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Ice sculpture and parades featured at Gillette’s Holiday Ice Festival

in Travel
Gillette Parade
A float passes by in a past “Parade of Lights” parade held in Gillette. The annual event, to be held on Saturday, features 30 to 40 floats and draws from 3,000 to 4,000 people.
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By Cowboy State Daily

The art of ice sculpting will be on display in Gillette this weekend as the city launches its celebration of the holidays.

Gillette’s Downtown Holiday Ice Festival, which will lead into the city’s annual “Parade of Lights,” will be held Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

During the day-long event, five sculptors will work with 200-pound blocks of ice to create sculptures that will be on display for visitors to downtown Gillette.

“One thing we seem to get a lot of is snow,” said Jessica Seders, executive director of Gillette Main Street, the organization holding the event. “We thought ‘What better way to get people downtown?’”

Ice sculpture
The art of ice sculpting will be on display in Gillette this weekend as the city launches its celebration of the holidays.

The ice festival was launched five years ago, but for its first three years, it was held in February. Last year, organizers changed the date to coincide with the city’s Christmas celebration.

The sculptors will work on their pieces from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

At the same time, samples of chowder and soup will be offered up for judging by members of the public in the “Chowder Challenge” and fire pits will be set up for the preparation of s’mores.

Other activities during the day will include an ugly sweater contest and a parade by the motorcycle club ABATE, which will launch its annual toy drive during the event. Selected merchants will also be taking part in a “concoction contest,” in which they will make specialty drinks — alcoholic and non-alcoholic — for tasting by shoppers.

The day’s events will be capped by the city’s annual “Parade of Lights,” which will begin at 5 p.m. The parade will feature 30 to 40 floats and usually draws from 3,000 to 4,000 people, Seders said.Seders said the day full of events is Gillette Main Street’s way to bolster local shopping during the holiday season.

“We’re just trying to help kick off that ‘shop local’ season,” she said. “Our community is very supportive. Most of our merchants are reporting increases in business, some as high as double-digits.”

The idea of community support has become especially important this year as Gillette deals with declines in the coal industry that saw two of Campbell County’s largest coal mines close temporarily earlier this year.

“That is why our community comes out in force and supports one another,” Seders said.

For more information on Gillette’s Downtown Holiday Ice Festival, go to Visit Gillette’s website or visit Gillette Main Street’s Facebook page.

Rock Springs hosts interesting take on ‘Black Friday’ — ‘Plaid Friday’

in Travel
Plaid Bags
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An interesting twist on “Black Friday” that puts the emphasis on shopping local is taking place Friday in Rock Springs.

“Plaid Friday,” a creation of Rock Springs Main Street/Urban Renewal Agency, will put shoppers on the street with plaid bags as they visit local businesses, said Trina Brittain the agency’s marketing director.

“Instead of ‘Black Friday,’ we’re doing ‘Plaid Friday’ to encourage people to shop local, to remember to give those mom and pop shops the love they deserve,” she said.This year’s event, the first, is part of a weekend full of activities to launch the holiday season.

At 9 a.m., Friday, First Bank in Rock Springs will offer the first 100 shoppers to enter its offices plaid shopping bags to carry as they stroll through the downtown area. Each bag is filled with special offers, information and gift certificates, Brittain said.

Shoppers are being also being encouraged to wear plaid as they make their rounds.

“We’re encouraging business owners, staff, shoppers and neighbors to wear plaid,” Brittain said. “It’s like having people wear the local high school colors for team spirit.”

Through the weekend, visitors will also be invited to take part in a “plaid rock hunt” and search for rocks painted plaid that have been placed around downtown. The rocks should be turned in to the Rock Springs Main Street offices to earn the finder an entry in a prize drawing.

At 11 a.m. Friday, a Christmas Gift Show will open in Bunning Hall on Main Street, featuring 25 vendors. The gift show will run through Saturday.

Rock Springs Bingo

Other activities planned for the weekend include free horse-drawn carriage rides on Saturday, visits with Santa beginning Saturday and an ongoing “Christmas Bingo” game, where participants will get the chance to earn a prize by taking part in various activities around the community during the holidays. Most of the activities are free, Brittain said.

