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Cody Stampede makes it to ProRodeo Hall of Fame

in News/Tourism
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Cody’s Stampede Rodeo, one of the premier events in professional rodeo, has been inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

The rodeo, now 100 years old, was named to the hall in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Aug. 3.

The induction proves how good the Stampede Rodeo is, said Mike Darby, co-president of the Stampede’s board of directors.

“We have a great, great rodeo,” he said. “We have the best contestants, the best stock, the best contractor. We’re deserving of it. Our town is behind us, our sponsors are behind us.”

One of the driving forces behind the creation of the Stampede Rodeo was Caroline Lockhart, who had a major hand in organizing the rodeo 100 years ago.

Lockhart was also the first woman to serve on the Stampede’s board. She was also the only woman to serve on the board until this year’s appointment of Jerri Gillett.

“We just work as a team,” Gillett said. “They don’t single me out like a trophy woman. They just treaty me as one of the guys.”

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)
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

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