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Refurbished movie theater first step to building arts community

in arts and culture/Community/News
2162

Refurbishing a movie theater in Cheyenne so it can serve as a venue to world-class concerts is a first step in building a thriving arts community in Wyoming, according to a Cheyenne couple.

Jon and Renee Jelinek founded the “The Alternative Arts Project”, a non-profit organization, which acquired the Lincoln Theatre in Cheyenne several years ago with the intention of making it into a music venue.

Renee Jelinek said once the theater is operating again as a music venue, it will help spur development of a larger arts community in Wyoming.

“Having a real music venue here that can be that ground zero for arts and building the arts in Wyoming is going to be a real catalyst for changing that here,” she said.

The Jelineks are holding an “Arts for Arts” auction fundraiser on Oct. 12 to help raise money for work on the Lincoln, which is expected to be open for performances next year.

Jon Jelinek said the arts for auction, donated by local artists, will be displayed in an “immersive” way.

“It’s going to be a fully immersive art auction,” he said. “Meaning that we’re going to have several pieces paired with a spirit, paired with music so that people can get a full experience of the art that they’re looking at.”

Once in operation, the Lincoln will provide a setting for the kind concert experience that crosses all human boundaries, Jon Jelinek said.

“You think about music and going to concerts,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what walk of life you come from, your status, your political party, your race. Everybody’s there to enjoy the same experience and gets to have the same experience. And even for that couple of hours, everybody gets along and has a great experience.”

Bringing back Wyoming’s grand Cowboy Carousel

in arts and culture/Community/News/Tourism
2127

Arnette Tiller of Buffalo, Wyoming is leading the charge to restore the world’s only cowboy and indian carousel and return it to operation in downtown Buffalo.

The Buffalo Carousel Project is working to repaint, restore and reopen the carousel for visitors and the community members alike.

Dubbed the Cowboy Carousel, all its horses were crafted and painted by local artists. The carousel itself originally ran in Ocean City, New Jersey starting in the 1920s at Gillian’s Play Park.

Veteran reporter, publisher to be president of national newspaper group

in Business/Community/News
Newspapers
2082

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A longtime Wyoming newspaper reporter and publisher is about to become president of the country’s largest community newspaper association.

Matt Adelman, publisher of the Douglas Budget for 25 years, will take the helm of the National Newspaper Association during the organization’s annual convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in early October.

The association represents more than 1,700 newspapers across the country, most of them smaller or “community” newspapers that focus their coverage largely on their communities.

It is this dedication to local journalism that is allowing these smaller newspapers to survive and even thrive during an era that has seen significant declines in circulation and even closures among larger metropolitan newspapers, Adelman said.

“The newspapers people hear about are in the mid-range circulation and up, 50,000 to millions,” he said. “Community papers are focused on hyper-local coverage, which is very much in demand. Our readers are very loyal and as long as you are providing good local coverage, you get stable readership.”

Such local newspapers are doing well even though some of the subscribers to their printed product are moving to their online products.

“A lot of people are going digital,” he said. “But digital is still 10 percent or less in terms of revenue streams and circulation. Our overall circulation and financial health is still pretty good. Unfortunately, the news is about everybody who’s doing worse, so the news is that newspapers are heading out the door. And nothing could be further from the truth.”

Adelman began his newspaper career at the Daily Utah Chronicle, the independent student newspaper for the University of Utah and worked for several Wyoming newspapers such as the Thermopolis Independent Record and Cody Enterprise before being picked to head the Douglas Budget in 1994.

After serving on the board of the Wyoming Press Association for several years — including one year as president in 2003 — Adelman joined the NNA as a state ambassador in 2004, moving onto the organization’s board of directors in 2012.

The NNA was formed in 1885 to represent the interests of newspapers at the national level. The group offers training for newspaper employees at gatherings such as its annual convention and lobbies Congress on issues of importance to newspapers.