All of the events are designed to foster good relations between the shoppers and merchants of Rock Springs, Brittain said.

“The whole celebration is a chance for merchants and patrons to feel those positive relations and just have fun,” she said. “That’s our goal here is to get people to gather and make a special connection.”

For more information about “Plaid Friday,” visit the Rock Springs Main Street website or the Downtown Rock Springs Facebook page.

Powell celebration raises money for arts center

in Travel
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Those wishing for an early start to both the holidays and the weekend should head to Powell this week for the city’s annual “Festival of Trees.”

Held in the Plaza Diane Community Center for the Arts, the festival on Thursday will give people a chance to bid on and buy trees and wreaths decorated by Powell area residents.

Money raised by the silent auction will be used to fund programs such as art classes and music offered at the center, said coordinator Katie Stensing.

People donating the artificial trees and wreaths are invited to decorate any way they want to.

“I know right now, one of the trees has a farm theme,” Stensing said. “Another one is a book theme, it’s hung with tiny handmade books.”

The auction will be held in conjunction with Powell’s “Sample and Shop the Season” from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, when businesses will stay open late and offer refreshments and snacks to visitors.

“People will hopefully stop in (at the center) and take part in our silent auction,” Stensing said.

Although the “Festival of the Trees” has been held in Powell in the past, this year marks the first for it to be run by the Plaza Diane Center.

For more information, visit the Powell Chamber of Commerce website or the Center for the Arts website at PlazaDiane.org.

Working dogs to show their skills at Gillette’s Cam-Plex

in Agriculture/Travel
Sheep herding trials
“Frank,” a 5-year-old border collie owned by Wendy Auzqui, shows his stuff while herding. Frank will be one of the 40 to 50 dogs to put their sheep herding skills on display on Saturday during sheep herding trials at Gillette’s Cam-Plex. (Photo courtesy of Wendy Auzqui)
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The art of sheep herding will be on display in Gillette this weekend and the stars of the show will be man’s best friend.

From 40 to 50 dogs are expected to take part in sheep dog trials in an arena at Gillette’s Cam-Plex on Saturday and organizer Wendy Auzqui said those who attend will get a chance to see specially trained dogs show off their talents at herding sheep through a series of obstacles, guided only by audible commands from their handlers.

The dogs used for herding are bred for their ability to move livestock, said Auzqui, who owns Creekside Stockdogs in Clearmont.

“Your job is to put words to what the dog already knows so we can tell the dogs how to move the livestock,” said Auzqui, who owns Creekside Stockdogs in Clearmont. 

In the trials, three sheep will be put at one end of the arena, while the dog’s handler will stand at the other end, using words or whistles to give directions to the dog as it herds the sheep through a series of obstacles.

The dog that completes the task in the shortest time is the winner.

The event is open to any breed of dog, but the most commonly seen breed in trials is the border collie, Auzqui said.

“They’re high drive, intense and their intelligence level is one of the top three for dogs,” she said. “All that together, brains, intensity and the desire to work, is the thing that makes them amazing.”

Among the competitors at the trials, which will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be Auzqui’s own “Frank,” a 5-year-old border collie who this summer won the championship at the sheep herding trials at the Calgary Stampede in Canada.

Competitors will be divided into four divisions — an open class for any dog and handler, a division for novices, an intermediate class and a “nursery” division for dogs under the age of 3.

There is no admission for people who wish to watch the trials, which are sanctioned by the Mountain States Stock Dog Association.

For more information, visit Auzqui’s Facebook page or CreeksideStockdogs.com.

Art produced in a hurry for a good cause at Worland’s ‘Mammoth Quick Draw’

in Travel
Quick Draw artist Burge
Sheridan artist Polly Burge displays her work completed at a previous Mammoth Quick Draw in World. During the event, selected artists complete pieces in about one hour. That art is then auctioned off to benefit activities by the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center and the Worland Rotary Club. (Photos courtesy of the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center)
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Art produced in a hurry and sold to benefit community activities will be the big event this weekend at the Mammoth Quick Draw in Worland.

