Category archive

Tourism - page 10

College National Finals Rodeo in Wyoming: Special Olympics

in Community/Tourism/Agriculture
1544

On the last day of the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming contestants help put on a Special Olympics version of the competition for area special olympians.

The Special Olympics at the CNFR is attended by rodeo athletes from around the country — many of whom participate every year.

Miles City, Montana’s Haven Meged — who won the College National Finals Rodeo tie-down roping title — said, “To see the participants smile is pretty cool. We’re fortunate. They are happy to be here.”

And you could tell Haven Meged was happy to be there too.

Chadron Coffield, a participant in the College National Finals Rodeo, is a freshman at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington, Wyoming. Coffield was paired with one special olympian and said of his friend, “We had a lot of fun today. He got to experience new things and it is just a blast to see him have fun.”

Taylor Munsell, a participant in the College National Finals Rodeo, is from Northwest Oklahoma State. Taylor Munsell said, “It’s a great experience. Everyone should come out and try it.”

Priscilla Dowse, the CEO and President of Special Olympics Wyoming, said, “Our athletes are champions. We know that. And for them to have the opportunity to create the bond and spend that time together — everyone benefits. We have athletes who come out every year and wouldn’t miss it for anything and we have rodeo champions who not only want to win a championship but to have the opportunity to participate in this.”

Priscilla Dowse went on to say, “In fact, we have some champions who stay in touch with our athletes. It’s all about relationships and coming together.”

Wyoming’s Wallace wins unanimous approval for Interior post from powerful US Senate committee

in News/Recreation/Tourism
1533

WASHINGTON, DC — Wyoming resident Rob Wallace is one step closer to overseeing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service following unanimous approval of his appointment to the post by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee on Wednesday morning. 

Wallace, nominated by President Donald Trump to be the next Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, received commendations from Republican and Democrats alike during the meeting of the 21-member committee.

“I’ve known Rob for over 35 years and without question Rob is the right person for the job,” said EPW Chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). “Stakeholders from across the political spectrum agree that Rob is an outstanding choice and I urge my Senate colleagues to support his nomination.”

Minority EPW Chairman Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) said Wallace was both qualified and ready to lead, noting that Wallace “pledged to uphold science and bolster the expertise of the career staff” at the Department of Interior.

“I believe he is up to the challenge to providing badly needed leadership within the Department of Interior,” Carper said. “I look forward to welcoming Mr. Wallace to Delaware.”

Following the vote, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said he was “delighted” to vote for Wallace and said the two had a “terrific conversation”.

“Even though the organization he would work for is called the Department of Interior, this is a country that has more than interior, it also has edges,” Whitehouse said.  “The edges are our coasts and our coasts are overlooked by the department and he agreed to sit down with a bipartisan group of coastal senators and begin a conversation as to how coastal communities can be treated with more attention and more fairly.”

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a similar meeting on Thursday morning to consider the nomination of Wallace.

Wallace’s appointment must also be approved by the full Senate.

Elk antlers on the block at Jackson’s annual ElkFest

in Travel/Tourism/wildlife
Elk antlers on the block at Jackson’s annual ElkFest
Potential buyers look over the antlers up for sale during the BSA’s annual Elk Antler Auction on the Jackson Town Square. The 52nd annual auction will be held on Saturday as the highlight of Jackson’s ElkFest. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
1385

The sounds of spirited bidding will fill the air around Jackson’s Town Square this weekend as buyers vie for antlers shed by elk on the National Elk Refuge in the town’s annual ElkFest.

The BSA Elk Antler Auction will highlight ElkFest, but many other activities are scheduled for the weekend, including live music, a chili cook-off and a mountain man rendezvous.

The auction itself, now in its 52nd year, is the culmination of months of work by the Elk Refuge, assisted by Boy Scouts, said Lori Iverson, a spokeswoman for the refuge.

“It’s very dependent on scout help,” she said. “There’s so much behind-the-scenes work and that’s the part the scouts never get credit for.”

Elk Refuge personnel begin picking up antlers as soon as they are shed, generally beginning in March, Iverson said, to prevent damage to machinery used on the refuge.

