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Dubois’ $100 Million National Military Museum To Open On August 7

in arts and culture/Business/Coronavirus/News
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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

The gigantic new National Museum of Military Vehicles will finally open on Aug. 7.

The museum, located just south of Dubois, originally planned to open in May but was postponed because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“We are opening the museum Friday, Aug. 7, at 10 a.m.,” founder Dan Starks said. “Admission will be free for the first three days. After that normal admission of $15 will be charged, except for veterans, who will get in free.” Under 18 is $10 admission with under 8 years old getting in for free.

“Face masks and social distancing is required so we can keep all of our older veterans safe,” he said. “We will still be working on finishing some of the exhibits but we have gotten tired of turning everyone away who wants to come inside. We are staffing up and training for the opening.”

The $100 million self-funded project has been a dream of Starks, who bought his first Wyoming property in 2011.

Construction on the new museum started in May of 2017. It is a 140,000 square foot facility, which is designed to hold 200 military vehicles.

But it is much more than a display of vehicles.



Starks is not a veteran but said he has such a high degree of respect for those who served, he sees this project as his life work.

He worked 32 years at a medical equipment company in Minneapolis and was CEO before retiring in 2017. The company was doing $6 billion in revenue per year. He had 28,000 employees working on life-saving devices for the human body, specializing in heart catheters and other devices.

“At one time, we figured our devices were saving a life every three seconds around the world,” he says.

His company was acquired by Abbott Laboratories in 2017. Their web site shows Starks owns over $600 million in stock in the big international company and serves on its board.

The life dream of Dan and his wife Cynthia was to settle in Dubois and do some project to recognize the service of America’s veterans.  

And boy, is this ever some project.

Using Richardson Construction of Cheyenne as a general contractor, the project has hummed along on schedule.  And although the gigantic size of the facility, (you can almost put three football fields inside its walls), Starks now worries that it might be too small. 

They own more than 400 of the most pristine historical vehicles from World War II and other conflicts. He thinks he might only get 200 of them inside the walls. It is assumed to be the largest and best private collection in the world.  

The Starks’ daughter Alynne is the executive director of the facility. Admission will be $15 for adults and $10 for visitors under 18.  Veterans will be admitted for free. The museum will employ 20 people. 

Their plan for the museum has gone far beyond just a place to display vehicles. “We want to create displays that show the landing at Normandy, the surrenders in Germany and Japan, the Battle of the Bulge, and other great moments in our country’s military history,” he says. 

Dan sees the facility having three components:

  • To honor the service and sacrifice of millions of Americans.
  • Preserve the history of what happened during these wars.
  • Provide an educational experience. 

The vast array of vehicles goes beyond the killing machines of tanks, artillery, and flamethrowers.  It also includes dozens of the machines that made the wars winnable. 

Starks likes to discuss how the Red Ball Express helped secure the victories. This was the supply chain that seemed to provide endless amounts of food, ammo, and war machines as Allied troops marched toward victory.

He wants to show how America was able to convert its massive manufacturing expertise to enable the Allies to fight two different wars in different parts of the world and win both in just three and a half years.  

The new museum will show how the American ability to mass-produce cars and trucks was converted to produce tanks, jeeps, airplanes, and other war machines in record amounts that just wore down the enemy.  

“Germany built beautiful machines, but they did not understand mass production like Americans did. It was impossible for them to keep up when it came to replacing and resupplying their troops at key moments in World War II. We want to honor everyone who participated in this great victory. This museum will showcase that effort but showing the machines that were built and how they were utilized,” he said. 

Near the middle of the building’s interior is an amazing vault, unlike anything west of the Smithsonian. It will hold his $10 million collection of historical weapons, including a rifle fired at Custer’s Last Stand and a pistol used by General Pershing in World War I.

The collection includes 270 Winchester rifles. The vault has a safe door that would look just right at the national mint. 

The facility will have meeting rooms and members of the Wyoming legislature are convening there in October.

It also has the Chance Phelps Theatre, named for the brave Dubois Marine who died April 9, 2004 in Iraq.  The movie Taking Chance was about that soldier.

There will be large library with one of the world’s largest collections of manuals and other information about military vehicles.