One of the main issues for the NNA is postal reform, an issue Adelman plans to keep at the top of the NNA’s priority list.

“We are hoping we can get a postal bill out of Congress, one that will provide the Postal Service with much needed stability and control,” he said.

The Postal Service must follow congressional requirements for retirement and health care that leave it unable to manage its own costs, forcing it to boost its rates, Adelman said.

“The upshot is they have to have the ability to deal with their own financial situation with no more processing facility closings and layoffs,” he said. 

As newspapers turn increasingly to mail delivery to replace carriers, keeping delivery costs down is very important, he said, as is keeping Postal Service processing centers open to provide for timely delivery.

As head of the NNA, Adelman will also be the “face” for the nation’s small newspapers and will work to convey the message that local newspapers are essential to the well-being of small communities.

He pointed to one study conducted by the University of Notre Dame that showed after a local newspaper closed in a community, the cost of government increased over the next five years by 30 percent.

“We’re the watchdog,” he said. “We’re the public. We’re their eyes and ears at meetings they can’t go to, on budgets they don’t understand or don’t have time to read. If you don’t know if the (government) is hoarding money or they’re broke, then you don’t know the health of your community.”

Another study by the Pew Research Center shows that most local news shared on social media and digital news outlets is actually originated by newspapers.

“Without (local newspapers), that content would be gone,” he said. “People wouldn’t even have access on a social media level to the information you need to make decisions.”

As a result, Adelman said, printed newspapers will remain important to their communities.

“A community newspaper’s job is to watch and provide that content for posterity,” he said. “Once it’s in print, it’s in print forever.”

Longtime sports reporter joins Game and Fish

in Community/sports
2076

Longtime Wyoming sports reporter Robert Gagliardi has left the world of newspapers for a position with the state Game and Fish Department.

Gagliardi, who spent 25 years covering sports for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and WyoSports — a joint sports reporting service between the Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang — is the new associate editor for the Game and Fish Department’s Wyoming Wildlife Magazine.

Gagliardi said he felt that changes in the newspaper industry made it important for him to change directions in his career.

“The newspaper industry as a whole has changed and a lot of those changes aren’t good and those changes are having rippling effects even at places like Cheyenne and Laramie,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “I don’t envy the higher-ups that have to make some of these decisions, but in the end, I felt like for my own stability and even sanity … I just felt that change was needed.”

Gagliardi said he will miss coverage of the people involved in sports at the University of Wyoming and the state’s high schools.

“The games are fun, obviously big wins, even disappointing losses,” he said. “But to tell the stories of some of these young men and women and the coaches and administrators, everyone that entails sports, is probably the thing I’m going to miss the most.”

Gagliardi counted among his highlights as a sports reporter coverage of the University of Wyoming’s win over UCLA in the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl, the Cowboys’ overtime victory at the New Mexico Bowl in 2009, the Cowgirl basketball team championship in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament in 2007 and the UW women’s basketball team appearance in the NCAA tournament in 2008.

Making the switch from reporter to sports fan might be difficult, Gagliardi admitted.

“I don’t know how to just sit and watch a game as either a fan or an observer because I haven’t done it since I got into this business,” he said. “I don’t know how to be a fan. That’s going to be an interesting transition.”

Crowds gather for Cheyenne’s second Chey-Fy Comic Expo

in arts and culture/Community
2050

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Several hundred people gathered at Cheyenne’s historic Plains Hotel last weekend to take part in the city’s second “Chey-Fy Comic Expo.”

The event celebrating all things related to pop culture was sponsored by Cheyenne’s Small Business Hub, a group of business owners who meet to share their experience and expertise with others.

Jon Puls, the SBH vice president of events, said the Comic Expo is the group’s main event of the year and is used as a fundraiser.

“We’ve got comics, cosplay, stars, video games, sculptures, artists,” he said. “We’re doing all this with the hopes to create small business grants for the community.

