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Mt. Rushmore To Hold Lottery For Independence Day Celebration With Trump

in News/Recreation/Tourism/Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Applications for a lottery for people hoping to attend the first fireworks show at Mount Rushmore in a decade — complete with an appearance by President Donald Trump — are now being accepted. But only for a limited time.

The lottery application process is open between now and 9:59 p.m. Monday. Only 7,500 tickets are available.

The celebration will be held from around 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on July 3 and will include a massive fireworks display and other entertainment.

The National Park Service shut down the fireworks celebration following the 2009 Independence Day.

On Dec. 13, 2018, South Dakota Gov.-elect Kristi Noem raised the idea of the fireworks celebration while meeting with Trump in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

In May 2019, Noem and the Department of Interior announced the fireworks celebration would be back. Trump tweeted his excitement about the return of the event and this May, he announced he would be attending the celebration.

“This year, after more than a year of diligent efforts, we’re finally bringing fireworks back to Mount Rushmore,” Noem said in a news release. “There’s truly no better place to celebrate America’s birthday. We’re excited that President Trump is coming to enjoy the show with us. He and the Department of Interior have been great partners in bringing this celebration back to our great state and the entire nation.”

There will be two zones available for viewing: zone one, which is in the amphitheater area or on the Grand View Terrace and zone two, along HIghway 244 within the Memorial.

For the first zone, visitors may be subject to a health screening. For the second, visitors will need to provide their own seating and viewing may be limited in some areas.

Tickets will be assigned at random. Applicants will be notified on June 12 with the results. Each ticket includes up to six participants.

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WATCH: Runoff Draws Kayakers For Great Rapids On The Popo Agie

in News/Tourism

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

When the water is running high on the Popo Agie River in Fremont County, the kayakers turn out.

Duncan Gans and a few friends took advantage of the spring runoff feeding the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie south of Lander a few days ago to get in some recreation on the water.

When rising temperatures melt the snow in the Wind River Mountains, the runoff flows into the Popo Agie, creating ideal conditions for kayaking near Sinks Canyon, as you can see in this video shot by Gans.

While the runoff has created flood levels in past years, as in 2010 and 2017, there appears to be no danger of flooding this year.

Sinks Canyon is named for a geologic feature called “The Sinks,” where the Popo Agie disappears into the side of a canyon wall and reappears one-quarter mile downstream on the other side of the canyon.

Cheyenne Frontier Days Cancelled For 2020, First In Event’s History

in Coronavirus/News/Tourism/Wyoming
Photo courtesy: Cheyenne Frontier Days

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By Jim Angell and Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Cheyenne Frontier Days, one of the nation’s largest outdoor rodeos, will be canceled for 2020, Gov. Mark Gordon announced Wednesday.

Gordon, during his weekly media briefing, also announced that five other major rodeos in Wyoming will not be held this year, largely due to the difficulties in maintaining the events while observing social distancing requirements.

“This coronavirus thing sucks,” Gordon said. “There are no two ways about it.”

Gordon was joined in his briefing by officials from Frontier Days, the Thermopolis Cowboy Rendezvous, Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo, Cody Stampede, Sheridan Wyo Rodeo and Laramie Jubilee Days.

Gordon said the officials had worked with his office for six weeks to determine if there was a way the large events could be held while guarding against transmission of the coronavirus. He stressed the decision to close was not made by the state, but by the rodeo officials.

Officials determined while the rodeos themselves could take place, related activities such as concerts parades, street dances and beer gardens could not, Gordon said.

“Holding these events without the night shows, parades and carnivals just wouldn’t be the same,” he said. “Simply having these (rodeos) doesn’t guarantee that people will come or if they do that they won’t get sick afterwards.”

Tom Hirsig, president and CEO for Cheyenne Frontier Days acting as a spokesman for all the rodeos, said other factors also figured into the decision of the major rodeos to cancel their events, including the health of the volunteers who handle much of the labor of running the events.

“Many of our volunteers are part of that at-risk population or have family members that are part of that population,” he said. “Risking their health is something we are not willing to do.”

Also of concern was the possibility that people could be infected with the coronavirus while attending the events, Hirsig said.

“One of the worst things we could do is to cause our state to go backwards in the recovery process,” he said.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the events, everyone agreed it made sense to cancel the large rodeos, Gordon said.