There is even a Russian-built MiG 21 that was used in the Vietnam War against American soldiers. It is flyable.  

Besides the main museum facility, the Starks built a large building just off Main Street in Dubois to hold many of their vehicles and to be a shop to keep them running. 

Eight years ago, their first home in Dubois was an old homestead. More recently they have purchased a 250-head cattle ranch. Recently they bought a third ranch, which now has 64 bison grazing on it. 

“We love Dubois and we love Wyoming. This is our great adventure,” Starks concluded. 

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Chancey Williams To Perform Free Concert In Sturgis During Rally

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming-based country music band Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band will perform a free concert during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which will be held from Aug. 7-16.

Williams’ show will be at 8 p.m. on Aug. 8 at the Iron Horse Saloon in Sturgis, South Dakota. The group will be joined by Brandon Jones.

The concert will only be open to those 21 or older. Williams will perform songs from his new album “3rd Street,” which features the award-winning single “Wyoming Wind.”

This is Williams’ fifth consecutive year performing at the rally.

All of the rally concerts are free and include headliners such as Colt Ford, Night Ranger, Hairball and Quiet Riot.

Williams grew up on a ranch in Moorcroft and spent some time as a saddle bronc rider before pivoting to music full time. Williams and drummer Travis DeWitt started the Younger Brothers Band when they were in high school and it has since become one of the most popular groups to come out of Wyoming.

The Younger Brothers Band has performed alongside artists such as Dwight Yoakam, Miranda Lambert and Travis Tritt over the years.

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National Geographic Writer Mark Jenkins Joins Wyoming Humanities Council

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

National Geographic writer, author and photographer Mark Jenkins has joined the Wyoming Humanities Council as its inaugural resident scholar this month.

According to a news release from the organization, Jenkins has brought a humanities perspective to geopolitics. His work has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Playboy and the Smithsonian Magazine.

Jenkins’ position is a part of Wyoming Humanities’ recently announced initiative, “Wyoming Crossroads,” which will help the state address the social and economic challenges posed by the downtown in Wyoming’s energy industry through the power and creativity of Wyoming’s humanities and cultural arts network.

“We need the public humanities in Wyoming now more than ever,” said Shannon Smith, CEO of Wyoming Humanities, in the news release.  “Mark will engage communities from one corner of the state to the other, continuing Wyoming Humanities’ dedication to leading the discussion on our state’s current geopolitical issues, diverse heritage and deep traditions.”

Jenkins is also a former writer-in-residence at the University of Wyoming and has written four books.

“I’ve had the great fortune of doing assignments around the world.  Wyoming has trained me well in how to handle extremes,” said Jenkins.  “I look forward to offering a global and scholarly perspective on Wyoming’s identity, sense of community, connection to land, persistence, and ability to manage change.” 

Jenkins will continue his global treks and national writing as the pandemic and his work with the humanities council allows.

Wyoming Humanities’ COO Shawn Reese said he thinks the cultural and creative sector is key to helping Wyoming bounce back after the economic impact of the downturn. 

“Wyoming’s wealth is more than the sum of its minerals and mineral trust fund.  The intellectual, human, social, political, and cultural wealth are critical to Wyoming’s well-being.  Mark will help us explore ideas through statewide engagement and the art of storytelling.  Whether Mark is telling a story about his conversations with the King of Bhutan about the Gross Happiness Index or making connections between Namibian rock art and Wyoming petroglyphs, he helps us understand ourselves through the lens of others.”

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Trespassers Cited At Kanye West’s Ranch

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In unrelated incidents, a pair of young men were caught trespassing on Kanye West’s Cody area ranch in recent weeks.

Park County authorities filed misdemeanor criminal trespassing charges against the two, though one of the cases — against a 22-year-old Denver man — is set to be dismissed because of concerns about the defendant’s competency.

Drew C. Togher, a 22-year-old delivery driver, reportedly traveled from his residence in Denver to West Lake Ranch this month.

“I was going to see if I could meet Kanye West,” Togher explained in court last week.

