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Wyoming Commercial Flights See Boom In 2021

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Air travel boomed at small Wyoming airports in 2021 after a bleak 2020.

Both Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody and Central Wyoming Regional Airport in Riverton reported huge increases in passenger numbers in 2021. Fremont County’s commercial service exceeded 15,000 passenger boardings for the first time in 13 years, totaling 15,121.

Central Wyoming Regional Airport administrators reported that in the last twenty years, only calendar years 2007 (15,559) and 2008 (16,847) saw recorded more commercial boardings than 2021.  

Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody saw an 82% increase in passengers in 2021 as compared to the previous year to total 37,346, according to airport Manager Aaron Buck. 

“And then if you compare (2021) to 2019 — which, 2019 was a really good year for us still, because COVID hadn’t really started yet — we’re only down 9%, which is pretty good compared to the national average,” he said.

Because the area is a big draw for tourists, the number of people flying in and out of Cody is an indication of a good year for the economy and a bright spot in an otherwise challenging year for the airport, which included a number of COVID-related flight cancellations the last week of December.

“The week after Christmas wasn’t so great with all the cancellations,” Buck said. “Again, that goes back to the same crew shortages and pilot shortages that are felt at Delta, and United is feeling now as well, in having to cancel some flights.”

United Airlines has the statewide contract for air service to smaller communities in the state, according to Tim Bradshaw, the new administrator for Cheyenne Regional Airport.

“We all fly SkyWest Airlines with United,” he explained. “It’s all part of a state program with the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission.”

Cheyenne’s flights have just recently resumed after traffic was shut down for runway construction during most of 2021. But Bradshaw acknowledged that after the difficult year that was 2020, people are certainly eager to travel again.

“People are back to flying,” he said. “They are not so much business travelers, but more of the leisure travelers. There’s just a lot of pent up demand.”

Kyle Butterfield, Fremont County’s public works director and airport manager, pointed out that the record-setting numbers at Riverton’s airport were a significant accomplishment for the community.

“Thanks to the investment and dedication of our partners through the years, we have finally returned to the level of service we knew was possible in Fremont County,” he said. 

And those numbers actually translate to funding for Riverton’s air service. When passenger boardings exceed 10,000 in a calendar year, airports become eligible for $1 million in federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds for infrastructure projects. 

Central Wyoming Regional Airport reached the threshold of 10,000 boardings for the first time in eight years on Sept. 16, 2021.The latter part of 2021 was record-setting for Cody’s air service as well, according to Buck.

“Actually, this November and December are our best November and December in the last three years,” he said. “Even better than 2019 or 2018, which is way pre-COVID.”

But the industry is still recovering from the pandemic.

“I know that nationwide, traffic is still not back to pre pandemic levels,” said Bradshaw. “And the majority of people flying now are still just leisure travelers, a lot of the corporate fliers have not returned to flying yet.”

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Report: Wyoming’s Travel Spending Declined By 23% In 2020

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Spending related to traveling in Wyoming declined by 23% in 2020 compared to 2019 due to the pandemic, the Wyoming Office of Tourism recently concluded.

The office published its annual travel economic report this week, which totaled around 150 pages. The research was compiled by Oregon-based company Dean Runyon Associates.

Although travel spending in the state dropped by more than $90 billion in 2020 — from $3.96 billion in 2019 to $3.05 billion in 2020 — that 23% decline was actually smaller than the national average of a drop of 36%, the study said.

Meanwhile, payroll related to travel spending was down down by 9.3% in 2020, with $935 million coming in last year.

Along with the drop in payroll, Wyoming also saw a loss of 4,000 jobs in the travel industry, a decline of 12.1%. The largest number of job losses occurred within the accommodations and food services sector, which lost 2,900 travel-related jobs.

Taxes generated by travel spending dropped by by 21.4% compared to 2019. Local taxes declined by 21.8%, while state taxes were cut by 21%.

Overnight visitor volume declined 25.8%, going from 9.3 million trips to 6.9 million trips last year.