“To proceed in these uncertain times would be touch and go at best and could quite possibly compromise the events’ ability to hold a rodeo next year,” he said. “A bad experience could do enormous harm to Wyoming and these events’ reputations.”

At the same time as Gordon’s announcement, CFD posted a notice on its website, confirming the cancellation and updating fans about ticket sales. The Thomas Rhett, Eric Church and Blake Shelton concerts will be rescheduled and included in the 2021 night show lineup.

Rodeo and PBR bull riding tickets will automatically roll over to the 2021 season.

The cancellation of Cheyenne Frontier Days is the first for the celebration since it was created in 1897.

According to a Frontier Days report, the 142,000 attendees to the event in 2018 spent $21.7 million in Cheyenne, so the economic impact of the move on the city is expected to be significant.

In a news release issued by CFD on Wednesday afternoon, it stated visitors spent over $28 million, generating over $1 million in local and state taxes, more than $5 million in overnight lodging and almost $9 million for retail businesses.

Darren Rudloff, former Visit Cheyenne CEO and tourism consultant with Rudloff Solutions, agreed with the governor and Hirsig that Wednesday was a tough day for both Cheyenne and Wyoming.

“The committee discussed every option, including an event where there were no fans in attendance,” Rudloff said. “But once you begin to pick off pieces of a rodeo and Western celebration, what do you have left? These events are core to Wyoming’s culture, identity and heritage. This wasn’t a flippant decision at all.”

Frontier Days began in 1897 as a one-day festival showcasing the skills of working cowboys. It has since grown to a 10-day event featuring rodeo performances, concerts by top country music acts and a carnival, in addition to related activities such as parades and pancake breakfasts.

Though largely run by a volunteer workforce, the event also creates 302 full- and part-time jobs, resulting in $5 million in wages and salaries.

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Gordon, Wyo Rodeo Heads Announce Six Largest Rodeos Are Cancelled In 2020

in News/Tourism

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Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon and representatives from the state’s largest rodeos announced today that six of Wyoming’s large rodeos and events will not take place in 2020. This decision factored in economics, health concerns and logistics. 

The cancellation decision was made collectively and includes the Thermopolis Cowboy Rendezvous PRCA Rodeo in late June as well the Cody Stampede, Central Wyoming Fair & PRCA Rodeo in Casper, the Sheridan WYO Rodeo and Breakaway Roping, Laramie Jubilee Days, and Cheyenne Frontier Days, all scheduled for July.

“This hurts. I grew up with rodeo and it is part of Wyoming’s fabric and our culture,” Governor Gordon said. “All the rodeos impacted today are fabulous events. It is with a heavy heart, and only after many long discussions with these fine folks on ways we could make large-venue rodeos work, did we realize that it just wasn’t going to be possible this year.”

The Governor and his staff met with rodeo committee members from Cody, Sheridan, Thermopolis, Laramie, Casper and Cheyenne over the past several weeks to consider potential social distancing measures, entrance and exit plans, and other possibilities to ensure safely staging rodeos, parades, carnivals and concerts.

Flanked by representatives of all six rodeos, the Governor said that after several weeks of evaluation, discussions, and considerations of every possible scenario, it was clear that there was no safe or economically viable path forward at this time for these events.

“The health and safety of our fans, volunteers, contestants and first responders is our primary concern.” the Governor emphasized. “I know what this means for rodeo, for our communities and to Wyoming’s summer. The financial and emotional impacts are immense. But it’s the right thing to do. We are committed to doing all we can to ensure smaller rodeos and events will still be able to occur.”

While these six Western celebrations are not possible in 2020, there is a statewide commitment to returning stronger than ever in 2021. A video message from organizers of all six events can be found here.

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Wyoming Tourism Focuses on In-State Citizens First

in News/Tourism

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The best way to prime the tourism pump? It might be to focus internally first.

That’s the strategy the Wyoming Office of Tourism is taking.

Instead of a broader appeal to out-of-state citizens who — in many, many cases — would still be hunkered down at home, the office is luring in-staters to enjoy their home state with a new video advertisement.

Diane Shober, the executive director of the Office of Tourism, said this campaign is focused on urging residents to “get out and support all local businesses.”