“There’s one day … where the scouts go out and collect any remaining antlers,” she said.

In the week before the auction, held each year on the weekend before Memorial Day, the scouts sort and bundle the thousands of pounds of antlers, which are offered for sale in small lots. Those lots then must be weighed and in the early morning hours of Saturday, the scouts will put them out for buyers to preview.

The buyers, who come to Jackson from across the country, will bid by the pound for the antlers. Last year, the average bid of $18.36 per pound brought in more than $173,000. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds go to the Boy Scouts, while the remaining 75 percent goes to the Elk Refuge.

All told, it is estimated that the scouts and their leaders contribute 2,000 hours to the sale, which also includes time spent collecting payments and walking lots of antlers to the auction block.

The auction begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, but antlers are available for preview beginning at 7 a.m.

Antlers can also be found at a private antler sale sponsored by Jackson’s Rotary Club, which is also held on the Town Square. In that sale, antlers collected from areas other than the Elk Refuge or national parks will be available.

On Saturday night, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will hold a fundraising “casino night” and banquet.

On Sunday, the ElkFest continues with the opening of a mountain man rendezvous and trader’s row and a chili cook-off.

For more information on ElkFest, visit www.ElkFest.org.

Largest steam locomotive ever made to hit the rails again

in News/Transportation/Tourism
1313
Courtesy: Union Pacific Youtube posted Jan. 29 2019

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A resurrected giant of the rails built specifically to conquer the steep grades of the Rocky Mountain West will roll through Wyoming once again beginning Saturday.

The Big Boy locomotive, the largest steam engine ever built, will take off from Cheyenne’s Union Pacific Depot on Saturday morning, bound for Utah and the 150th anniversary of the completion of the country’s first transcontinental railway.

In an event to be attended by hundreds of train enthusiasts from around the world, the “Big Boy” will be christened at 9:30 a.m. Saturday before leaving for Ogden, Utah. Ogden is about 30 miles from Promontory Point, where the “golden spike” was driven in 1869 to link the Central Pacific’s line built east from Sacramento, California, with the Union Pacific line built west from the Missouri River. UP no longer has lines near the site.

This will mark the first time since 1961 that any of the 25 Big Boys built between 1941 and 1944 has been in active service for Union Pacific and the event is drawing rail fans from as far as Norway and Australia, said Bob Krieger, a former steam locomotive engineer who now runs the UP Historical Society in Cheyenne.

The attraction for many, Krieger said, rests in the allure of steam engines themselves.

“A steam locomotive is a living, breathing piece of machinery,” he said. “You can see its muscles. You can hear it breathe as it pulls a grade. All steam engines do that. The Big Boy is just the biggest.”

Weighing in at more than 1.2 million pounds, the Big Boy is 132 feet long and hinged in the center so it can negotiate turns in the rails.The Big Boy was created primarily to haul large loads up the Wasatch grade between Ogden, Utah, and Evanston, Wyoming.

“As the railroads expanded and grew their business, the train got longer and heavier and they had to have more powerful engines for the grades,” Krieger said. “The Big Boys, when they were designed, were actually going to be called the ‘Wasatch Class,’ but on the first one to come out, somebody had chalked on the smoke box ‘Big Boy.’”

Of the 25 Big Boys created, only eight remain intact on display around the country. Union Pacific obtained one from a transportation museum in California for refurbishment to take part in the “golden spike” celebration.

The locomotive was brought to Cheyenne, the headquarters for UP’s Steam Division, to be restored. There, crews relied on old schematics to recreate machinery parts that were no longer available for the locomotive, which was retired from UP’s roster in 1961.

After more than two years of work, the Big Boy — now fitted to burn oil instead of coal to generate steam — is ready for the trip to Promontory Point. It will be joined for the trip by UP’s “Living Legend” locomotive, the last steam locomotive to be built for the railroad.

The christening itself is a ticketed event and tickets have been sold out for weeks. However, the locomotives will be stopping at several points along the route before reaching Ogden, Utah, on May 9. (For details, see the schedule at the bottom of this story or visit Union Pacific’s website).