Taxable lodging sales for hotels, motels and short-term rentals declined by 25.1% last year, dipping below 2015 levels.

The largest loss occurred in gasoline, with $228 million being lost in 2020.

Campgrounds saw the least amount of travel decline, with a 15.8% dip last year.

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Wyoming Ranked One of the Top Places to Travel in 2021

in Travel/Travel Wyoming
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Travel Wyoming, the state’s tourism office, is “honored” to have been chosen as one of the top 50 places to travel in 2021 by Travel + Leisure magazine.

The magazine placed Wyoming at No. 50 apparently because its writers believe in saving the best for last. The entry about Wyoming in the magazine praised the small population, Wyoming’s beautiful state parks, the rodeos and much more.

“No one could have dreamed up a better marketing plan for Wyoming than social distancing,” the magazine said. “The country’s least-populated state has only six people per square mile, meaning it’s not only easy, but natural to stay safely apart.”

Piper Singer, spokeswoman for Travel Wyoming, told Cowboy State Daily it was an honor for the state to be placed among the magazine’s top 50 destinations and that visitors should thoughtfully consider that when making their travel plans this year.

“We know Wyoming will be on a lot of travelers’ minds this year as we saw the revival of the ‘Great American road trip’ this past summer as folks looked to explore the outdoors,” Singer said. “While Wyoming may be best known for our iconic national parks, some of the greatest outdoor experiences can be found in some of the lesser-known areas, including our 12 state parks, eight forests and hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails.”

Singer urged visitors to be mindful of their impact on public lands, maintain a safe distance when viewing wildlife and visit the state’s lesser known attractions.

“We also encourage visitors to expand their trip route and explore the many hidden gems of Wyoming, which are often found in small towns all across the state,” she said.

Some of the other locations on the top 50 list included the U.S. National Parks (of which Wyoming has two), the Rocky Mountains (which Wyoming is near) and Denver’s Lower Highlands (LoHi) neighborhood, which is also near Wyoming.

Basically, the article is telling you to visit Wyoming, which is the best message we can ask for.

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Travelers From Wyoming Required To Quarantine In 15 States

in News/Travel/Coronavirus
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming residents visiting 15 states and Washington, D.C. are being asked to keep to themselves for two weeks.

But don’t take it personally. Wyoming is in good company, sharing the distinction with many other states that have have a relatively high number of coronavirus cases.

For instance, Connecticut is requiring that visitors from 36 states quarantine for 14 days after their arrival. Maine’s list is longer, covering 44 states including Wyoming.

Nine states require visitors from selected other states to quarantine for 14 days: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska.

The number of states identified as high-risk range from 34 in Rhode Island to Maine’s 44.Washington, D.C. is requiring visitors from 39 states to quarantine.

Vermont’s rules do not apply to visitors from specific states. Instead, its quarantine rules apply to anyone from a state with more than 400 active cases per 1 million residents. As of Monday, Wyoming had 2,458 active coronavirus cases, about 4,220 cases per 1 million.

Alaska and Hawaii have both adopted quarantine requirements that cover visitors from every other state in the nation.

A number of other states are just asking visitors from some states to stay off the streets for 14 days. Those include Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Kentucky is asking those from Wyoming and 10 other states to self-quarantine, New Hampshire’s request applies to anyone coming from states outside of New England. Visitors to New Jersey from Wyoming and 35 other states are asked to keep to themselves, while Pennsylvania identifies visitors from 25 states including Wyoming as candidates for quarantine.

But those looking for an option to staying locked inside a motel room do have an out — some of the states will accept a negative result from a coronavirus test taken with 72 hours of arrival within their borders as proof that the traveler is not contagious.

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Yellowstone Sees 25% Drop In Visitors

in Yellowstone/News/Travel/Coronavirus
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park is seeing a dip in visitors this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For the week of June 11-16, the park saw 39,361 vehicles come through, 13,092 through the Wyoming entrances and 26,269 through the Montana ones.

