Category archive

Tourism - page 2

Quebec 1 open as state historic site

in News/Tourism/military
1848

A nuclear missile silo in operation through the Cold War is now officially owned by Wyoming.

Quebec 1, a missile silo that over the years housed three different kinds of nuclear missiles, opened Aug. 17 as a part of the state Department of Parks and Cultural Resources.

The silo was built in 1962 and served through the height of the Cold War, housing the Minuteman I, Minuteman III and Peacekeeper missiles, along with their launch controls and crews of U.S. Air Force personnel who were in control of the weapons.

The site was decommissioned in 2005 and since 2015, Wyoming officials have worked to get the silo in state hands for use as a historic site.

One of the state officials involved in the effort was Milward Simpson, former director of the Department of Parks and Cultural Resources.

“I couldn’t be more respectful of and pleased the the military had the vision to see the this was a way to tell a story that really needs to be told,” he said.

Simpson was on hand for the facility’s grand opening, as was Vilma Ortiz Vergne, a “missileer” who was part of the missile crews that controlled various silos.

Vergne said she spent most of her time at the Tango missile silo near Torrington, but did spend some time at Quebec 1. She was on duty at the Tango site when the United States was attacked by Islamic terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001 and she said she and her fellow crew members relied on their training to stay calm during the incident.

“The way the missileers are trained is that as you react, you follow your training to the letter, without exception,” she said. “There cannot be any error, there cannot be any deviations. Your lives and the lives of so many people are in your hands.”

Quebec 1, found about 30 miles north of Cheyenne just off of Interstate 25, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

A salute to aviation at Wyoming’s only Spaceport

in Travel/Transportation/Tourism
Wyoming Spaceport celebration
Three boys check out the interior of one of the planes that flew to the Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport during the 2018 Spaceport Days festival. (Photo courtesy of the City of Green River)
1839

A celebration of air travel at a Wyoming airport named with an eye to the future is in the cards this weekend.

Green River’s annual Spaceport Days, staged at the Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport, will be held Friday and Saturday and will feature a magic performance, outdoor screening of a “Star Wars” movie and a demonstration of the Aviat “Husky” airplane, made in Afton.

The Intergalactic Spaceport is a public use airstrip about five miles south of Green River that was renamed a spaceport in 1994.

According to published reports, the rural airport was renamed by Green River City Council members to convey “an offer of sanctuary to the possible residents of the planet of Jupiter” threatened at the time by pieces of a comet headed for the planet.

The airport is used by local pilots and pilots of small planes, said Amanda Cavaz, Green River’s communications administrator.

“We have people who come in and land, then they come in to explore,” she said. “We’ve had some people who land there to make sure everything is OK on their aircraft. It’s a great airport for anybody who is coming in to do recreation here in Green River.”

Green River Spaceport Days
Crowds check out the helicopters and airplanes on display at the 2018 Spaceport Days at the Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport. (Photo courtesy of the City of Green River)

Spaceport Days was organized as a way to celebrate aviation and local aviators, Cavaz said.

“And it’s to invite aviators from our region to come in and see our operation and share a breakfast,” she said.

Activities begin at 7 p.m. Friday with a performance by a magician, followed at 9 p.m. by the showing of a “Star Wars” movie and Star Wars costume contest.

Fire pits can be found throughout the area, allowing attendees to light campfires while watching the movie.

Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport
A young attendee at the 2018 Spaceport Days festival takes a look around the inside of a helicopter during the event held at the Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport. (Photo courtesy of the City of Green River)

“It’s really a fun, family-friendly type event,” Cavaz said. “People bring trucks and camp chairs and set up their camp chairs and watch a movie outdoors.”

On Saturday, a pancake breakfast will start the day at 8 a.m. The cost is $7 per person, but pilots who fly into the area will eat for free, Cavaz said.

“Most pilots like to fly early in colder air, so they land, taxi off the runway, park the aircraft and have breakfast on us,” she said. “Members of the public then have a chance to come in and look at all the different types of planes.”

In past years, pilots have flown to Green River from areas of Wyoming including Laramie, Afton and Pinedale, she said.