The locomotives will be viewable in Harriman, Laramie, Medicine Bow and Rawlins on Saturday.

Or, for a look at a smaller version of the world’s largest steam locomotive, a visit to the Frontier Mall in Cheyenne might be in order, where a model train version of the Big Boy holds a place of honor in the Sherman Hill Model Railroad Club’s layout — atop a trestle passing over a deep canyon.

Krieger, a member of the club, said the fact that up to 500 people visit the layout each weekend shows how popular trains remain for Americans.

“It’s a part of Americana,” he said. “During the (WWII) years, the railroad was the mainstay for moving freight, troops and supplies. A lot of us, when we were young, were very interested in watching trains run.”

The popularity of the layout translates well for the club’s annual railroad show at the Frontier Park exhibition hall, where several thousand will visit on the weekend of May 18-19. The event will feature nine model railroad layouts and 43 vendors.

Schedule for the “Great Race to Ogden”

To be traveled by the “Big Boy” and “Living Legends” locomotives

Saturday, May 4:

10 a.m.: Depart Cheyenne

11:15 a.m.: Arrive Harriman, depature 11:30 a.m.

12:30 p.m.: Arrive Laramie, departure 1:15 p.m.

2:30 p.m.: Arrive Medicine Bow, departure 3:15 p.m.

4:45 p.m.: Arrive Rawlins.

Sunday, May 5:

8 a.m.: Depart Rawlins

9:15 a.m.: Arrive Wamsutter, departure 10 a.m.

11:15 a.m.: Arrive Rock Springs

Monday, May 6: 

4 a.m.: Depart Rock Springs

4:55 a.m.: Arrive Green River, departure 5:10 a.m.

6:15 a.m.: Arrive Granger, departure 7 a.m.

8:45 a.m.: Arrive Evanston

Tuesday, May 7:

Full day in Evanston, no public display.

Wednesday, May 8:

8 a.m.: Depart Evanston

9:25 a.m.: Arrive Echo, Utah, departure 9:40 a.m.

10:20 a.m.: Arrive Morgan, Utah, departure 10:35 a.m.

11:35 a.m.: Arrive, Ogden, Utah.

Thursday, May 9:

10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.:  Free public display at Ogden Union Station

The location of the Big Boy can also be tracked via GPS at the UP website: https://www.up.com/forms/steam-trace.cfm

Missile alert facility to become Wyoming’s next tourist attraction

in News/Tourism/military
1302

A missile alert facility that once served as a home to three of America’s most powerful nuclear weapons is soon to become a Wyoming tourist attraction.

Quebec 1, a missile facility built in 1962 about 25 miles north of Cheyenne, will teach visitors about the history of the country’s nuclear weapons system, said Christina Bird of the Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources Division.

“We’re going to be open to the public, invite tours, invite school groups in to really learn about the history of missile alert facilities and the Peacekeeper missile system,” she said.

While active, the facility housed Minuteman I, Minuteman III and the multiple-warhead Peacekeeper missiles, along with launch controls and a crew of “missileers,” U.S. Air Force personnel who were in control of the devices.

The site was decommissioned in 2005. Since 2015, Wyoming’s Legislature has worked to put the facility in the hands of the state.

Even though the site is still officially in the hands of the federal government, state officials have worked to restore Quebec 1 to its original condition, complete with launch controls and the living quarters for the missileers who staffed the facility, Bird said.

“When F.E. Warren (Air Force Base) first started this process, this was an empty shell,” she said. “Leaps and bounds have happened in the last few years to bring this all back.

The site is expected to be transferred to the state by the Air Force later this year. Bird said the state will work to put up directional signs to the facility on Interstate 25.

Based on the number of visitors who tour other former missile alert facilities, state officials expect from 40,000 to 80,000 people to visit Quebec 1 every year, Bird said.

“We’re hopeful that we can accommodate as many visitors as want to come in,” she said.

Sponsoring rodeo teams requires big bucks, but reaches bigger audiences

in Government spending/News/Tourism
Sponsoring rodeo teams requires big bucks, but reaches bigger audiences
1255

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

When it comes to rounding up tourists, one of the best ways to nab their attention is through engaging narratives, according to Wyoming Office of Tourism Executive Director Diane Shober.