This was a drop compared to 2019, when the park saw 52,320 vehicles over the same week.

Tourism is vitally important to local economies in the area. A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 4 million people to Yellowstone in 2019 spent $507 million in communities near the park. 

That spending supported 7,000 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $642 million.

“The positive economic impacts of Yellowstone are essential to economies of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said. “It is important that we continue working with our state and local partners to balance the many benefits of tourism with our continued efforts to protect the world-class resources within the park.”  

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Enzi Proposes Raising National Park Fees

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Entrance fees for the country’s national parks must be raised to pay for the backlog of maintenance projects at those parks, according to U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi.

Enzi has unveiled his proposed amendment to the Great American Outdoors Act, which aims to address the maintenance backlog at parks at a cost of about $12 billion.

Simply appropriating money to complete the maintenance projects would amount to a “one-time fix that is neither responsible nor permanent,” he said during his comments in support of his amendment.

He added that his amendment would address the backlog responsibly and permanently without adding to the nation’s debt.

“Without some changes, this legislation will force our country to borrow more money, burying us deeper in debt, and only provide funding for five years,” Enzi said earlier this week. “Fixing this bill will help ensure we no longer have to put our parks’ current obligations on the backs of future generations.”

Enzi’s amendment would increase fees for foreign visitors entering the United States. According to the U.S. Travel Association, nearly 40% of people who travel to the country from abroad are visiting one national park, amounting to more than 14 million people.

The amendment would also raise entrance fees for U.S. citizens by $5 and the cost for annual passes by $20, to a total of $100.

Enzi emphasized that bringing a vehicle into a park would still be cheaper than taking a family of four to a movie or visiting an amusement park for a day.

“No one likes to pay more for things, especially during times like these, but to maintain these national treasures for future generations, we either borrow money and put it on the national credit card or we take some modest steps to address the issues responsibly.”

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Out-Of-State Visitors Flock To Wyoming Parks

in News/Recreation/Travel/Coronavirus
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By Mari Heithoff, Cowboy State Daily

As the warm weather returns to Wyoming, so does its annual influx of tourists. 

And although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the nation’s way of life, Wyoming’s tourist season is well underway.

A brief stroll through Lander City Park and the main campground in Sinks Canyon State Park reveals crowds of of vans, pop-up campers, RVs, and SUVs, many of them sporting license plates from such far-flung states as California, Tennessee, Washington, Texas, and Iowa, as well as from neighboring states such as Colorado and Utah. 

Ann and James Yearout of Chickamauga, Georgia, were drawn to Wyoming by its natural beauty.

“We’ve been to Wyoming many times,” said Ann. “Cody is my favorite place, but we also love Jackson, and of course, Yellowstone.” 

The couple said their plans were not greatly impacted by the coronavirus. Their daughter, Julia, was interning at Sinks Canyon with Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources division through the Student Conservation Association, and a Wyoming trip was on the books for the spring.

“We had to wait to see if everything would open back up, of course, but we weren’t too worried about it,” said Ann, who works at an infectious disease clinic in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

“We tend toward more remote activities and areas when we come out here, and so there’s plenty of opportunity for social distancing in the backcountry,” she continued. “We come out here to go on remote hikes—we want to get away from crowds.”

The couple said although they had never been to Sinks Canyon before, they were happy to have stopped on their way to Cody. 

“I have friends that ask me why I’d want to come out here, and when I get out here, I always wonder how they could ask that,” said Ann. “I mean, why wouldn’t you? It’s so peaceful and absolutely beautiful.”

According to Augie Castorena, who volunteers as a host at the main Sinks Canyon campground, visitors this season have been diverse and plentiful.

“In mid-May, everybody was out here,” he said. “Like opening the floodgates. There have been lots of out-of-state plates, lots from New York.” 

Castorena explained that the campground has reopened in stages.

Originally, it was completely closed. It then reopened for in-state campers with reservations, and finally out-of-state campers were allowed back in to camp. 