Many people attending last weekend’s event wore their “Cosplay” costumes. People who take part in cosplay dress up as their favorite superhero, video game character, cartoon character or character from literature.

Vendors, meanwhile, filled many of the meeting rooms of the Plains with goods ranging from original artwork and graphic novels to craft items.This year’s Chey-Fy Comic Expo welcomed guests including Jon St. John, the voice behind many popular video game characters, most notably, “Duke Nukem.”

Fans stopping by his table were treated to St. John reciting lines from the game such as “Hail to the king baby!” 

Also making an appearance was veteran voice actor Dameon Clark, of the animated series “Dragon Ball Z.” Clark has also acted in the television shows Castle, Supernatural and Prison Break.

Several authors were also on hand, including Ron Fortier, writer for “Green Hornet,” and the series “Terminator: Burning Earth.” Along with the cosplay and guests, admission to the expo included discussion panels, a lunch with the guests, as well as anime movie screening and a midnight ghost hunt at the nearby Masonic Lodge. 

‘Shootout’ challenge reflects Shoshoni’s can-do spirit

in Community/Economic development/News/Recreation
Now entering Shoshoni
2032

By Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily

Like a challenge delivered out of the Old West, a shootout at high noon was held Saturday in Shoshoni.

Mayors of Fremont County’s towns, or their designees, met at the Shoshoni Rifle Range on the south edge of town to compete in three shooting categories – rifle, handgun and Annie Oakley shotgun-style shooting – as part of a fundraiser for the Fremont County Republican Women.

“When the Republican Women’s president, Ginger Bennett, called me, she wanted the shootout at high noon on Shoshoni’s Main Street,” said Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith. “I said, ‘Anything is a possibility in Shoshoni, let’s talk about it.’”

Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith exhibits a can-do attitude that characterizes his efforts to make things happen in Shoshoni.
Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith exhibits a can-do attitude that characterizes his efforts to make things happen in Shoshoni. Highsmith — whose father also served as Shoshoni’s mayor — said residents care about the community and have good ideas for its future. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

Highsmith was elected Shoshoni’s mayor in 2018. Like Saturday’s mayoral shootout, his can-do spirit is reflected throughout the 650-resident town.

It’s all about building and maintaining a community, its people and a great place to live, according to Highsmith.

“Shoshoni has always been my hometown, the place I consider my home, and the place where I always planned to retire,” Highsmith said.

Highsmith’s parents moved to Shoshoni in 1962. His wife Kathy’s parents moved to Shoshoni about 1950.

“I married my wife in 1972. That’s when we purchased our first real estate in Shoshoni. We have three beautiful daughters we raised in Shoshoni until 1989. We returned to Shoshoni in 2009,” he said. “We are Shoshoni people with Shoshoni roots.”

In fact, Highsmith’s father Joel Thomas Highsmith Sr. was mayor of Shoshoni in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Shoshoni in 2019 is a microcosm of life these days in central Wyoming. Local economies are struggling, even in Shoshoni where ConocoPhillips operates a gas plant in Lost Cabin, east of town.

Some people have left town. People make long commutes, usually through Shoshoni and the town’s famous intersection, to work in the oil and gas industry. Young people graduate out of the Shoshoni school system, and most leave. And few young people and their families live year-around in the community that boasts small-town amenities and is bordered by one of Wyoming’s best fishing reservoirs.

Boysen Reservoir, which borders Shoshoni, is a major focus for the community, with a committee considering ways to bring more people to the reservoir to take part in various activities and help revitalize the town. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

“Besides our school system, I believe Shoshoni’s crown jewel is Boysen Reservoir,” Highsmith said.

Shoshoni also benefits from residents willing to look at ways to breathe new life into the community, the mayor said.

“People care about the future of this town and they have ideas,” he said.

The Shoshoni Town Council, or as Highsmith calls it, “the governing body,” has established a pair of committees focused on Boysen Reservoir and the rifle range.