He passed multiple no trespassing signs before being stopped by security personnel early on the morning of Sunday, June 14. After spending roughly a half-hour trying to get Togher to leave, the security officers called the Park County Sheriff’s Office at around 6:15 a.m., charging documents say.

When Deputy Ethan Robinson arrived on scene, he found Togher acting “agitated and impatient.”

“I asked Drew if I let him go with a citation if he would come back, and he responded impatiently while looking around that he would not,” Robinson said. However, believing that Togher would “likely return to the property and create more issues,” the deputy arrested him.

When Togher appeared in Park County Circuit Court the following day, he seemed confused about the proceedings and asked for several of the advisements to be repeated multiple times and spoken more slowly.

When Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters asked Togher if he had a mental disability, the defendant said that “I hear stuff” and described it as being like a “pirate’s curse.”

Togher sought to plead guilty to the misdemeanor trespassing charge, but Judge Waters entered a not guilty plea on his behalf and appointed an attorney for him over concerns about his competency.

Deputy Park County Attorney Jack Hatfield recommended that Togher be released on a signature bond — citing in part a lack of any past criminal charges — with strict orders to stay away from West, his family and West Lake Ranch.

Judge Waters warned Togher that he could have no contact “in any way shape or form with Kanye West, or any member of his family, including extended family members.”

“So no contact directly or indirectly, no attempts to text him, email him, contact him through social media,” Judge Waters advised Togher. “There’s to be no contact with them in any way shape or form, any of them, do you understand me?”

“Same go for him?” asked Togher, referring to West.

“No, this applies to you,” Waters said. “You are not to have contact with him for any reason.”

Togher then asked what would happen if the musician and entrepreneur contacted or messaged him.

“Yeah, I think that’s a long shot; I don’t know,” the judge responded. However, “if he contacts you, you are not allowed to speak with him, talk to him, have anything to do with him. Do you understand that?”

Togher said he did, but he soon asked the judge to go over the bond conditions again.

“I can’t think about the guy at all?” Togher asked at one point, also asking for the definition of “indirect” contact, followed by questions about, “What if I get, like, a signal?” and finally, “what if they’re [messing] with me?”

Judge Waters ultimately decided he would not be releasing Togher on a signature bond and instead set bond at $5,000 cash and ordered a mental evaluation.

“I am concerned for your mental wellbeing. … I have doubts about your ability to comply with bond conditions,” Judge Waters told the defendant.

Togher spent the rest of the week in jail, but was later released to his mother, who traveled from Pennsylvania to Cody to pick up her son and take him home, Hatfield said. The prosecutor said he plans to dismiss the case without prejudice, “and charge [Togher] again if he comes back to Mr. West’s place.”

“Hopefully,” Hatfield said, “he’ll just stay away.”

Meanwhile, the prosecutor is continuing to pursue a Powell man, 19-year-old Henry Waters, who was reportedly caught on West’s property back on May 19. In that instance, Henry Waters was stopped by security personnel, who reportedly noted that his pants were down.

“He admitted that he was masturbating there on Mr. West’s property,” Hatfield said during a Friday court hearing.

In a follow-up interview, Hatfield said that, according to the account given to the sheriff’s office, the defendant said he had simply been looking for a place to pull over.

“He [defendant Waters] stated he did not know he was on private property or who lived there, but they must be very important” given the security personnel, Deputy Robinson reportedly wrote. However, Hatfield said the defendant had passed a half-dozen no trespassing signs.

Defendant Waters pleaded not guilty to criminal trespassing on Friday and was released on a signature bond pending further proceedings.

Among other bond conditions, “do not have any contact in any way shape or form with one Kanye West or any member of the West family,” Judge Waters, no relation, advised the defendant, adding, “you are not to be on the property, on the driveway, on the entrance or within the boundaries of that property in any way shape or form.”

Defendant Waters said he understood.

A trial is tentatively set for Aug. 13.

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Longmire Days Cancels In-Person Activities; Craig Johnson Shares Update On Sheriff

in arts and culture/Coronavirus/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

While the Buffalo celebration in his honor may be moving to a new online venue for 2020, Sheriff Walt Longmire continues to do exactly what he’s always done in the face of the pandemic.