The State Parks and Cultural Resources division has instituted measures designed to help control any possible spread of the virus, such as extra cleaning and reservations for campsites, but Castorena emphasized that much of the responsibility rests with the visitors themselves.

“We ask visitors to please practice safe distancing,” he said. “We’re not trying to be rude, we just want to keep you safe. It seems like a lot of visitors forget to be mindful when they’re out here.”

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C.J. Box Thanks Wyoming Citizens For Prodding Legislature to Approve Lodging Tax

in News/Travel/Coronavirus
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New York Times bestselling author and Wyoming native C.J. Box on Friday thanked Wyoming citizens for convincing the Wyoming Legislature to approve a 5% statewide lodging tax.

In an email from the Wyoming Office of Tourism, Box said the new tax will “usher in a new era” for tourism in Wyoming.

“Although it was a very hard-fought battle and the legislation is far from perfect, it should allow for increased funding for our state and the excellent team led by [Tourism Office Executive Director] Diane Shober.

Box, the newly-installed Chairman of the Wyoming Office of Tourism Board of Directors, said passage of the new tax was a significant achievement for Wyoming’s second largest industry and largest employer.

“Gov. Gordon identified the new bill as the only tax he would support is further proof of our clout and importance,” he said. “Feel free to take a bow.”

Box has been prolific during the pandemic urging citizens on social media channels to support local businesses like restaurants by using curbside service.

“We want to do our part in keeping local restaurants open so we order curbside meals every night and tip generously,” he said in a YouTube video.

As for the prospects of Wyoming tourism during the pandemic, Shober, in an interview with Cowboy State Daily on Thursday, was cautiously optimistic stating that it was too early to tell if the pandemic would significantly impact tourism.

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

Polls have shown the pandemic took a significant toll on the public’s desire to travel this summer, but a month or more of staying at home could change that, she said.

Travel Wyoming: Wyoming History On Ice In Store For Cheyenne Visitors

in Travel/Travel Wyoming/Column
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A depiction of Wyoming historical highlights on ice awaits people who visit Cheyenne’s Ice and Events Center this weekend.

On Saturday, the center’s 23 ice skating students will put on their annual performance, this year titled “Skating Through Wyoming: A Historical Ice Skating Musical.”

“It’s kind of a yearly thing we do to show off what the skaters have learned in the year,” said Taylor Bassett, the Ice and Events Center’s program and event coordinator. “The coaches thought that because of the historic events Wyoming celebrated this year and last year, we would do some Wyoming things and then make it more musical and theatrical.”

The center’s students, ranging in age from 4 to 18, will take part in performances depicting important points in Wyoming’s history, such as women winning the right to vote.

The students at the center, which is involved in the national “Learn to Skate” program, will perform in groups, as duos and as soloists in putting on the show, Bassett said.

“We’re starting from the beginning, with Native Americans and the history with them and working our way up to more modern day stuff,” she said.

Similar programs are held each year as the center nears the end of its ice season, Bassett said.

Doors at the Ice and Events Center will open for the performance at 6 p.m., with the show scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Admission is $5.

For more information, visit Cheyenne’s events page at 

https://www.cheyenneevents.org/e/skating-through-wyoming-a-historical-ice-skating-musical-96738687017/

Travel Wyoming: Western Wyoming Sportsman’s Expo in Rock Springs

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A plethora of items designed to make the great outdoors even greater will be on display this weekend in Rock Springs.

The Western Wyoming Sportsman’s Expo will be held Friday through Sunday at the Sweetwater Events Complex.

The expo, now in its fifth year, features vendors showing good such as off-road vehicles, boats and campers, along with fishing and hunting equipment, cookware and camping equipment.

“We also have some western decor,” said Debi Knezovich, whose company Wyoming Home Show is putting on the expo. “There will also be some antler jewelry. It’s not just ATVs and campers and guns and knives.”

Kenzovich has put on other shows throughout the year in Rock Springs, such as the Wyoming Home Show and Home and Holiday Show, for 24 years.

The Sportsman’s Expo came about as recognition of what people do for fun in the state, Knezovich said.

