And so they came out, they picked me up, they get it. We go back and then I go back for three winters to Syracuse to try to help figure out ways to come back to Yellowstone as a seasonal employee. 

And it obviously went well, it was entry level, I did a decent enough job where it ultimately led to a full time job with, at the time that was TWA services. It actually led to a job in the Everglades full time for the same company,

Wendy Corr:

The Everglades? You went from Yellowstone to the Everglades? Then you mentioned TWA - as in the airline?

Rick Hoeninghausen:

It wasn't the airline, but it was TWA services, the first company I worked with, who took over for - the previous concessionaire in Yellowstone was Yellowstone Park company. And they didn't do so well. So the Park Service was definitely looking for a change because this is the biggest concessionaire in the park, so that's where TWA came in. 

It turned out though they also, it was a similar scenario in ‘84 down in the Everglades, the previous concessionaire was not doing well. So it was not going to get to come back. And TW - it might have been TW recreational services at the time. There were a few transitions over the years. But they went in and got that contract. 

So it worked out nice. I had a decent track record working in Yellowstone. And then I found out, a weird set of circumstances, somebody who's living at the condominiums I was managing on the coast of Georgia at the time, she's heading to Everglades as the personnel manager. And I was doing what I was doing, which was okay, nothing I really loved, then she calls one day and she said, ‘You know, we have a marketing manager position down here.’ 

And because we had become friends, she knew I'd worked for the parks and for TW, she had worked for them in Utah. Now she's running personnel in Everglades, and it was strictly - who knew I would meet a completely new person, on the coast of Georgia, that had the park background, that would ultimately lead to my first full time job with this company in Everglades National Park for years as the marketing manager.

And I'd never been to Florida, a couple of times for spring break, but it never was anyplace I anticipated - nothing wrong with it, it just wasn't me. But natural Florida, Everglades National Park is a very special place.

And I got the job because - my wife was teaching in north Georgia then she ended up quitting and coming down to the Everglades. And it was while we were there in ‘85 that we actually got married. And here we started our journey again. We met in Yellowstone. Now we end up in Everglades in a national park, now we're a couple, now we're married. And that next segment, that chapter of the journey opened up.  

Wendy Corr:

One of the things that you and I talked about before we got started here, Rick, was the people that we meet, and how the people that you get to meet along your journey take you in unexpected directions. And this sounds like that exact same thing. So you were in Everglades because of your friendship with this person. How did you get to Yellowstone from Florida? Well, get back to Yellowstone, must I say, because you came back at a really rough time.

Rick Hoeninghausen:

Yeah, I did a couple of trips in there. Of course at the time, I'm younger, so I try to move up in the world of jobs. So we did really well in the Everglades, and you know, it was a small operation, a small budget, but we did good. This was TW at the time, very happy. And because it was going well, the general manager and the vice president in Yellowstone at this point, that was in the Utah parks in that position -  he's the reason we got Everglades to start with. So he ultimately had to approve my position down there. 

And then, because it went well, he decided it might be nice to keep me around. So after about four years in the Everglades, he actually made a position for me, an assistant director of sales and marketing, so that I then could be tutored by a gentleman named John Olsen, a mentor of mine, who had been there for a long, long time. And he was getting older - and he wasn't quite ready to retire - but this was an opportunity to bring me out, work under him, learn a lot of stuff.

You know, this gentleman who made all this happen was - Steve Tatter’s his name, very important person in my life and my career. He facilitated all that and put me in a position, and so when they brought me out for my first year in Yellowstone, he actually did two things. He brought me out in ‘87 to run the Roosevelt Lodge, I spent a summer, took a leave of absence from Everglades, and I was location manager at Roosevelt Lodge. I got to play cowboy for a summer and had the biggest corral operation. Again, who knew? And how does that happen? I still wonder. 

And then that went well. And the next year is actually when he created the marketing position and asked if we'd be wanting to come back to Yellowstone. Well, that's an easy answer. 