“We are looking at different options to enhance our town. The Lake Committee has met with Boysen State Park officials and the new owners of the Boysen Marina, who are both doing a great job,” Highsmith said. “We are looking at developing more activities and fishing opportunities so that Boysen becomes more of a destination for people on their way to Jackson and other places.”

Highsmith said the goal is to bring more events to Boysen Reservoir, which in turn, will help the town. At one time, winter carnivals, high-altitude drag races, fishing derbies and other events flourished at Boysen throughout the year and brought visitors and their money to Shoshoni.

Highsmith said the same committee approach is being used to draw people to Shoshoni’s rifle range, arguably the best in the county and central Wyoming. Grants and donations have helped the local rifle club improve safety at the range through steps such as having local range enthusiasts act as monitors when the range is open.

Shoshoni continues to host a number of community events, including its Labor Day Ranch Rodeos and its annual Don Layton Memorial Antique Tractor and Engine Show.

The landscape of Shoshoni is changing for the better, too, Highsmith said.

He recalled the days when downtown Shoshoni boasted a Gambles store, grocery store and movie theater.

This photo shows some of the old buildings that line Shoshoni’s streets. The town recently demolished six old buildings on Main Street, along with a hotel and the community’s old school. Residents are now looking into ways to fill the empty space with businesses to help the town. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

Today, some of the older, unusable buildings, including six separate buildings of the old Main Street, have been demolished, as has an old motel and the Shoshoni school in the center of town.

A new $39 million K-12 school has been built on the north end of town and is in its fourth year of operation.

The mayor said town officials are keeping an open mind to the opportunities for Shoshoni.

“We’ve been talking to the developer who bought our old school land,” Highsmith said. “We’ve been thinking and discussing, what can survive here.”

Town officials and many citizens agree Shoshoni needs an active motel/hotel and a local gathering spot, such as a café.

“That would be a big bonus for school activities and activities at the lake and rifle range,” Highsmith said. “Boysen State Park and the marina need more camper spots. Maybe we need a campground, because the lake is an important part of what we may do. Maybe our future is senior housing. We need more housing so our teachers can live here.”

The future for one of Wyoming’s busiest intersections – where U.S. Highways 20 and 26 meet – is involved, too, because it’s in the middle of town. Contrary to billboards on the edges of Shoshoni proclaiming the superiority of each highway, both provide convenient and scenic pathways to Yellowstone National Park.

The main intersection in Shoshoni takes travelers north on U.S. Highway 20 to Thermopolis or west on U.S. Highway 26 to Riverton. The intersection plays a role in attempts to revive the community, with residents looking at possible ways to build up businesses in the area. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)
The main intersection in Shoshoni takes travelers north on U.S. Highway 20 to Thermopolis or west on U.S. Highway 26 to Riverton. The intersection plays a role in attempts to revive the community, with residents looking at possible ways to build up businesses in the area. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)



“There will be changes in our intersection, even possible business expansion,” Highsmith said. “Our history involves a time when there were seven gas stations, and one on each corner of our intersection.”

Highsmith said Shoshoni people want businesses that benefit the community, including its school.

“We are open to ideas, and we are looking at things,” he said.

New Shoshoni school is a bright light in town

Bruce Thoren is in his sixth year as superintendent of Fremont County School District No. 24.

Shoshoni’s school district is very rural in nature, covering nearly 2,000 square miles.

“We’ve got kids attending from Natrona County, from Missouri Valley, Hidden Valley, Burma, Riverton, Shoshoni … the valley is where the vast majority of our students live,” said Thoren.

The school provides kindergarten through 12th grade education for more than 390 students and about 25 of those live with their families in Shoshoni. A school bus also makes daily stops at Riverton’s old Kmart to serve the more than 100 Shoshoni students who live in Riverton. Other students drive themselves to town, or ride school buses.