The 30-second ad has a youthful feel to it featuring a mixture of hipsters, cowboys, baristas, and brewers.

It’s more of a soft-sell spot. You won’t see many car dealerships doing something like this.

No spoken words. Soft music. Slow-motion. Gentle lighting. All with reassuring words superimposed on the screen.

“We’ve all been keeping our distance,” it says. “But now it’s time to strap on our boots. To reunite our communities and reawaken the economy.”

As for the more easily identifiable locations in the video, the town of Saratoga and Buffalo are present as well as more iconic scenes such a river, a hiking trail, and a barn.

“Wyomingites should be the first to return to the main streets and mainstays,” Josh Dorrell, from the Wyoming Business Council said.  “[It’s] an important step in reclaiming our local economy.”

Don’t worry, the wonderfully effective #ThatsWY isn’t going anywhere. Shober said this is an “interim approach” to the overall #ThatsWY brand platform.

The campaign, which also features radio spots and a social media component, is scheduled to run for a month.

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Gordon Keeps In-State Camping Reservation System; Cancels Out-Of-State Camping

in Coronavirus/News/Tourism

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For those who don’t like to compete with visitors from other states for state park campsites, you’ll be glad to know that Governor Gordon, for now, has closed state park campsites to out-of-state visitors.

This doesn’t mean out-of-staters can’t camp in Wyoming.  But not at the state park campgrounds.

However, those who don’t like the reservation system put in place for Wyoming residents who camp at state campgrounds didn’t get any relief from the governor today. That system is still in place.

Gordon last week announced state park campsites would be open to Wyoming residents only as of May 15. To help make sure social distancing guidelines are observed and to keep out-of-state visitors from camping at the parks, the state created a reservation system for campsites.

It’s a system, the governor says, that he hopes will be a big improvement over the “first-come, first-served” system in place now.

“What we’re trying to implement is a very good system that is easy to use where people can sign up and reserve a camping spot before they go to our state parks,” he said.

He said the State of Wyoming is a “little less eager” to have out-of-state campers coming in until other states have opened up their own parks. The reservation system, he said, provides a way to prevent non-residents from overnight camping in the parks.

“It’s new. I understand that,” he said. “But this is a great way to make sure people don’t waste their time trying to get a camping spot.”

Long-term, Gordon said, he thinks this will be an improved experience.

“We are trying to make this as flexible as possible and take advantage of what we think is actually a better system.  Because you’ll know the camping space where you are going and be assured of that,” he said.

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Longmire Days Postponed to August For Now

in Coronavirus/News/Tourism

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Buffalo’s annual Longmire Days is getting pushed back by at least one month, organizers announced this week.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Longmire Days organizers made the decision to reschedule the event from July to Aug. 13-16.

“The safety of event attendees, our local community and the actors who so generously donate their time are first and foremost in our minds,” a note on the event’s website read. “We feel this additional month will give the event the time that may be necessary for large scale events to be possible.”

The extra month would also give attendees time to make new travel and lodging accommodations.

However, the organizers did mention the possibility of Longmire Days being canceled this year.

“We cannot guarantee that the event won’t be canceled at a future time due to the rapidly changing situation,” the letter read. “We cannot predict what may or may not happen come August.”

Longmire Days is an annual event held in Buffalo every summer that celebrates the Walt Longmire series of books by Wyoming author Craig Johnson and the “Longmire” TV series, 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.

Johnson has written more than 20 books about the sheriff, usually publishing at least one new Longmire story every year.

Johnson is always a special guest at Longmire Days and this year’s celebrity lineup includes Johnson and television show cast members Katee Sackhoff and Adam Bartley.

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Wyoming Tourism Chief: Tourist Season Not Doomed; Summer is Critical

in Coronavirus/News/Tourism

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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s second largest industry — tourism — might be on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, but spring could be the best time for it to happen, according to the executive director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism.

“Springtime tends to be a slower time of year,” said Diane Shober. “Our winter destinations are slowing down as the snow thaws, but there’s still enough snow that our summer destinations haven’t usually started ramping up, yet.”

With officials nationwide still debating the right time to roll back travel restrictions, Shober said it’s too early to determine the overall impact to Wyoming tourism, but many events, such as Cheyenne Frontier Days, are holding out for the best.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Frontier Days stays on schedule,” Shober said. 