Wendy Corr:

Yeah. No brainer on that one. 

Rick Hoeninghausen:

So we both came out, Karen and I, back to Yellowstone, in ‘88, which happened to be a big year. Every morning to start your day, all you do is start a fire - or 50-some of them. And it was quite a summer, and I was new, I was green, but I had people. 

This was perfect in many ways. I learned from the best, in my mind. I've got John Olsen as the director. It's Yellowstone, so you get to meet a lot of other people that are important to Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. So I'm getting to know the tourism directors for those three states. 

At the time, Gene Bryan, who is, I think, a familiar name across the state of Wyoming for many reasons. He was director of the tourism office, he was a commerce director as well, he was the Cody chamber director, he was part of that journey. And he became a primary mentor for me, I learned so much from him. 

And then, so that was, I'm back and now it’s marketing, and we're on fire. And I learned a lot about crisis communications. It wasn't easy, it was somewhat stressful. And, this is pre internet, obviously, too. 

We had just gotten one, one of the original fax machines, heat sensitive paper, you know, and the analog phone lines and we're trying to do that and communicate people with the one fax machine we had. In fact, I can even remember as I think about it now - it's the fax machine. 

By the end of that year with all the fires, we finally had to close everything, but there were reporters everywhere and then military also, to help the firefighters. We switched from, you know, a vacation destination to ground zero of the biggest fire ever at that time in this area.

And I remember one day I got a knock on the office door, opened it up - and I don't know if you remember him, but he was with CNN. His name was Greg LaFave. He was one of their top reporters. And I'd always watched him on CNN, and I got a knock on the door, and I opened it, and it's like, wow, there's Greg LaFave. He's got his yellow shirt on and all that. ‘Can I borrow your fax?’ Like, ‘Yeah, whatever you need.’ It's, you know, because we had the only one. 

So it was a tough summer. There were interesting pieces of it. We certainly learned a lot, you know, it adds some new meaning to ‘trial by fire’ when you're the new guy. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. I don't know if I want to go through that again, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. And we learned a lot. 

What we did learn that summer, nobody knew about fires, that it was a natural part of the ecosystem out west. You know, we only knew what Smokey Bear told us. 

So on top of, there were so many things going on. That was an awakening in many ways for the whole country, about the West and how things work out here, and natural work specifically, and I got to be in the middle of it. It was nothing I want to do again, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Wendy Corr:

You were in the middle. Oh my gosh, yeah, ‘Trial by Fire’ is exactly the right thing. There are so many ways I want to go off of this particular point of the conversation - because, the people that you meet, for one thing, but the cooperation and the bonds that you've created, and the friendships and the working relationships that you've created with the people in the surrounding areas. 

So in Cody, we like to claim you, in Cody, Rick, because you were part of the Park County Travel Council for many years. And we were just a regular part of your routine. And that's how we all became friends here, is because of your many, many trips into Cody. 

But those types of relationships, those aren't built on - those are deep, and they run deep. In fact, we're having a retirement party for you here because one of the things we haven't brought up yet is the fact that you're actually retiring now, Rick! Who knew? Who knew? You've been talking about it for years, you've been threatening for years. And so when I first heard that you were retiring, I'm like, ‘I'll believe it when I see it’ 

So tell us about these great friendships that you have created with all of these different people that you've had to work with, that you've had the opportunity to work with over the years.

Rick Hoeninghausen:

I think on top of being in Yellowstone, the place that I just love, what you're talking about is the other biggest, most significant piece of it. 

I tell folks, it all comes back to the park - the way this fate played out, it's been more who I know than what I know. But, and I know that that's worked for me, but it got - Yellowstone being so important to a place like Wyoming, from tourism, from an economic perspective. And for its significance in the world as the world's first national park and having all the features it has. It's obviously a special place. That's an immense understatement. 

But that's what opened these doors, to get to be the marketing guy. For the company, the biggest company, the big hotel company in the world's first national park means doors are gonna open. And it's important for us. In fact, that was one of the first things my boss, his name, another mentor, Jim McCaleb, was the one that was with me ever since the 1980s. He was the location manager of my first location, he was seasonal, as well. But he was with me through most of the journey, more than anybody else. 