The school district is easily the largest employer in Shoshoni, with nearly 100 part- and full-time employees.

“These employees are a big deal for the Town of Shoshoni, and I believe the new building is definitely helping the viability of the town. Without the school, quite honestly, I’d hate to see what would happen to the town,” Thoren said.

There’s history attached to Shoshoni schools, too, as the first Shoshoni School opened in 1906 with 58 children and two teachers. After its first year of operation, a new school was built to educate 134 students at a cost of $7,000. The new building allowed the first- through fourth-graders to escape the old Shoshoni jailhouse, where they were attending school.

Thoren is proud of the school district’s ongoing partnership with the town.

“Things are headed in the right direction in Shoshoni, and the town council and mayor are looking to increase the viability of the town. Everyone wants to put the nicer things in place, including more paved streets,” Thoren said. “While most of the school employees and the Conoco gas plant employees commute from other places to work, a lot of those people would live in Shoshoni if we are able to get some of these community upgrades completed.”

Thoren points to future oil and gas development, including the Moneta Divide project, as possible boosts to the Shoshoni-area economy.

The Shoshoni Recreation District is part of the school district’s partnership with the town.

“This is a small Wyoming town, but it’s thriving with recreation,” said Recreation Director Michelle Rambo, who herself attended Shoshoni schools for 13 years.

The recreation district is currently preparing for its annual Halloween haunted house involving the efforts of more than 30 volunteers. It’s said to be one of the creepiest and best of its kind in Wyoming.

“People come to Shoshoni from all over the region to participate. It’s a huge event,” Rambo said.

Rambo, like the mayor and school superintendent, is positive about the future of Shoshoni, a community grounded in volunteerism “that works together to do what’s best for all of Wyoming.”

“My childhood friends live here, raising their families. We are all part of this community. We support our town,” Rambo said, adding a statement of her pride for Shoshoni schools and the mascot. “We ‘Ride for the Brand, be a Wrangler.’”

And The Wiener Winner Is…

in Community/Food and Beverage
1963

Labor Day Hot dog Eating Contest in Mills

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

MILLS — On a hot Labor Day afternoon, crowds gathered at Riverfront Park, on a bend of the Platte River. Some were there for food trucks, cold beer and a car show. But most were there to witness a ritual of Labor Day, a hot dog eating contest.

Last year saw the first annual “Wyoming Hot Dog Eating Championship,” organized by food truck owner Ticker Lock. The event’s first champions were Billy Floyd of Casper and Stephanie Wu of Carson City, Nevada. Floyd ate an amazing 13 wieners and buns while Wu ate 11 to win the men’s and women’s competition and set the mark to beat for the second installment of the holiday classic.

Winners were competing for custom made belts, but mostly for bragging rights. 

Before the competition would begin, there was a car show put on by “Pop In The Shop.” a Christian mentoring group that teaches fatherless boys age 7 to 17 about classic car restoration in the group’s shop on Yellowstone Highway in Casper. The show attracted nearly 20, hotrods, rat-rods and fully restored vehicles.

The contest itself began at 6 p.m., as contestants gathered around tables, bins loaded with hotdogs and buns. The rules were simple — eat as many wieners and buns in 11 minutes as possible. As the countdown to b begin reached zero, the food fight for the belts raged. 

The seven men and two women competing gobbled their way to hot dog immortality. There were different strategies at play. There was the “grab and squish,” trying to make the bun and wiener as compact and easy to consume as possible. Others went for the multi-bite attack, taking a series of rapid bites before briefly chewing and swallowing. 

The most popular method was the “dunk and down,” Bottles of water on the tables were used to soak the buns and make them less bulky both in the mouth and more importantly, in the stomach.

While the frankfurter fighters did their best, two men emerged as the ones to beat — reigning champion Billy Floyd and contender Johnny Haase. When the countdown ran out, Floyd had consumed 11 wieners but it was unclear how many Haase ate, which resulted in a protest being lodged. 