The eighth annual event on Friday is a fundraiser for both the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center and the Worland Rotary Club that relies in part on the auction of art created by recognized regional artists in one hour.

“We select 32 artists out of all of those who apply and they do a complete painting in about an hour,” said Cheryl Reichelt, director of the Washakie Museum. “Then those are auctioned off. It has been a big success.”

Crowds bid for artwork at the Mammoth Quick Draw in World.
Crowds bid for artwork at the Mammoth Quick Draw in World. The eighth annual Quick Draw, to be held Friday at the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center, sees artists prepare pieces in about an hour. Those pieces are then auctioned to raise money for the museum and the Worland Rotary Club. Over the last seven years, $136,000 has been raised for the organizations (Photos courtesy of the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center)

Attendance at the event, held at the museum, is capped at 500 and in recent years, organizers have had to turn people away at the door, Reichelt said.

“We’ve had people come from Juneau, Alaska, Georgia and all over Wyoming and Montana,” she said. “It’s grown and we’re really very pleased.”

Money raised in the auction of the artwork is divided between the artist, the museum and the Rotary, with the artist being offered 20 percent of the sale price and the Rotary and museum splitting the other 80 percent. Over the last seven years, the museum and Rotary have raised a total of $136,000 for use in their community activities.

Also available for purchase at the event will be almost 180 pieces of existing art prepared by participating artists. The museum receives 30 percent of the purchase price to cover administrative costs.

The $45 ticket price for the night, which will also feature live entertainment by fiddler Erica Murphree and guitarist Billy Browning, includes a dinner and dessert and beverages.

For more information on the Mammoth Quick Draw, visit the museum’s website at WashakieMuseum.org.

‘Dia De Los Muertos’ comes to Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

in Community/Travel
Sugar Skull
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A giant replica of a sugar skull will greet visitors to the Cheyenne Botanic Garden on Friday and Saturday as the facility takes part in the traditional Mexican holiday of Dia De Los Muertos or “Day of the Dead.”

Activities on Friday and Saturday will educate visitors on the holiday, which is set aside as a day for people to remember friends and family members who have died.

And since the event is being held at the Botanic Garden, much of that education will focus on how flowers figure into the celebration, said Director Tina Worthman.

“There will be a lot about the flowers that are significant to the Day of the Dead,” she said. “So we’ll have a lot of marigolds. They are one of the most commonly used flowers for the Day of Dead. They grow particularly well in Mexico and they’re colorful.”

The Botanic Gardens has been growing marigolds especially for the celebration for months, Worthman said, and will have other special flowers on display throughout the event, along with signs explaining the significance of the flowers to the celebration.

“It’s a nice way to bring in the significance of the botanical world to something like this,” She said. “It’s a special niche we have where we can explain that significance.”

The special display will open on Friday at 11 a.m. A giant “sugar skull,” a traditional candy served during the celebration, will greet visitors as they enter the Botanic Gardens while in the facility’s Conservatory, people can leave momentos in honor of their departed loved ones on one of several “ofrendas” or altars on display.

Authentic Mexican food will also be available for purchase from Cheyenne food vendors both Friday and Saturday.

On Saturday, activities will run from 1 to 5 p.m. and feature live performances by mariachi bands and dancers.

In the Botanic Gardens’ classroom, children will be invited to take part in crafts such as the creation of flower crowns and the decoration of pots adorned with sugar skulls. Children will also get a chance to help create a mural on the floor of the Children’s Village.

For more information, visit the Botanic Gardens website at Botanic.org/classes or the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens Facebook page.

Track terrorists at escape rooms in Douglas

in Travel
escape room
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If solving mysteries and tracking down terrorists sounds like a good way to spend some time, then Douglas is the place to be this weekend for an escape room fundraiser.

The Boys and Girls Club of Douglas is replacing its annual haunted house with three escape rooms operating in train cars found at the city’s Locomotive Park. A fourth escape room set up at Jen’s Books in downtown Douglas for younger participants will feature an “Alice in Wonderland” theme.