After breakfast, a UH-60 “Blackhawk” helicopter and an “Airmed” rescue helicopter will be on display, while the “Husky” airplane created by Afton’s Aviat will put on an aerobatics demonstration.

For more information on Spaceport Days, visit there website here or go to the Spaceport Days and Fly-In page on Facebook.

Yellowstone Visitors Need to Give Wildlife More Space

in News/Tourism/wildlife
Bison in Yellowstone
1809

By Seneca Flowers, Cowboy State Daily

A bison chucked a 9-year-old Florida girl visiting Yellowstone National Park into the air like a rag doll in late July. The incident was shared via social media and was soon followed by an unrelated video of a man reaching over a fence to pet a bison. 

Time and time again, videos surface of park visitors, often branded “tourons” by social media, violating rules that many people in the area see as common sense. 

But officials say knowledge of safe wildlife interactions isn’t always common.

“Sometimes they [tourists] don’t really know what they can or can’t do,” said Linda Veress, a spokeswoman for Yellowstone National Park. 

Veress said tourists will often watch what other people do and assume that those actions are acceptable because they have never been in those situations before.

Yellowstone provides a different environment than those in which people usually see wildlife, such as in zoos that have barriers and other forms of dividers. So tourists may not completely understand how to safely view and appreciate wildlife, Veress said.

Yellowstone and Wyoming have a variety of wildlife for viewing, but Sara DiRienzo, a public information officer with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, reminded Wyomingites and visitors to give the large animals plenty of space.

“Keeping a safe distance from wildlife is important for the individual’s safety as well as the wildlife’s,” DiRienzo said. 

She recommended people stay a respectful distance from wildlife and remember to observe the animal’s behavior. She added that if the animal begins making eye contact or acting nervous, it is time to back away. DiRienzo recommended people understand how to handle various wildlife situations before setting out to view animals.

The National Park Service website states that 67 mammals, including bison, wolves and bears, call Yellowstone their home. Bison cause more injuries than any other animal in the park, Veress said.

Bison are agile and sometimes aggressive creatures with the ability to charge at 30 mph, and bulls can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. This means people should stand at least 25 to 100 yards away from the animals, according to Yellowstonepark.com.

Veress noted when people visit Yellowstone, large numbers of animals are often visible in public areas. This is an unusual experience for many people. But she added that people can forget the animals are still unpredictable and wild.

The park attempts to educate tourists with the widespread use of illustrated signs with warnings written in several languages at key locations. But she also recommended visitors take the “Yellowstone Pledge” for wildlife education prior to visiting the park. 

The Yellowstone Pledge is part of a National Park Service public education initiative found here. It offers 10 tips designed to educate visitors about proper park etiquette in several of the most common tourist languages, such as Chinese and Spanish.

As recordings of Yellowstone wildlife conflicts become more widely available, officials are using social media to pursue individuals acting inappropriately within the park. Veress said it was hard to tell what kind of effect videos and other social media sharing are having on tourist behavior because the posting of videos is a new phenomenon. There is no way to correlate a reduction or increase of incidents to the videos. Videos are mainly used for identifying individuals.

“Some of these incidents were taken on video and passed onto us,” Veress said. “From there, the videos can result in court (action).”

The videos enable park rangers to deduce locations and identify people involved. As federal law enforcement officers, rangers are able to issue citations to help reduce incidents, Veress added.

Many people are more worried about the dangers of bears than bison, but bears are often less accessible than bison in the park, she said. In addition, there are fewer bears than bison, and they tend to remain further away from people. 

The National Park Service website states that eight people have died from bear attacks since the park opened in 1872. But deaths caused by bears are less common than other causes of death in the park, such as drowning, which has claimed 121 lives in the park’s history.

The Wyoming Game and Fish currently offers “bear wise” education on its website along with other wildlife information. The key to viewing any wildlife is to stay back and stay safe, according to the department.