There was only one way to settle the matter — a sudden death eat-off. One minute was put back on the clock as the two went head-to-head to see who could eat the most. Floyd, a slim man, did his best and ate one complete bun and wiener, but Haase had room for two to take the title.

On the women’s side, the battle was less dramatic but nonetheless impressive, with Kiera Grogan of Orange County, New York, taking home the belt with a total of six hot dogs, edging out her competition.

Grow With Google reaches Wyoming

in Community/News/Technology
1918

A national program aimed at teaching people how to improve their digital skills reached Wyoming last week.

“Grow With Google” teams appeared at the Natrona and Laramie county libraries to lead classes in how people can use online tools to improve their computer skills, making them increasingly attractive to employers.

Officials with Grow With Google said a private study shows that eight out of 10 middle-skill jobs paying an average of $20 per hour now require some digital skills.

Google public affairs manager Katherine Williams said the classes help teach people how to find information that will help them find jobs or boost their own businesses.

“We’re looking to help educate folks on how they can get to that next level on their education so they can continue to grow with the economy as it does shift and change,” said Katherine Williams, a public affairs manager with Google.

Computers have become an increasingly important tool in business and Grow With Google helps people learn how to use that tool, she added.

“It’s increasingly important to understand, in today’s economy, how to use computers and the Internet to find information to further your career, to grow your small business,” she said.

Google has invested $1 billion in the program, which was launched in 2017, and usually partners with libraries to offer its courses.

Carey Hartmann, executive director of the Laramie County Library, said it made sense for Google to work with local libraries because that is where people go on their own to further their educations.

“And now we need to grow our digital skills and they’re changing so quickly that it’s natural for Google to want to parter with libraries and for libraries to want to partner with Google,” she said.

Fun in a bun: Wyoming’s Hot Dog Eating Championship to be held in Mills on Monday

in Community/Food and Beverage
Hot dogs
1892

For those with a soft spot in their hearts for the epicurean delight that is the hot dog, Mills is the place to be this long holiday weekend.

The second annual Wyoming Hot Dog Eating Championship on Monday will feature feats of gastronomical bravery as competitors face off in an attempt to eat the most hot dogs — including buns — in 11 minutes.

Organizer Ticker Lock, owner of Casper’s Rockin’ Burgers ’n Dogs Food Truck, said he created the championship and accompanying activities to give residents of his hometown of Mills something to look forward to at the end of the summer.

“It’s my way of giving back to the community,” he said. “There’s nothing to do on Labor Day. So I created it. I wanted to give the community something to look forward to.”

Competitors simply have to register at no cost on the day of the event. However, only seven men and seven women will be allowed to enter — although one extra spot is automatically awarded to the winners of the 2018 competition if they choose to enter this year.

Separate competitions will be held for men and women. Last year’s champion in men’s competition ate 13 hot dogs, while the women’s winner, who came to Casper from Nevada, ate 12, Lock said.

Competitors must eat not only the all-beef hot dogs, but the accompanying buns as well, he added.

“A lot of them bring their own Kool-Aid or water to dunk the bun,” he said. “It saves on a bit of chewing.”

The winners will each receive a custom-made championship belt.

The hot dog contest is the highlight of the full-day celebration at Mills River Front Park. Activities begin with a car show at 4 p.m. sponsored by group “Pop in the Shop.” The fee for putting to put a car on display is $10 and the proceeds will be used to help Pop in the Shop in its work to mentor young men.

Also on hand will be several food trucks, including Rockin’ Burgers n’ Dogs, Deb’s Fudge Kitchen, I Scream for Ice Cream and Miss Sara’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese, along with vendors, all beginning at 3 p.m.

Live music by Chad Lore, “Wyoming’s One-Man Band,” will begin at 4 p.m.

For more information, visit Rock’ Burgers n’ Dogs Food Truck’s website or see its Facebook page.