“Anytime you’re looking for a pitch into a larger audience, you want to have a compelling story with it,” Shober said. “Team Wyoming is a program built around pro rodeo cowboys and cowgirls. It is a way to take the image of the American cowboy and put a face and story with it.”

Created by the Office of Tourism in 2005, Team Wyoming brings together some of Wyoming’s top rodeo competitors in a marketing campaign focusing on the state’s strong ties to Western culture.“It’s a way to highlight Wyoming in the national conversation,” Shober explained. “We’re really leveraging the world’s love affair with the American cowboy.”

Comprised of seven members, the team competes in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association events around the state throughout the year before heading to the National Finals Rodeo to compete and host autograph signings, press events, a trade show and a special breakfast with Wyoming legislators, fans and livestock contractors. 

“(The breakfast) is a salute to Team Wyoming in Las Vegas where the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) is held,” Shober explained. “We celebrate the team, the Wyoming contractors that provide livestock for rodeo events and any folks in Wyoming that are hired to work (at NFR).”

The price of publicity is not cheap, however, and in 2013, 2014 and 2015, the Office of Tourism wrote checks to the Gold Coast Casino in Las Vegas for more than $20,000 each, according to information released in Wyoming’s checkbook by Wyoming State Auditor Kristi Racines.

“Twenty thousand dollars would be a lot for a breakfast, but those line items also include hotel rooms and rodeo tickets,” Shober said. “Back then, it was cheaper to buy bulk packages and provide them to people who wanted to attend the breakfast and rodeo, so there is a revenue component that is not reflected by those expenditures.”

From 2013 to 2015, the Office of Tourism provided interested parties with package deals purchased from the casino, she said. Sold at cost, the money was used to refund the Office of Tourism’s overall costs, which were paid for through its general fund.

During the 2013 NFR, the Office of Tourism reported it received about $8,700 in revenue to offset costs of about $23,500. In 2014, the office received approximately $13,200 in revenue during the NFR to offset its cost of about $22,600. And in 2015, the office received about $21,400 in revenue during the NFR, offsetting its cost of about $28,900.

“We have several sponsors for the event,” Shober said. “Over the years, they’ve covered a large portion of the costs. I have a sponsor that is going to cover the entire 2019 NFR event. So even though we pick up the bill, it doesn’t always mean that’s the cost to the Office of Tourism.”

On average, the office sent four to six employees between 2013 and 2015 for about four days of the NFR to promote Wyoming at various events and organize “meet and greets” with Team Wyoming, Shober said. While the employees’ accommodations were expensed to the state, she said additional hotel rooms were purchased from the Office of Tourism by Team Wyoming sponsors and other rodeo affiliates.

“We still do the breakfast annually,” Shober explained. “But we don’t do it at the Gold Coast Casino anymore. And we don’t do packages these days, because now the hotels are getting even stingier with their hotel rooms, and we’re not in the business of doing travel packages that way.”

For the last three years, she said the Team Wyoming breakfast was hosted at The D Hotel in Las Vegas, but the office is looking for a new venue in 2019.

As a whole, Team Wyoming has been a successful investment for the Office of Tourism, Shober said.

“When we started this, social media wasn’t really a thing yet,” she said. “But now, it’s part of the team members’ contracts, and we’ve seen that grow our brand.”

The office reported Team Wyoming’s social media accounts combined have about 100,000 followers. The Team Wyoming Facebook page has about 19,000 followers and posts videos promoting the team, some of which have been viewed more than 100,000 times.

But the big numbers come from the national coverage of the NFR. The Office of Tourism reported the NFR was attended by more than 177,000 people in 2017 and CBS Sports Network estimated each broadcast reached about 633,000 viewers.

“It’s not the rodeo crowd we’re marketing to necessarily — we’re marketing to potential visitors who want to come to the West,” Shober said. “This is about promoting Western culture and really elevating the Wyoming assets. It’s about that whole Western experience.”