One of the first things he told me was - because marketing had moved to the corporate office - now it's back recognizing you really can't be as effective if you’re trying to run all these parts from one place.

So I'm back, and one of the first things he says was, ‘We need to get back out in the industry, we need to reconnect with people.’ Because we haven't had this position, and while he did a very nice job, he's a general manager and vice president. So he's got a bunch of other stuff going on that doesn't allow him to do the kinds of things that a sales and marketing director can and should do. 

So the word is, ‘Get out there, reconnect.’ And again, I was here in ‘88 as the assistant director, with people who connected me. I came back in ‘98, after leaving in early ‘90, so I'd been gone a while, but I came back and still knew a lot of those people from my time previously. 

So, there were new players, but there were still connections. And that helps. ‘Okay, we got a marketing director and I happen to know this guy from before. You know, he's back, Yellowstone's back, they're going to be very involved.’

It's Yellowstone, so if I call the tourism office and say, ‘I'm going to be by, can I swing by and chat?’ The answer’s, ‘Yeah.’ Not because of me, because of the Park, because of the significance. 

But to your point, the people - I love being from Syracuse, but there's a special kind of thing that goes on out west with people, looking them in the eye, straight talkers, easy to be friends. I feel like we all start on the same level out here - you're given the chance to be you, and to be good and fair and honest, before anybody starts maybe, evaluating you. Like, sometimes they look at you if you get too friendly - ‘What's this all about?’ Out here, it’s welcome. 

So a guy like me out here, I felt like I was thriving, because it's like, I enjoy people, I like meeting people, and now Yellowstone and the job has opened these doors. And so I reconnect with people and I start amazing new relationships. 

It starts as work. But I am serious when I say, it becomes family, and it will remain family across the board. I consider you family, I consider, you know, Claudia Wade, I met, who's another major name in Cody. Another mentor. I met her in ‘88 when I was assistant director and the Park County Travel Council was just getting off the ground. 

I wasn't on it, but we're an advisory council, I came back on in ‘90. Now I get on the Travel Council, and you know, 20 plus years later, I met all these people on the Travel Council, I've met them in tourism, my life is so much better. Every one of them has made my life and my wife's and my family’s that much better. 

And it is work that brings us together, but it’s not what keeps us together. It's a deeper bond. I trust my life, literally with any of those people I've met. And, like I said, I am better for it. 

Wendy Corr:

We are all better for it. That's one of the things, I completely agree. And I think anybody listening to this podcast, or watching this podcast, will agree, that Wyoming's a special place in that way. And it's the people that you know.

Now one of the things - I want to take a moment for education here - because Xanterra and Yellowstone National Park have this symbiotic relationship in this way, you live and work.

In some ways, when I need information about the park, I've been calling you, Rick, because there's times that - for one reason or another, I can't get information from the Park Service. And nothing against that. It's just people and connections. And so I'll call you and say, ‘Rick, what's going on?’ And you'll tell me, and it's great. 

So you can't speak for the park service. But because of your position there, you know what's going on. Tell me about the relationship between the two organizations?

Rick Hoeninghausen:

Well, at the basic level, they are our clients. It's a competitive process to get a contract at a National Park, it takes a lot of investment, you know, hundreds of millions, which is great. It's a relationship. How this is developed is we - the government is not in the hotel business. That's not what they do. And they don't need to, they shouldn't. 

So companies like ours, they contract with us. And what we do contributes back to the park financially, we're responsible for all the buildings we manage, or if we build something, we build it, but it all belongs to the government. So this is a way to be able to provide services, facilities for all these visitors without necessarily being - that aspect is not a government expense then, it's a private company. We are for-profit, but we contribute a lot back to the park. 