Catching Up: Michael DeGreve from Cheyenne’s Hitching Post

in arts and culture/Community
1863

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

For 30 years, singer-songwriter Michael DeGreve was a fixture at Cheyenne’s old Hitching Post Inn.

Although the self-described “Hippie from Hollywood Hills” may not have seemed like a logical fit for Cheyenne, Wyoming, the entertainer played to packed houses twice a day, six nights a week, from 1977 through 2007.

DeGreve moved on from the Hitching Post a year after the well-regarded owner of the hotel — Paul Smith — died in 2006. After a two-year stint at a resort in the northern woods of Wisconsin, the singer has made Las Vegas, Nevada, his home for the past seven years. His pace has slowed down a bit (now performing only four to five nights a week), but his love of entertaining has never waned.

“I’ve been blessed to play music every day of my life for the past 50 years,” DeGreve said. “It’s what I love to do.”

Now singing at the Mt. Charleston Lodge in Las Vegas and Jack’s Place in Boulder City, Nevada, DeGreve spoke highly of his time in Cheyenne during a recent performance and reflected on his relationship with Wyoming audiences.

“It was very warm right from the beginning,” DeGreve said. “I didn’t know I was going to perform at The Hitch for 30 years but as time went on and I realized the depth of what this place was and how wonderful the people were, I didn’t want to leave. It was my life.”

He discusses that life often during his show at Mt. Charleston. One weekend night, the singer regaled the crowd with many Cheyenne stories — many elicited much laughter. One story, however, silenced the crowd: the flood of 1985.

“August 1, 1985,” he began. “I had been there for eight years. We had a terrible flood. Once in a 100 year flood.

“I was doing my show. A friend of mine sitting right over there,” he continued, motioning to the right. “It had been a dry summer. It started a little bit after 6 p.m. He said ‘We could sure use this water.’

“By 9 p.m., 12 people were dead. The city was trashed. We had 6 1/2 inches of rain and hail in two hours. Trashed the city.”

The singer paused to wipe a tear from his eye. And paused again. The audience didn’t say a word.

A few moments later, DeGreve transitioned, as all of Cheyenne had to do back then, and told of how then-Gov. Ed Herschler called him two days after the flood and asked him for his help.

DeGreve has some powerful friends in the music industry. His first album had members of The Eagles and Crosby, Stills, and Nash singing background vocals. His ex-wife had married Graham Nash. One friend made time for DeGreve despite a booked touring season.

“I called my friend Neil Young,” he said. “We re-routed Neil’s tour and he and I did a show four weeks later on a blue moon night at the (Cheyenne Frontier Days) fairgrounds for 10,000 people. It was called the Silver Lining Benefit Concert. Everybody showed up. We raised a lot of money and we raised a lot of spirits.

“Everybody takes care of each other there,” he said of Cheyenne. “It is a very magical place.”

For DeGreve, that magic started and ended at The Hitching Post — a place he thought would be resurrected after the fire that ultimately doomed the establishment in 2010.

“The Hitching Post was such a huge part of my life. For the first two years I was here (in Las Vegas) I thought somebody was going to resurrect it on those grounds.”

DeGreve has been back to Cheyenne one time since the fire to attend a book signing event commemorating the Hitching Post.

“It was pretty emotional. Pretty nostalgic. Got to see a lot of friends. Signed books for hours and did a show,” he said.

What affected him the most, however, was seeing the remains of the hotel he called home for 30 years.

“But to see it physically burned down. Sheesh,” he said. “My mind raced and I just thought of the 10,000 nights playing music and telling stories to my friends in Cheyenne. It broke my heart.”

DeGreve said he would like to come back to Cheyenne and if the right circumstances unfolded, he would consider returning.
Although nothing has presented itself yet, DeGreve did say he expected to be back in Cheyenne soon.

“I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag,” he said grinning. “But I think we’re going to do something back in town soon and I can’t wait.”

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