Pine Bluffs distillery a destination for adventurous whiskey fans

in Travel/Community/Tourism/Agriculture
Pine Bluffs Distilling local community gathering place
1171

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Out on the high plains near Pine Bluffs, one can spot what looks like a barn off in the distance north of the Union Pacific rail line.

But instead of livestock and equipment, if you step inside this barn, you’ll find whiskey, vodka and a building full of people who love to experiment with spirits.

“Why not (experiment)?” asked Pine Bluffs Distilling co-owner Chad Brown. “We’ve got all these different barrels. Why can’t we release 10 products a year?”

Brown and his co-owners in the distillery, aunt Kathy Brown and cousin Gene Purdy, launched Pine Bluffs Distilling in 2017 with the idea of using different corn and grains from around the area to produce different spirits.

“We can grow any small cereal seed,” Brown said. “The traditional distilleries, they make one product. Why can’t we do what breweries do and make 20 different whiskeys?”

Welcome to Pine Bluffs Distilling in Pine Bluffs Wyoming
(Photo credit: Mary Angell)

Brown is a California native who lived in Nevada before his cousin Gene, a grain farmer near Pine Bluffs, convinced him to move to Wyoming in 2014. Brown, an avid home beer brewer, and his cousin shared an interest in how to add value to locally raised grains and how using those grains differently might result in different flavored spirits.

While Brown worked with Purdy on his farm, the family drew up plans for two businesses, Wyoming Malting and Pine Bluffs Distilling.

“We kind of came up with the plan for Wyoming Malting Co. and after doing some number crunching … we needed more revenue,” Brown said. “We were either going to go brewery or distillery. There’s a lot of breweries in the country. In 2014, there weren’t nearly as many distilleries.”

Wyoming Malting creates the malt from grains used in the brewing of beer and in distilling spirits. The malting operation, headed up by Mike Davidson and Glenn Sisson, processes about 660,000 pounds of barley, rye, oats and other grain every year.

Much of the malt is sent to area breweries, such as the Open Barrel Brewing Co. in Torrington, the Accomplice Beer Co. in Cheyenne and Square State Brewing in Rock Springs.

About 220,000 pounds of grain and corn is used by Pine Bluffs Distilling, where distillers Jon Unruh and Aaron Mayer create the company’s best-known spirits, Rock Ranch Vodka, Lodgepole Creek Bourbon and Muddy Creek Bourbon, a blend of bourbon and rye.

Lodgepole Creek and Muddy Creek both recently won bronze medals in a competition by the American Distilling Institute. Earlier this year, Rock Ranch Vodka received a bronze medal from the American Craft Spirits Association. 

But the distillers aren’t stopping with these spirits. They’ve already created a white whiskey, a corn whiskey and a limited release rye, just to name a few.

Still more spirits are in barrels aging, including an oat whiskey and several single malt whiskeys. In addition, the distillers are preparing seasonal spirits such as a peppermint whiskey for winter and a hibiscus-honey whiskey for spring.

“We’re going to show the same grain malted or treated differently, how different the final product can be,” Brown said. “And then our distillers, once again to change things up, they came and said ‘Hey, we’d like to do seasonal whiskeys.’”

The distillery itself and attached tasting room opened in November of 2017. Since then, more than 500 gallons of Pine Bluffs Distilling’s spirits has been released, but thousands more gallons are in barrels to be aged for a few years.

In the meantime, the tasting room has become a community gathering spot of sorts for the people of Pine Bluffs. The distillery regularly hosts events such as painting parties, board game nights and yoga.

The concept is similar to what is seen in breweries, Brown said.

“They hang out,” he said. “It’s a community gathering.”

And through it all, Pine Bluffs Distilling remains committed to its local grain producers.

“If we can lift up everybody at the same time, it just benefits the whole town,” Brown said.

The distillery and tasting room are open from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays.

Visitors can sample the distillery’s various spirits, take part in special events or even tour the distilling operation itself.

Pine Bluffs Distilling is on 322 N. Beech St. in Pine Bluffs, just north of the Frenchman Valley Coop.

For more information, visit the distillery’s website at PineBluffsDistilling.com.