As far as the personal relationships, and it was very similar in Everglades, I live in Mammoth. I live in Yellowstone. My kids, when they were going to Mammoth school, were going to school with Park Service kids - and you have to live in the park to go to that school. So it is a community as much as anything else. 

And there's a lot of us year-rounders. You know, we get seasonals in and out every year, but there's a lot of us year-rounders. I mean, the superintendent and his wife may walk by my house, or I'm walking my dog by theirs. You could see these people, and it's, it's more than a job, you're there living with them as well. And like I said, if you have kids that connects to a whole other other thing in the park.

So it's business, it's big business, it's a major responsibility for our government to keep a park like this going. And when you have floods and fires and all this other stuff, too, that's when, you know they're there, and doing amazing jobs. 

But at the end of the day, it's a hometown, Mammoth is my hometown, it’s where my kids grew up. And that changes it. It may be different - Cody is a small enough town, I think a lot of people know each other, and a lot of this is going on there. But it's no different. And I think that surprises people, that in the park - we’re the community of Mammoth. And, these are not - you go, after the day at work, you may run into them at the store or the school program. And everybody kind of knows everybody, year-rounders, which is nice, we’ve got each other's back, too.

We're getting past to work stuff,down into the human part. And Yellowstone brings all us humans together who share a common interest. And that opens doors again, or eliminates barriers, and it gives us that connection that's potentially a lot deeper than very surface level. 

I talked about DNA, you’ve got Yellowstone DNA in your blood, you know, people like that. If you live there, as long as we have - and Park Service and concession staff do - you've got it in your blood and your co-workers are your family.

Wendy Corr:

Absolutely. I think that's great. You know, you've talked about the uniqueness of living in Yellowstone, but because of your long tenure there, you have seen a lot - you talk fires and floods, you've lived the fires and the floods. And what are some of the more really interesting periods of time there at Yellowstone, in the time that you've lived there since 1998, that you can really talk to - ‘88, really?

Rick Hoeninghausen:

Yeah, ‘88 were the fires, of course, there's been more fires since then and all that. You've got the - sometimes I hate to call them disasters, because these are natural events that occur, like those fires, like the floods - that happens in nature, and but we haven't been developed around it too, so there's all those other impacts of hotel closings and flooding and ruining roads and all that. 

I was here for 9/11, that was, you know, that's a huge, you know, so tragic. But it was interesting. Get past a tragedy, - you don't get past it. But what happened after that, we had scheduled, actually, which I think is interesting, and coincidental. The Park County Travel Council had scheduled a meeting in the park for September 12. And this was before 9/11, when we knew it was gonna be in the park. 

I remember getting up in the morning and turning on, I always have NPR on in my car in the morning when I lived a little further away from Mammoth, closer to Gardiner. So I'm driving up to the office. And I'm obviously NPR has got - something’s going on here on the news, and I ran back in, turned on the TV, and I'm seeing, you know, all the footage, and all that we have ingrained in our minds today. And so starting to watch, it's like, wow - you know, everybody knows where they were. I know how I felt, I get chills now, actually, just thinking about it. 

So we're a national park, where we just had this immense tragedy and terror attack on our soil and all that goes with it. And at the same time, we're talking about, from a standpoint of running the concessions operations in Yellowstone. We decided to keep the Travel Council meeting in the park, we’ve got to prepare for the impact this is going to have on us once, literally, the dust settles and we get through the tragedy. 

And so again, it was sort of a crisis communications thing. It was another thing I don't want to relive. But if you can walk away from the tragic part and think about what all happened, then we made decisions that day on, are we staying open? The Travel Council decided to still meet in the park, which is interesting, is significant, because that doesn't happen very often, either. And now we're meeting over this, what are we going to do? What's the future? What does all this mean? It's all major unknowns for all of us at that point. 

But I remember us thinking at that time, I don't know that we have to change anything. We've just had - the country's just been - it wasn't just what I thought, this is what the Travel Council thought. But we thought, as tragic as this is, we were just attacked. And once we get past this, what is it going to mean? And there were some very - there's so many sharp people, Ted Blair, Judy Blair at the time. Claudia Wade, so many people on the Travel council.