Leah Gremm, resource development director for the Boys and Girls Club, said the group decided to offer the escape rooms instead of the haunted house because of the growing interest nationally in escape rooms.

“Not very many people were coming (to the haunted house),” she said. “Interest (in the escape rooms) has been really good so far.”

Usually, people taking part in escape rooms are locked inside and given clues that will eventually lead to their release.

In Douglas, the participants will be asked instead to solve a mystery focusing around a shadowy group of terrorists who have planted a bomb on the train.

“We’re not locking anyone in,” Gremm said. “There are mysteries in each railcar that tie into all three of the rooms.”

In one of the train cars, participants will be tasked with finding the bomb set by the terrorists, while in the others, the mystery will surround the identities of the terrorists and their targets.

The experience will begin with visitors picking up their tickets in the park’s visitor center before moving to the park’s dining car, where they will get treats and drinks, along with their first clue.

“That clue will let them figure out which car they’re going to, the sleeping car, day car or the caboose,” Gremm said.

Each mystery should take 60 to 90 minutes to solve, she added.

“Then, they can come back and do a second and third car, if they want to,” she said.

Gremm said the scenarios for the escape rooms were developed by a team of people.

“Around here, we call it ‘purple unicorning,’” she said. “People shoot out funny ideas and we just go with it. Some of it sounds intriguing and some of it is really silly. We just hope that people will realize it’s just a game.”

Organizers hope to raise about $4,000 for the Boys and Girls Club’s operation with the admissions fees from the event, which run $30 per person at the locomotive park and $15 per person at the “Alice in Wonderland” room at the bookstore.

The money will be used to fund ongoing operations at the Boys and Girls Club, which has more than 380 members.

The escape rooms will be open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online at EscapeDouglas.eventbrite.com.

For more information, visit the Boys and Girls Club website at BGCDouglas.com.

Western Wyoming College hosts “Fall Geology Expo”

in Travel
Western Wyoming College Geology Expo
Attendees at Western Wyoming College’s annual “Fall Geology Expo” peruse vendors’ booths and get a chance to try some hands-on activities. This year’s expo will be held Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Western Wyoming College)
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By Cowboy State Daily

A wealth of rocks, gems and minerals awaits those who travel to Western Wyoming College in Rock Springs this weekend.

The college is holding its sixth annual “Fall Geology Expo,” a chance for the public to visit its extensive geology and archaeology collections and learn more about its nationally acclaimed geology program, said Dr. Dana Pertermann, associate professor of geology and anthropology who created the expo in 2013.

“There’s a whole bunch of things that having the expo here accomplishes,” she said. “One is getting the community involved. Two is disseminating geologic information. A lot of people don’t know that Rock Springs and Green River are in every first-year geology textbook for the Green River Formation and Rock Springs Uplift.”

The event Saturday, open to the public at no cost, is also designed in part to raise money for activities in the Geology Department that Pertermann heads, including field trips, a summer field school and scholarships.

Events featured at the expo include hands-on activities put on by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Geological Survey, Pertermann said.

“They always come up with something different every year,” she said. “It might be using rocks as tools, it might be flintknapping. They get pretty creative every year to try to get people interested.”

Also on hand will be vendors selling a wide array of minerals, gems and stones, Pertermann said.

“A lot of them actually specialize in a particular stone in the rough,” she said. “One vendor specializes in moss agate or ‘Sweetwater stone,’ a particular kind of agate found near the Sweetwater River. We have another vendor who specializes in minerals from around the world. He goes to shows around the world and collects samples and then brings them here to Rock Springs.”

Also selling items will be the college itself, which will make specific items from its own collection available for purchase to raise money for the Geology Department.

“We have a huge collection,” Pertermann said. “I sell parts of that to benefit the students.”

Of particular interest to buyers in the past have been topographic maps, some of which have been in the school’s collection since it launched its geology program in 1972, she said.

“We usually get some interest from the hikers,” she said. “Some of these maps are really interesting. They make wonderful wall decorations.”

J Circle K International, the college arm of the Kiwanis Club, will also be on hand serving food and drinks for donations to its various causes.