A weekend of ice fishing awaits at Pinedale’s Big Fish Winter Derby

in News/Tourism
ice fishing
1046

By Cowboy State Daily

A weekend spent on a frozen lake might be just the ticket for anglers pining for the sunny days of summer fishing.If that sounds promising, head to Pinedale this weekend for a chance to win some cash and raise a little money to benefit cancer patients at the “Big Fish Winter Derby.”

The more than 50-year old ice fishing derby lures anglers from around the region as they try to catch the largest brown or rainbow trout from the 11-mile Fremont Lake on Saturday and Sunday.

Prizes worth more than $6,000 will be awarded during the event, which is being organized for the first year by the Pinedale Lions Club.

Jason Essington, a spokesman for the event, said the derby had been organized since the 1960s by the Pinedale Boat Club. However, the Boat Club disbanded in 2018.

“This year the Pinedale Lions Club took over all the assets the boat club had and kind of revived the derby,” Essington said.

In some fishing derbies, certain fish are tagged and the anglers who catch them win the top awards.At the Big Fish Winter Derby, prizes are awarded based on the size of the fish captured, Essington said.

“Fremont Lake is a very big lake,” he said. “We could tag 100 fish and never see them again.”

Proceeds from the event will be used to help pay the expenses faced by cancer patients usually not covered by insurance, such as lodging costs during treatment.

“The … Lions’ Club, when it has events like this, basically 100 percent of the money it raises goes back to the community,” Essington said.

People who wish to register for the event can do so until Friday by visiting the Pinedale Lions Club’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/904495963073791/

Essington said registrations will also be accepted in-person through Sunday at the derby’s headquarters at Lakeside Lodge.

Senate kills lodging tax bill

in News/Taxes/Tourism
1004

By Cowboy State Daily (updated Feb. 25, 2019 at 7PM)

A measure that would have imposed a statewide 5 percent tax on hotel and motel stays was killed by the Senate on Monday.

Senators voted 19-7 against HB 66, a measure seen as a way to finance the state Tourism Division without dipping into the state’s main bank account.

The bill would impose a 5 percent lodging tax across the state. Money from  percent of the tax — estimated at $19 million a year — would have been used to pay for the activities of the state Tourism Division. The division would have received no more money from the state’s main bank account, called the “General Fund.”

The money from the other 2 percent of the tax would have gone to counties to replace tax income lost when their local lodging taxes expired.

Supporters promoted the statewide tax as a way to collect money from visitors to Wyoming to pay for tourism promotion. But opponents questioned the cost the tax would add to the expense of a hotel or motel stay.

Updated: Lodging tax bill narrowly clears committee

in News/Taxes/Tourism
952

By Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would impose a statewide tax on all hotel and motel stays is headed for the Senate floor after clearing a committee on Tuesday.

HB 66, which would impose a statewide 5 percent lodging tax, won approval on a 3-1 vote from the Senate Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for review by the full body.

Money from 3 percent of the tax — estimated at $19 million per year — would go to the state Tourism Division to finance its operations. The division would no longer receive funds from the state’s main banking account, the General Fund.

Revenue from the other 2 percent would be sent to communities to replace local lodging taxes when they expire.

The bill’s committee approval was welcomed by members of the tourism industry, who said Wyoming needs all the financial help it can get to lure visitors to the state.

“Montana, Colorado, Utah, they outspend us by almost double in some instances and tourism is a competitive business,” said Chris Brown, director of the Wyoming Restaurant and Lodging Association. “We’re just looking to grow our slice of the pie for Wyoming’s visitor economy.”

Committee member Sen. Lisa Anselmi-Dalton, D-Rock Springs, declared a conflict and did not vote on the bill because she owns a hotel in Rock Springs.

Anselmi-Dalton also said she is not a supporter of the tax because of the burden it puts on business owners.

“It’s a pretty heavy lift for some people,” she said. “When I put things out to bid at my hotel, (clients) say ‘This is my budget’ and I end up eating the tax.”

The vote came as legislators approached a deadline to address the bills in front of their committees. All committee work must be completed by Wednesday.


Go to Top