And we decided, we are going to be okay, first and foremost. And of course, the whole country decided you're not messing with us, we're strong. That was a nice outcome with a tragic situation. But we decided, we're going to be okay, this is the world's first national park. This is America. We are in Cody, in the West, in Wyoming. We are America. And once we get back to business and past this tragedy, we're going to be even more important, or more significant for Americans and for the world. 

What's the message we're going to send? We're strong, we're standing up, we just got hit. We're going to get through this. And from a tourism perspective - which seems way down on the totem pole in terms of priorities - but this is tourism, it’s the second biggest industry in Wyoming. There's jobs attached to this. So there are significant ramifications.

We decided we'd be okay, and stay the course. Once we get past the initial issues and the ripples and the heartbreak of 9/11, we'll do what we do, and the way we do it. And we were absolutely right. That year, obviously, people stopped traveling, no one was gonna fly and no one was going to drive. It was a shock. The next year we came back strong. 

And that was another learning experience for me. Terrible situation, but some really smart people got together and said, you know, it may not be the reasons we want, but but people are going to look at the values, American values and they're gonna look at their parks, and we're going to look at these beautiful Western towns and the values those people hold, and realize, ‘We're not leaving the country to travel now, we're gonna go celebrate what makes us great.’

So it was terrible circumstances. But it spotlighted a lot of our own strengths for both the country and our region. I don't know if ‘glad’s’ the word, but that's something I'll never forget, the takeaways from that. The connections we made, the relationships that were strengthened as a result of that. That's just an amazing life experience that, you know, I'm glad I was here for that. If I had to be anywhere, I'm glad I was here for that. 

Other things besides 9/11 - pandemic, obviously, that was another one. There, they start to look, ‘How come Rick is the one connection between all these? Maybe we need to revisit this whole thing.’ But, you know, I was here - nobody likes the reasons, but I was here, we were here, this team that I think so much of was all part of addressing all these things and coming out of it okay. That feels good to be able to take such circumstances and eventually recover and come back better than ever. 

On a more positive note, if I may. One of the coolest things - I've got to do a lot of cool things here too. One of the coolest things was being in the park with Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan putting together the national parks documentary.

Wendy Corr:

Oh, how cool. 

Rick Hoeninghausen:

And his family and his son and some of his crew was here most of the time. So we got to meet him and - we actually got to meet him when he did the Lewis and Clark thing. But then they're here to do the national parks thing. And so it was cool to catch up with him, and see what he was shooting in the field. This is Dayton Duncan. 

Then when it was done and launched, they decided to do a press event in the park and Ken Burns comes out as well. So, what I will always remember as one of my favorite things that happened on a very positive note, was to be out in Lamar Valley with Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan. I brought a few of my own, we invited some of our own media to be part of that, they had some of theirs, because this was all leading up to launching the new documentary. 

And we're out at Slough Creek at the pullout in the winter. And as it turns out, it was Ken Burns’ chance, the first time to hear wolves in the wild and see them. They were on both sides of the road in valley. There were wolves howling back and forth. We're watching them in the scope. A gentleman named Rick McIntyre, who's kind of known as the Wolfman in the park. He's devoted his life to these, he happened to be out there. So he's, he's an expert, he's talking about all this stuff. And we’re with Ken Burns and we're hanging out, and we're listening and seeing wolves, and it's his first time, and I love that stuff. Wildlife is what intrigues me most about this place. 

And then that night, we go back to the Mammoth Hotel, he does a presentation, he and Dayton Duncan, to guests and employees, and Dayton actually got a little teary eyed. He shared what it had been like for him to be here. His son was here with him a lot. So it was a beautiful family experience. And we got all the inside stories of this documentary and how they do it. And I liked what they do. 

So to have been a part of that, to experience the wolves with him for the first time, to be with Dayton Duncan, to be - you know, I didn't contribute to the documentary other than being with him on the promotional side.