“The onus is people to be safe around all types of wildlife,” DiRienzo said. “Wyoming [and Yellowstone] offers an incredible opportunity, anywhere you go, to view and enjoy wildlife. It can give people some of the most incredible experiences outdoors.”

Thousands visit Buffalo for ‘Longmire Days’

in News/Travel/Tourism
1706

By Wendy Corr for Cowboy State Daily

Even though it’s been three years since the last new episode of “Longmire” aired, thousands of people last week visited the town that inspired the setting for the books written by Ucross author Craig Johnson.

An estimated 10,000 were in Buffalo on July 18-21 to celebrate the eighth annual “Longmire Days,” an event created to commemorate the popular television and book series.

Fans from around the world flock to Buffalo for the autograph sessions with stars from the show, parades, a craft show, talent show and classic car show that highlight the weekend.

Damaris Miller of Colorado said her love of the show will keep her coming to Buffalo every year even though the show is no longer in production.

“You just feel like you know the characters and you feel like if they walk on the street, you would just feel like you were friends with them,” she said. “You know their history, you know their life. And as you can see from Buffalo, it’s crowded from people who just love the series. I plan on coming every year.”

Buffalo residents enjoy the boost to the local economy that comes with the annual celebration.

“It enriches us by bringing together lots of different folks who come here and appreciate the beauty of where we live,” said Tacia Kolb of Leadership Johnson County.

The streaming service Netflix continues to air past episodes of “Longmire.”

Cheyenne Frontier Days: Behind the Chutes

in Community/Tourism/arts and culture
1700

By Seneca Flowers, special for Cowboy State Daily

You can tell it’s Cheyenne Frontier Days because the heat has finally kicked up to the 90s in Cheyenne. When the July heat starts cooking, Cheyenne Frontier Days gets into gear. Part of the magic can be witnessed by locals and tourists who can step in the arena mud and dirt as part of the Behind the Chutes tour.

The tour features a variety of history and facts narrated by guides as it passes from the Old West Museum through to the animal holding area and emptying out in to the arena near the bucking chutes and chute nine.

Public Relations Committee Volunteer Jessica Crowder is a tour guide for Behind the Chutes and has been so for nearly a decade. She said over the years, she has enjoyed meeting people from around the world.

“We have had people from Europe, South America,” she said. “I can’t think of place we haven’t seen someone from.”

One family took the tour as part of a vacation from their hometown of Bloomfield, Ind. The Holtsclaw family visited Cheyenne as part of a Wyoming and South Dakota sightseeing trip. As a child, Jarrod Holtsclaw would often visit a Labor Day rodeo in Palestine, Ill., near his hometown with his parents and grandparents. The rodeo was not as large as Cheyenne Frontier Days. He said he was impressed by the size of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.

His son, Boone, enjoyed being up close to the livestock.

“My favorite part was looking at the bulls they had,” Boone Holtsclaw said.

Although the tour took people along the path for 45 minutes, it was a much tighter tour than it was in the past, according to Crowder. The tour used to be just one to two tour guides who had to know every detail. But nowadays, newer volunteers get to shadow the veterans and take part in guiding the tourists. This allows them to help out without having to know every part of the script.

“That adaptation really made it a lot of fun,” Crowder said.

Although she has done the tour for nearly a decade, she said she enjoys hearing about the tourists’ experiences and watching them have fun while interacting during the tour.

Dubois celebrates ‘National Day of the Cowboy’ this weekend

in Travel/Tourism
National Day of the Cowboy Celebration Dubois, Wyoming
1676

A weekend of celebration dedicated to an iconic American figure is on tap in Dubois this weekend as the town holds its annual “National Day of the Cowboy” celebration.

Every year, the day of commemoration first recognized 2005 is held on the fourth Saturday of July. In Dubois, that celebration takes the form of a rodeo, parade and special events that may not be seen at just any community event — like the “cowhide race.”

“You hook a cowhide by rope to a horse and the horse pulls you around (an arena) and you have to stay on for a set amount of time,” said Randy Lahr, an official with the celebration. “It’s not easy. You won’t see me doing that.”

The cowhide race is just one of several events occurring during the weekend.