Wyoming author Craig Johnson was asked to write a passage describing what his fictional sheriff, the inspiration for a popular television show, might be doing as Wyoming works its way through COVID-19. His response had the sheriff tackling his job the same as he’s always done.

“With only two cases of COVID-19 in Absaroka County, Wyoming, Sheriff Walt Longmire continues to do his sworn duties along with visits to the one case at the Durant Home For Assisted Living and the second, a musician who contracted the illness at a Cowboy Poetry Festival in Pocatello, Idaho,” the update on Johnson’s Facebook page read. “Everyone is hoping for the best concerning the octogenarian, but community sympathy for the musician is mixed in that he is an accordion player…”

The humorous narrative came as organizers of Buffalo’s Longmire Days announced that instead of postponing the annual celebration because of the coronavirus, they would cancel all in-person activities.

However, there will still be a Longmire Days, it will just take place in the virtual world. From Aug. 13-16, there will be watch parties of the “Longmire” TV series and other virtual events held in place of the in-person event.

Longmire Days is an annual event held in Buffalo every summer that celebrates the series of books featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire written by Wyoming author Craig Johnson. The books served as the inspiration for the television series “Longmire,” which is currently streaming on Netflix. There were six seasons and 63 episodes produced over the course of the series, all starring Australian actor Robert Taylor as the fictional Wyoming sheriff.

The decision was made to cancel the in-person Longmire Days events out of concern for the safety of attendees and the potential risk of spreading the coronavirus.

“The safety of everyone, as always, is foremost in our minds and we feel that the risk to the fans, actors, and our community is just too great,” the organizers wrote on the Longmire Days website.

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Wyoming State Fair On As Planned

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Wyoming State Fair cattle show
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Although the coronavirus pandemic has caused most of Wyoming’s major rodeos to cancel, the Wyoming State Fair is going to go on as scheduled.

The fair, which is held in Douglas, will take place Aug. 11-15. According to organizers on the fair’s website, there will be an “extensive health safety plan” in place.

“We have long been a gathering point for generations of families, while providing a quality educational experience and entertainment for all who have attended,” organizers wrote on the website. “The Wyoming State Fair is a celebration of all things Wyoming and showcases our pride in our traditions, agriculture, innovation, industry, youth, entrepreneurs, artists, entertainment and so much more. This year will be no different.”

While several major rodeos in Wyoming have been canceled by the coronavirus, Gov. Mark Gordon said in May that state officials were doing all they could to make sure the state fair and county fairs continued in some fashion.

Organizers of many county fairs across the state are looking at curtailed schedules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, with several focusing only on 4-H and FFA events and canceling accompanying attractions such as carnivals and night shows.

However, state fair officials plan on a full slate of activities, including a concert by country group Reckless Kelly and singer Jeremy McComb, who will perform on Aug. 13. Tickets for the concert will go on sale July 3.

Other grandstand entertainment will include pig wrestling on Aug. 11, a PRCA rodeo on Aug. 14 and a demolition derby on Aug. 15.

More information about the fair and its new safeguards will be offered in the coming weeks. A current schedule of events can be found here.

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Garth Brooks To Appear At Cheyenne’s Terry Bison Ranch (Sort Of)

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Country music superstar Garth Brooks is going to appear at Cheyenne’s Terry Bison Ranch on June 27.

Well, he’ll appear there and at more than 300 other outdoor theaters across the country (and Canada) during a unique concert event. Brooks will perform a show in Nashville and broadcast it across the country.

“Summer is here! We’re so excited to invite you to an exclusive, first-of-its-kind concert,” the Terry Bison Ranch wrote in the Facebook post announcing the event.

Brooks told Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts that he was looking to do a show during the pandemic but none of the options seemed to work until he ran into someone pitching the drive-in idea.

“This one guy came to me and said they could put 300 – 400 drive-in theaters together if I would put a concert together solely for the drive-in,” Brooks said.  “We can have families jump in the car and come out on a Saturday night. It’s pretty cool.”

The country singer said the drive-in experience should be much better than it was when he was growing up.

“Remember that speaker you hung on the window?  Well now, you can tune the concert right in to your own car radio so you can blast it or blare it for as long as you want with the windows up or the windows down,” he said.