“It’s kind of our lifestyle up in this area and that’s why we live in Wyoming,” she said.

In addition to the equipment and gear on display, several outfitters from Alaska and Canada will be attending the expo, Knezovich said.

“So if you want to plan a hunting trip, there will be outfitters on-site to answer those questions,” she said.

Booths with groups offering educational information will also be set up, as will a “mini golf course” where people can test golfing equipment.

The expo runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, visit the event’s website at https://wyominghomeshow.com/3.

Sundance Winter Festival This Weekend: Racing on Skis, Barstools, Inner Tubes

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The residents of Sundance have figured out what to do when Mother Nature gives them an abundance of snow.

They use it to race on skis, inner tubes, and even barstools.

The Sundance Winter Festival on Saturday is a mix of activities aimed at creating a little fun in the middle of Wyoming’s long winters, said Reggie Gaylord, who created the event with some of his friends.

“It’s kind of a mixture of what others do out there,” he said. “You know how winters are in Wyoming, they’re cold and boring. We were trying to come up with a fun idea to bring life to Sundance.”

The best known event of the festival, now in its sixth year, is skijoring, where a skier is pulled by a horse and rider along a snow-covered track featuring jumps, slalom gates and rings to be captured by the skier.

In Sundance, after the opening rounds are of competition are completed, the track is changed to make things more challenging, Gaylord said.

“We’ll start building that track on Thursday and by Saturday afternoon, we’ll wipe the track clear and build it again,” he said.

In barstool racing, competitors ride on a downhill track while seated on a barstool with skis attached. Each barstool racing team consists of two members — a rider and a person to push him or her at the top of the track. Competitors are encouraged to make unique sleds and wear costumes for the event.

“That’s all about the costumes and the entertainment,” Gaylord said. “We had some young guys from Laramie build a whole tugboat kind of thing with all-UW colors. We’ve even had saddles put on barstools.”

And what’s the use of having a skijoring course that’s used only for skijoring? The Sundance Winter Festival sees that course used as well for “wild horse and tube races.” 

Two people on inner tubes are pulled down the skijoring course — jumps and all — while carrying a cup of their favorite beverage. The winner is determined by the amount of liquid left in the cup at the end of the race.

All of the festival’s events are free to watch, Gaylord said. Food trucks and vendors will also be present.

Activities begin at 9 a.m. Saturday with skijoring and continue through the day. People wishing to register to compete in events can do so from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Sundance’s Longhorn Saloon and Grill. Registration will continue at 7 a.m. Saturday.

For more information on the Sundance Winter Festival, visit the event’s website or its Facebook page.

Fly Tying: Ugly Bug Fly Shop Hosts Second Annual “Great Bug Battle”

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Ice may still cover many of Wyoming’s fishable waters, but that doesn’t mean the state’s fly fishermen can’t get a jump start on the year with a little practice tying flies.

And that’s just what the organizers of this year’s Great Bug Battle in Casper are offering up.

The Great Bug Battle, entering its second year, gives fly tyers a chance to compete in what organizers describe as an “Iron Chef” type of contest, where competitors will be asked to tie flies using unusual materials and under interesting situations.

One of last year’s competitions saw an estimated 30 tyers using materials from a dollar store to make flies, said Corey Lincoln, manager of The Ugly Bug Fly Shop, the Casper store that organizes the contest.

“We just bought a bunch of stuff from a dollar store, threw out out there on the table and they used stuff out of there to tie flies,” he said. “We don’t do it to be serious, we just want the time to get together and have some fun with it.”

The event will be held beginning at 7 p.m. Friday at Casper’s Frontier Brewery, where those attending will be able to partake in beer brewed specially for the occasion.

The night will see fly tyers taking part in five or six different competitions, Lincoln said, with Ugly Bug owner Blake Jackson setting the terms of the contests.

Winners will walk away with promotional materials provided by several different companies, such as fly boxes, a waterproof duffel bag and a reel.