As the state’s largest private-sector employer, tourism will be a key component of re-igniting Wyoming’s economy once stay-at-home orders dissipate nationwide. 

“This summer will be critical,” Shober said. “This is an export economy. People coming here from other places helps offset our revenues across our cities, counties and state.” 

In the meantime, the Office of Tourism is monitoring consumer data to determine when to start marketing again. 

“What we’re trying to understand is the feeling of the consumer as it relates to travel,” Shober explained.

Gov. Mark Gordon, during a news conference Wednesday, said Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is estimating a 20% to 30% drop in tourism.

“Our economy is going to be different from this day forward for a while,” he said. “People aren’t traveling, they aren’t flying the way they used to.”

Polls have shown the pandemic took a significant toll on the public’s desire to travel this summer, but a month or more of staying at home could change that, she said. To keep the Cowboy State on the minds of potential travelers, the Office of Tourism is focusing its social media messaging on positive messages to remind people the West still exists on the horizon.

“All of our efforts right now are very organic, focusing on virtual, armchair travel,” Shober said. “We’re using inspirational photographs and feel-good stories to remind people you can still dream about your travels.” 

Plans to reopen Yellowstone National Park, one of Wyoming’s leading tourist destinations, are still up in the air, but Shober said many roads and services wouldn’t be open yet anyway because of park road conditions.

“Like us, park staff are playing it by ear,” she added. “There’s been no communication with us about if or when, but honestly, we haven’t pushed it. We know the timing is just not right.” 

To help industry partners get through the slump, Shober said the Office of Tourism is coordinating resources with commercial lenders, relief organizations and the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services as well as hosting webinars about how businesses can get the most out of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“We’re making sure we’re hearing what our industry needs and identifying what we’ll need to do next in a post-COVID-19 world,” she explained. “As people start to travel again, it’s not going to be like a light switch flipping back on. It will be more gradual, like a sunrise. That’s what we’re focusing on now.”

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Smart Yellowstone Reporter – Unlike Idiot Tourists – Leaves Bison Alone

in News/Tourism/wildlife

We’ve seen the videos many, many times. Tourists come to Yellowstone and attempt to pet bison.

The result? Oftentimes, not good.

Deion Broxton, from KTVM TV in Bozeman, Montana, did the right thing. He saw a herd of bison coming his way and bailed out.

“Oh my God,” he muttered while carefully observing the approaching herd.

“I ain’t messing with you,” he said moments later, while walking off-camera and to his car.

“Oh, no,” he continued while packing his car with his gear. “Oh no, I ain’t messing with you.”

His actions got him praise from the official Yellowstone Twitter account.

“A perfect example of what to do when approached by wildlife! Rolling on the floor laughing Thanks Deion for putting the #YellowstonePledge into action!” they tweeted.

As for that herd of bison, those were some serious animals. Once he got to a safe location, he shot a quick video of them.

Tourism officials see need for closure order

in Coronavirus/News/Tourism

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The state order closing down businesses where people are likely to gather is regrettable, but understandable under the circumstances, the leaders of two Wyoming hospitality industry groups said Friday.

Mike Moser, executive director for the Wyoming State Liquor Association, and Chris Brown, executive director of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association, both said it is important to take action now to cut short the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

“This is obviously an unprecedented time in Wyoming and our nation’s history,” Brown said. “It is going to be very difficult for our businesses to endure and adapt. If there is a silver lining, I hope these extreme measures result in reducing the longevity of this virus so we can get back to business as usual as quickly as possible.”

“We’ve got hundreds of businesses closed and thousands of employees unemployed or underemployed,” Moser said. “But we understand the need for the governor’s actions.”

Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, on Thursday issued an order closing all of the state’s bars, theaters, child care centers, gyms and other businesses likely to draw more than 10 people at once. The measure, endorsed by Gov. Mark Gordon, is seen as a way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Restaurants were allowed to remain open only for curbside takeout and drive-through service. Tourism is Wyoming’s second-largest industry and the closures are expected to have an impact on the state’s economy. Brown said he hopes the closure leads to an end to the spread of the illness by Wyoming’s summer tourism season.

“I guess if there’s another silver lining, at least it’s March and not July,” he said. “I hope measures like this will result in this situation concluding sooner rather than later.”

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