Tickets go on sale at 11 a.m. Friday at a cost of $100 per car or truck.

Brooks is listed as the best-selling solo albums artist in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America.

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

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Wyoming State Museum Reopens With Safety Measures In Place

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By Mari Heithoff, Cowboy State Daily

With the loosening of health rules designed to slow the spread of coronavirus in the Cowboy State, the Wyoming State Museum is welcoming visitors back. 

On June 9, the museum in Cheyenne reopened, with full measures in place to ensure the safety of its visitors. 

Museum Director Mark Brammer explained that the museum’s hours of operation will be somewhat limited to allow for extra cleaning and sanitation and added there are designated weekly hours for vulnerable populations, such as senior citizens to visit the museum. 

The number of visitors allowed inside the museum at one time was boosted to 50 recently with the relaxation of the state’s rules limiting atherings.

While some of the exhibits have been modified or temporarily removed, Brammer explained that the museum still has plenty to offer.

“I think the biggest change is that we’ve had to close the hands-on habitat room,” he said. “We look forward to reopening it once everything returns to normal. Other than that, we’ve removed some touchable displays and touch-screens just for the time being, until we feel it’s safe to bring them back.” 

“All of the information from touch-screen displays can now be accessed by a smartphone or computer, so it won’t hurt the museum experience,” he added.

Brammer said he hopes the museum will return to normal operations eventually and added officials will keep up with the latest health standards to ensure a safe experience for everyone. 

“We’re really working hard to keep the experience as normal as possible for everyone,” he said. “We look forward to seeing more and more local visitors and out-of-state tourists.”

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Casper’s Beartrap Summer Festival Canceled Due To Coronavirus

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Another 2020 Wyoming event bites the dust due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, the Beartrap Summer Festival organizers announced that they would cancel the 2020 event, but confirmed the festival would return Aug. 7-8, 2021.

The planned headliners for the Casper festival for this year were the Charlie Daniels Band and Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers. Although they won’t appear at the 2020 festival, they will headline next summer, with Hornsby headlining on Aug. 7 and Daniels closing out the Aug. 8 performance, organizers said in a statement.

“The [bands], along with us and everyone in the venue, live entertainment and concert industry are reeling from the current climate for gatherings of our size in the era of ‘social distancing,’ and deeply regret that this year’s festival is to be one of the many impacted by COVID-19,” the organizers wrote on the Beartrap website.

No tickets had gone on sale due to the coronavirus concerns, but if anyone happened to obtain tickets from donations or another way, they will be honored for the 2021 festival.

“It’s our hope that the light at the end of the tunnel will continue to shine brighter in the months ahead and lead the way into the eventual return of more musical merriment like ours – and we will dearly miss seeing you in the meadow this year,” the organizers wrote.

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C.J. Box Says “Big Sky” Series Still On Track For Fall ABC Debut

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The coronavirus pandemic has put a hold on a number of movies and TV shows, but C.J. Box’s “The Big Sky” isn’t one of them.

Box announced the development Friday on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, posting a link to a Deadline story that showed “The Big Sky” would get a full first season commitment, when it was originally commissioned just for a pilot episode.

“Still on track for this fall on ABC…,” Box wrote in his Facebook post.

The show is being created by legendary TV writer and producer David E. Kelley, who has also created shows such as “Big Little Lies,” “Boston Legal,” “Ally McBeal” and “Mr. Mercedes.” Kelley will write multiple episodes and serve as the showrunner for the first season.

The show will focus on private detectives Cassie Dewell and Cody Hoyt, who team up with Cody’s estranged wife, Jenny, to search for two sisters who have been kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote road in Montana. The detectives soon find out those aren’t the only girls who have disappeared, racing against time to stop the killer.

The cast will inculde Kylie Bunbury as Cassie Dewell, Katheryn Winnick as Jenny Hoyt and Ryan Phillippe as Cody Hoyt.

“(The television series will) be dark and scary,” Box said in an interview February. “A lot of people who have read it say it is one of the creepiest things they’ve ever read. The pilot I read scared me, even though I knew what was going to happen.”

Box will act as an executive producer on the series, as well.

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