Throughout the day, members of the public are encouraged to tour the college’s Natural History Museum and it collection of fossils and dinosaurs.

For more information about the Fall Geology Expo, visit the Western Wyoming College website.

Beer tasting on tap in Saratoga on Saturday

in Food and Beverage/Travel
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By Cowboy State Daily

Beer lovers with a taste for Wyoming and Colorado brews will want to head to Saratoga this weekend for the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort’s sixth annual Snowy Mountain Brewery Beerfest.

More than a dozen vendors offering up their beers and spirits will be featured at the beer tasting festival inside the courtyard at the resort on Saturday.

Tiffany Jones, the director of marketing for the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort, said the annual event will draw people from around the region, with some coming from as far away as Casper and Colorado to attend the event.

“We’ve had one couple from Rock Springs come to every one,” she said.

The day will begin at 10 a.m. with a golf tournament, which is open to the public, at the resort’s 9-hole golf course, which crosses the North Platte River several times.

The beerfest will begin at noon. Each attendee will pay $30 for a pint glass, decorated with the event’s logo, which can be used to sample as many beers as the holder wishes.

“Some beerfests only give samples,” Jones said. “We have no restrictions. We give you a pint glass and you can have as many beers as you like.”

The beerfest is named for the Snowy Mountain Brewery, which is located inside the resort’s main building and operates a pub there.

The beerfest will feature live music by Third Rail, a Cheyenne band performing country and classic rock.

This event is open only to those age 21 and over.

For more information, visit the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort’s website.

Everything autumn celebrated at Sundance’s Pumpkin Patch Festival

in Travel
Sundance Wyoming Pumpkin Patch Festival
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A plethora of pumpkins and a collection of scarecrows can be seen on the streets of Sundance this weekend as the city hosts its annual Pumpkin Patch Festival.

The festival on Saturday, now in its sixth year, features all of the usual celebrations of autumn, including freshly squeezed apple cider, a farmers market, pumpkin painting and a scarecrow contest.

However, mixed in with the usual goods found at a farmers market are booths set up by local non-profit organizations, which are encouraged by festival organizers to use the community gathering to raise money for their groups.

“I encourage it,” said festival organizer Joni Spaulding. “It’s a good way to raise awareness for their cause.”

The festival is held in downtown Sundance and features a pumpkin patch containing about five tons of pumpkins brought to the community from Ellis Harvest Homes in Lingle.

“They have good quality pumpkins and the people there take very good care of us,” Spaulding said. “As long as they have pumpkins, we’ll get them there.”

The festival is a way for members of the community to get together and to highlight the people who offer their wares at farmers markets.

“I decided a long time ago I wanted our festival to be a community event, where people could come together and meet their local farmers,” said Spaulding, who also owns Sundance’s Harvest Farmers Market, which is open year-round.

The open air market will feature a wide variety of goods, from produce to hand-crafted items, she said.

“You’ve got vendors who come around from all over who set up with their wares,” she said.

A booth fee is charged for vendors, but not the non-profit groups, she added.

The festival also sees the judging of the community’s scarecrow contest, which is open to any business or individual in Sundance.

The contest has been going on for five years and sees very creative entries, such as the “piggy bank” scarecrow submitted by a bank.

“A lot of local businesses and residents design scarecrows and they come up with some pretty creative ideas,” Spaulding said.

The scarecrows entered by businesses are usually set up outside of the businesses, while some scarecrows entered by individuals adorn light poles in downtown Sundance, she said.

The scarecrows will be up by Thursday and during the festival, attendees will be invited to vote for their favorite.

Also on hand will be an apple cider press and those attending the festival can get a glass of freshly squeezed cider and a booth where attendees can paint their recently purchased pumpkins. Or they can ask an artist at another booth to apply his talents to their pumpkins.

Pumpkin bowling, an obstacle course, wagon rides, duck races, pony rides, bounce houses, face painting and carnival games are also planned for the day. A gentleman raising money for his own philanthropic work for children will be at the festival to make balloon animals.

For more information on the Pumpkin Patch Festival, visit the Harvest Farmers Market page on Facebook.

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