But what a special moment - you know, I admire those guys, I have so much respect for them and love their work, and then I got to meet them and be with them at a really cool time, significant time for them as well. That doesn't happen if I am a marketing director at a, you know, maybe, nothing wrong with being a hotel chain marketing director, or something else. But if I'm not in Yellowstone, if fate doesn't intervene, if I don't meet these people, get mentored and tutored and become part of the community that I've been fortunate to be part of, none of this happens. The good and the bad. 

And, you know, we're talking about retirement, and as we're talking now, I think about this stuff. And it's like, this went by so quick. But now as we're talking about all these various things we've been through - and some were tragic - I still gotta smile. We were here for this. Who knew? I was an art major in college for goodness sake, I never figured I'd be doing this here. This was a dream, you only saw on television with cowboys and wild animals that - you know, everybody else gets to do and be, and I'm here and I've been here a long time.

It's gonna be very difficult to leave, but these are happy memories. And it’s not just me. My wife is a part of the vast majority of this. And so have my daughters, you know. And we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Old Faithful Inn, we celebrated the 100th anniversary since I've been here, the Lake Hotel, the 125th anniversary. In fact, my daughters, who were adults then were my dates for the 125th anniversary of the Lake Hotel.

And Alan Simpson is here and he's kind of our - MC is probably not the word - but he's the one person we invited to do some talking. I get to meet Alan Simpson and have made a relationship with him and Ann, his wife. That is, how does that happen? I'm getting chills again. Because these are people who are significant in the world, and in their communities, and are regular and beautiful people. And I get to know them. And they know me by name. In fact, when we're in Cody for the retirement, The Simpsons are coming to that! You’re coming as well!

Wendy Corr:

Yay! Yes, we will be there, we will be there. 

Rick Hoeninghausen:

Think about that. You know, I'm giddy, I can't believe what I'm saying. I'm giddy. This is just, I'm the luckiest guy, period, end of discussion. That's the way I look at it. I'm just so fortunate. 

Wendy Corr:

Rick, we have been fortunate to know you and to have you there in Yellowstone. And as that Xanterra representative, that Xanterra voice for all of these years, we're going to miss you terribly. I told you that, when we first started talking about this and putting this podcast together, you are going to be so missed in your role. But we are so excited for your future. We're out of time, I was going to ask you wrap up questions, but you wrapped it all up for me, which is great!

Rick Hoeninghausen:

Thank you. I did something right! One in a row.

Wendy Corr:

You've done a lot, right, Rick, you've done a lot right. And we are grateful for your presence, and for you being a uniquely Wyoming character and Wyoming personality. And we are just anxious to follow your adventures, now that you're going to retire and go off and do other things. But we've been glad to have you here, Rick.

Rick Hoeninghausen:

Well, as I said, the pleasure has been all mine. I'm the luckiest guy I know. And as we depart, I want to say, you asked me about being a Wyoming person. I'm a transplant. But I take great pride from that. I love showing people my driver's license, just for that reason. And I'm honored that I would be accepted to this community. It's all part of this amazing dream that I've been living. 

Wendy Corr:

Well, we are grateful for you to share it, and share your story today. Thank you, Rick Hoeninghausen. Good luck with your retirement. We will see you soon, though, because you're not going to go away forever. You'll come back, you'll visit, and we're grateful. 

Folks, thank you for tuning in to our conversation with Rick Hoeninghausen today. This has just been a joy to share the stories of this man who has lived many people's dreams - and we hope that you'll tune in, we've got so many more wonderful guests coming up. But if you've missed any of our podcasts, the Roundup, you can find it on any of the podcast platforms. You can go to our YouTube channel, you can always go to, click on video you're gonna find all of the all the previous podcasts there.

But thank you for being part of our chat today with Rick and learning about his life and the dream that he's lived. Thanks, folks for tuning in. Have a wonderful week. Rick, good luck. Thanks for being here today.

Share this article



Wendy Corr

Broadcast Media Director