The celebration kicks off Friday night with Dubois’ regular Friday Night Rodeo, held every Friday through the summer.

The rodeo is considered a working ranch rodeo, which means competitors are working cowboys from ranches in the area, Lahr said.

“It’s a totally different rodeo,” he said. “It’s put on by all of the dude ranches and the people who come to the dude ranches are involved.”

On Saturday, events will kick off with a parade through downtown Dubois in the afternoon and a chuckwagon serving coffee and biscuits beginning after the parade.

Later, a “poker run” will lead participants through and around Dubois.In a poker run, participants ride to pre-determined spots to collect playing cards. The person with the best poker hand after a certain number of stops generally wins a prize.

While poker runs are most often associated with motorcycles, in this case, riders will be on horseback, Lahr said.

The cowhide race will follow the poker run, as will a whiskey, wine and beer tasting. The day will wrap up with a concert titled “Romancing the West,” which presents a history of the West in song.

Also running through the weekend is the annual Headwaters National Art Show and Sale in the Headwaters Center.

On Sunday, a session of cowboy church will be held and the chuckwagon will again offer coffee and biscuits.

The celebration is under the direction of the Dubois Western Activities Association, which was created this year to oversee the National Day of the Cowboy, the community’s chariot races, usually held in the fall, and its pack horse race in June.

GTNP’s Jenny Lake improvement project completed via private partnership

in News/Tourism
1589

A formal ribbon cutting was held this week at Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park’s most popular destination, to celebrate the completion of a $20.5 million improvement project.

The public-private partnership between Grand Teton National Park and the Grand Teton National Park Foundation (in which two-thirds
of the total raised was by private donors) is the “secret sauce” to getting some key projects completed, according to Wyoming native Rob Wallace — the incoming Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

Wyoming’s minimal exposure in movies could soon dissipate

in Government spending/News/Tourism
1566

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

As the last of the funding is drained from the Wyoming Office of Tourism’s Film Incentives Program, the state could see even less time on the silver screen.

Filming in Wyoming can be a hard sell for out-of-state companies such as Netflix and Thunder Road Films, which produced Wind River in 2017.

Diane Shober, executive director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism, explained a lack of film production infrastructure played a significant role among the many difficulties in luring production companies to Wyoming.

In the past, the state’s Film Incentive Program helped offset the difficulties of drawing film studios, travel shows and multimedia production firms to the state by offering a 12 to 15 percent rebate to companies that spent more than $200,000 shooting in Wyoming.

“We used the program as a recruitment tool for out-of-state production companies to use in-state production companies,” Shober said. “Having a film incentive doesn’t guarantee a company will shoot in your state, but without one, big film companies won’t even look at you.”

In 2009, the program provided Brown 26 Productions, which worked on Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” with a $115,000 rebate for shooting parts of the movie in Wyoming. The movie’s total budget was estimated at about $100 million, according to Internet Movie Database (IMDb). In 2015, however, when Tarantino directed “Hateful Eight,” a movie about bounty hunters waiting out a Wyoming winter during the late 19th century, the film was primarily shot in Colorado, which Shober said has a robust incentive program.

Breaking down the numbers

Since its creation in 2007, the incentives program has returned about $2.1 million to production companies, Shober said.Wyoming’s checkbook, released in January by State Auditor Kristi Racines, includes checks issued by the Office of Tourism for the program from the last six years.

According to the checkbook, the office paid grants for about $322,000 in 2013, $167,000 in 2014, $366,000 in 2015, $402,000 in 2016, $248,000 in 2017 and $35,000 in 2018.

Shober said other than minimal funding for signage, the Film Incentives Program was the only grant program operated by the office.

The production companies listed on the checks range from big names like Red Bull Media House and Wells Fargo Bank to smaller multimedia companies like WZRD Media and Teton Gravity Research.

Every applicant was required to meet certain criteria to be eligible for the rebate. Requirements include $200,000 or more spent in the state, a storyline set in Wyoming, Wyoming footage in the production and listing Wyoming as a filming location in the credits.