Attendees, including those who just show up watch the action, will also be able to bid on an original piece of artwork by Ty Hallock, a fishing guide known for his one-of-a-kind drawings of wildlife using Sharpies.

Money raised through the auction will be donated to “Casting for a Cause,” an organization that arranges fishing trips for women with breast cancer.

Last year, some 30 to 40 people turned out to watch the competition and Lincoln said he was hoping for a similar turnout this year.

There is no entry fee for the contest or to watch.

“Just come, tip your bartender, drink some beer and have a good time,” Lincoln said.

For more information on the Great Bug Battle, visit the Casper Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website at or see Ugly Bug’s Facebook page.

Encampment Hosts 34th Annual Sierra Madre Winter Carnival

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A plethora of unusual winter activities awaits those who travel to Encampment this weekend for the town’s annual Sierra Madre Winter Carnival.

The carnival on Friday and Saturday, entering its 34th year, features activities ranging from the artistic to the athletic, including a snowman painting contest , “human saucer bowling”, and snow-golf.

The event was launched to give area residents something to do during the winter months, said Doreen Harvey, Encampment’s clerk-treasurer.

“And to get people to our local businesses during the winter,” she said. “I would say we usually have more than 100 entrants (for different events), which is pretty good for a small town mid-winter event.”

People wishing to compete in “snowman painting” must register at Encampment’s Town Hall by noon Friday so judges know where around Encampment the various snowmen will be built.

Once built, the snowmen can be decorated in any way, but the decoration must involve paint, Harvey said — most often colored water. Competitors will have until noon Saturday to finish their entries.

“We’re looking for creativity,” she said. “We’re looking for things that are unusual.”

Also on Friday will be a “treasure hunt,” where participants will be given clues to solve and challenges to complete to claim the treasure.

On Saturday, after a pancake breakfast served by members of Encampment’s Veterans of Foreign Wars, sled races will begin at 10 a.m.

The races are open to preschool and grade school students, but a “build your own sled” competition, where homemade sleds will face off in a downhill race, will be open to anyone, Harvey said.

“We’ve seen some interesting things come down this hill over the years,” she said.

Likewise, the “human saucer bowling” will be open to preschool and elementary school students, although an open class will also be available for adults.

Each competitor will be given two runs to knock down as many pins — 2-liter pop bottles filled with sand — as possible.

“Kids just sit on that saucer and we have pins set up,” Harvey said. “Bowling rules apply. All the sledders will get two chances.”

Lunchtime will feature chili and bread cook-offs.

A snowmobile “sprint” will begin at 1:45 p.m., where snowmobilers will try to post the best time  traveling a city block. “Snow golf,” where golfers bring one club and try negotiate a snow-covered course, will begin at 2:15 p.m.

Activities wrap up at 7 p.m. with a casino night, open to adults only, at the Grand Encampment Opera House.

Admission to most events is free, although there is a charge for the pancake breakfast. For more information, visit the Carbon County Visitors Council

Saratoga Lake Ice Fishing Derby This Weekend

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Ice, fish and cash prizes will take center stage this weekend as one of Wyoming’s most notable ice fishing derbies — the Saratoga Lake Ice Fishing Derby — marks its 37th year.

From 600 to 800 anglers are expected to visit Saratoga this weekend for the Saratoga Lake Ice Fishing Derby, which will offer participants a number of ways to win prizes on Saturday and Sunday.

The derby began in the mid-1980s as a way to encourage winter tourism, said Stacy Crimmins, chief executive officer for the Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“A lot of things have changed from that original derby,” she said. “It has evolved into something just a little different, but something that is still a lot of fun.”

In its first days, the derby consisted of anglers trying to catch one of three trout that had been tagged and placed in Saratoga Lake. Anyone catching the tagged fish would claim the prize, however, in some years, the fish were not caught during the derby.

Thanks to the support of sponsors, the derby has since expanded its prizes to offer up cash awards for the largest three fish caught during the weekend and a $100 prize for the largest fish caught every hour of the derby.