Shober said the program funds were appropriated by Legislature, which also set the criteria for rebate eligibility.

“In this last legislative session, we had a bill requesting funding that made it out of the House,” she said. “But it died in the Senate on third reading.”

House Bill 164 would have transferred up to $16,000 from the Tourism Office’s main budget to the Film Production Incentive Program. Without the appropriations requested in House Bill 164, the incentives program is finished, Shober said.The program has not received an appropriation since 2009, she added. 

A tale of two hunting shows

Gunwerks and Best of the West both film hunting shows in Wyoming focused on long-range shooting for the Sportsman Channel and others.

Both Cody companies were recipients of film incentive rebates between 2013 and 2018.

“The two companies were once one,” said Mike LaBazzo, Gunwerks’ director of business development. “Aaron Davidson, the founder of Gunwerks, is also the inventor of the Huskemaw scope. When he was a young engineer, he met Jack Peterson, who at that point had a video production company called Best of the West.”

After a falling out between the founders, the companies split and both started ramping up film production as a marketing tool for the then-controversial topic of hunting game at ranges of more than 300 yards.

When the companies were one and in their infancy, shooting game at more than 300 yards was frowned upon because of “hold over,” the vertical distance a hunter holds his scope’s center mark above the target to compensate for the amount a bullet drops over long distances, LaBazzo explained.

With a Huskemaw scope mounted on a Gunwerks custom long-range rifle, however, he said hunters no longer needed to guess how high to hold their center marks over the target.  To get the word out, the company produced a hunting series for television. When the companies split, both shot their own series.

“‘Long Range Pursuit’ consists of two types of video,” LaBazzo explained. “One is hunting, and we do that anywhere in the world, but a lot of episodes are filmed here in Wyoming. In addition, we offer tech tips and shooting tips.”

With 21 episodes shot each year, he said it wasn’t feasible to film every one in the state, but they highlighted Wyoming as often as possible.

“We’ve always used our Wyoming roots as a marketing tool,” LaBazzo said. “We talk about Wyoming a lot in our show.”

From 2012 to 2018, Gunwerks received $202,000 in grants. It was the only company in 2018 to receive a rebate from the office of tourism. The money helped cover costs, but wasn’t essential to production.

“We had the show before (the incentives program), and we’re going to have the show after,” LaBazzo said. “What we were getting back certainly helps, but it wasn’t essential to us being able to make the show.”

Across town at Best of the West, however, the company’s vice president, Jim Sessions, said its show might suffer without the rebate.

“We learned it was disappearing around January 2018,” Sessions said. “It has significantly affected our ability to produce episodes.”

“The Best of the West” TV show first aired in 2003 and has produced hundreds of episodes since. In 2010, Nielsen reported the show reached 4.7 million households.

“We’ve aired on a number of channels including the Mens Channel Outdoors, Pursuit and the Sportsman Channel,” Sessions said. “I always thought we portrayed Wyoming very positively.”

Without the incentive program’s rebates, which have amounted to $244,000 over the years, he said Best of the West has cut its episode load by half and the future of the show could be at risk.

Shober said the incentives program was not likely to be revived in the near future.

“Not every state has an incentive program, and some state’s are consolidating their’s,” she said. “There has to be a legislative appetite for a program like this, and right now, in Wyoming, I don’t know that there is.”

Meet the young Wyoming bullfighter whose ‘life calling’ is cowboy protection

in News/Tourism/Agriculture
1547

Bull riding is one of the most popular events in rodeo. But it is really two events in one.

The bulls and bull riders share the arena with highly skilled bullfighters whose work begins when the ride is done.

While bull riders were out in the arena four times during last week’s College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, the bullfighters were out more than 100 times. And hometown hero, bullfighter Wyatt Mason — a Casper, Wyoming native — was in the arena 135 times looking out for his fellow cowboy.

“It’s just been a calling of mine ever since I could walk,” said the CNFR bullfighter Wyatt Mason.

Fellow bullfighters Josh Rivinious and Nathan Harp joined Mason in the arena serving as life saving partners to bull riders and artful distractions for the 1,500 pound bulls with whom they tangle.

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.


Acclaimed author says Legislature may have missed opportunity with film incentive vote

in News/Tourism
Video camera on an outside table, ALT= Film incentive
826

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s Legislature may have missed an opportunity by killing a proposed film incentive program, according to an acclaimed Wyoming author.

“I would certainly say so,” said C.J. Box, a Saratoga resident. “Also, for no good reason. They’re not spending any money.”

Box is the author of the popular “Joe Pickett” book series, which focuses on the crime solving activities of a Wyoming game warden. He was in Cheyenne last week to argue for HB 164, which would create a film incentive program for companies spending more than $200,000 in Wyoming.

The bill fell one vote short of winning approval from Wyoming’s House.

Supporters argued that other states with incentive programs often become the sites for the filming of stories set in Wyoming, such as the “Longmire” series based on the works of Wyoming author Craig Johnson.

Box is working with Paramount Television to develop a television series based on his Pickett novels and he said without an incentive program, it will be very difficult to get production companies to even consider Wyoming.

“There’s no guarantee it would be filmed in Wyoming, but it is probably less likely it will even be considered without any kind of incentive,” he said.

The bill would have created a program allowing the Wyoming Office of Tourism to reimburse production companies for up to 15 percent of their expenses while filming in Wyoming if they spent at least $200,000.

The program would have been financed in part with carryover funds from the Office of Tourism and the bill carried no request for additional state money.

“I don’t see a downside, especially to that bill,” Box said. “There was not one dime set against it. I’m trying to figure out what kind of reasoning there would be. So many of our legislators say they want a growing and diversified economy.”

While not as large an incentive program as those available in some other states, the plan would have been a good first step for luring productions to Wyoming, Box said, which in turn would have helped create an experienced workforce for film production.

“That’s what happened in New Mexico, to the point that Netflix is building a production studio there,” he said.

Box had hoped the program might be in place in time for Wyoming to be considered a filming location for the Joe Pickett series, which takes place in locations around the state.

“I’ll be honest and say I’d love to see it filmed in Wyoming,” he said. “(The series) moves around the entire state, from Jackson to the Red Desert. The last book was set in Saratoga. There’s a possibility the whole state could get some benefit from it.”

Wyoming launched a film incentive program in 2007, but it was allowed to expire in 2011.

Film incentive program approved for final reading

in News/Tourism
809

A program designed to lure film production companies to Wyoming with incentives was sent on Wednesday for a final reading in Wyoming’s House.

HB 164, which would allow the state to reimburse production companies for some of their expenses, was approved in its second reading in the House.

The bill would specify that the Wyoming Office of Tourism could reimburse companies for 15 percent of their expenses while working in Wyoming. The production companies would have to spend a minimum of $200,000 in the state to be eligible for the program.

During testimony before a House committee, Diane Shober, director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism, said the lack of an incentive program and a shortage of trained film production crew members puts Wyoming at a disadvantage to other states when film companies are looking for production sites.

Yellowstone Lodges official wins top tourism award

in News/Recreation/Tourism
Grand Prismatic Hot Springs, a steaming blue natural pool, ALT= Yellowstone, Geothermal, Hot spring
814

By Cowboy State Daily

The sales and marketing director for Yellowstone National Park Lodges has been named the winner of Wyoming’s top tourism award.

Rick Hoeninghausen, who has been associated with Yellowstone for 30 years, was awarded the “Big Wyo” award Tuesday during the Governor’s Hospitality and Tourism Conference held in Cheyenne this week.

Hoeninghausen has been one of the leading promoters of Wyoming tourism inside the world’s first national park.

“If you know me, you know that as a kid, I wanted to be a cowboy,” he told members of Wyoming’s hospitality industry gathered for the conference. “And I got a little older and I wanted to be … a park ranger. And I’ve never been any of them, but I live in the Cowboy state and I work in the world’s first national park. How do dreams come true?”

The Governor’s Hospitality and Tourism Conference is held by the Wyoming Tourism Division and the Wyoming Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Go to Top