“We still tag three fish so you can win up to $20,000,” Crimmins said. “You have a really good chance of winning some money. We’ve been told people like our derby because we spread the cash out.”

The derby even offers awards for anglers who catch suckers, a contest designed specifically to reduce the number of suckers in the lake.

“We pay for the largest sucker overall, the most suckers caught on Saturday and the most caught on Sunday,” Crimmins said. “We’re just trying to get them out of the lake. It seems to be working.”

A special derby will also be held for anglers under the age of 14, who can also win cash prizes for their catches.

All told, derby organizers will give away $6,000. Anyone catching one of the three tagged fish can win another $20,000, $10,000 or $5,000.

The derby runs from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. The biggest fish captured during the weekend, determined by adding the length and girth, will be worth $2,000.

“We’ve had some winners brought in during the last couple hours of Sunday,” Crimmins said. “It’s a wide open tournament. You might think you’ve go the winner early Saturday morning and then the winner will be caught Sunday afternoon.”

The anglers catching the second- and third-largest fish will also win prizes.

The entry fee for the derby is $35 for adults and $10 for fishermen under the age of 14.

For more information on the derby, visit Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce or see its Facebook page.

Shoshoni to host annual all-women’s rabbit hunt on Saturday

in Uncategorized/Travel
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Shhh! Be vewy quiet! They’re hunting wabbit!

A longtime all-women’s hunting competition will enter its 41st year on Saturday as teams take part in the Wyoming Women’s 5-Shot Rabbit Hunt near Shoshoni.

The hunt has been around since the late 1970s and was created in direct response to Lander’s famous One-Shot Antelope Hunt, said Joan Eisemann, who has been involved with the event’s organization for many years.

“The Shoshoni Chamber of Commerce started it back when (Lander) had the One-Shot contest and wouldn’t let women hunt,” she said. “So they started the Shoshoni Chamber Bunny Hunt. It was for women only.”

Over the years, the hunt became known as the Wyoming Women’s 5-Shot Rabbit Hunt and Eisemann said she has been involved in one way or another for more than 30 years.

“I lived here,” she said. “I grew up with it.”

In the antelope hunt, hunters equipped with one bullet each are sent in 3-person teams to see how many antelope the team can bring in.

In the rabbit hunt, each hunter is given five bullets and sent in 2-person teams to collect 10 rabbits. The teams are accompanied by a judge.

The object is to shoot the highest number of rabbits in the least amount of time with the best shot, Eisemann said.

“If you’re fast and you’ve done your homework and found your bunny holes, you can maybe get three to six rabbits in less than a minute,” she said. “We’ve had some teams come in at 17 minutes for 10 rabbits. These girls can shoot.”

So far this year, six teams have signed up to take part, but teams can register at the Shoshoni Fire Hall as late as Friday evening, when those attending a dance and auction prior to the hunt can place their bids on which team they think will have the best score at the end of the weekend. The dance and auction are open to the public.

The actual hunt begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and Eisemann said the teams can go anywhere around Shoshoni as long as they stay at least 1 mile away from any communities.

The teams must also return to the Fire Hall by 4 p.m. and the winning teams will be announced during a banquet Saturday evening.

For more information, visit the 5-Shot Rabbit Hunt’s Facebook page.

Laramie Lions Club holds first ice fishing derby of the new year

in Travel
Laramie Ice Fishing
A young winner of the Laramie Plains Lions Club Ice Fishing Derby in 2015. Adults and youth — those under the age of 14 — will wet their lines this weekend in the 27th annual derby, to be held at Laramie’s Lake Hattie. (Courtesy photo)
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For the angler who likes to catch his or her fish through the ice, this weekend will offer up the first opportunity of the new year to compete in an ice fishing derby.

The Laramie Plains Lions Club Ice Fishing Derby, running from Saturday through Sunday afternoon, will see anglers on Laramie’s Lake Hattie wet their lines for a shot at more than $3,500 in prize money.

The derby, now in its 27th year, has traditionally been held in early January, said Lewis Lyon, chairman of the derby for the Lions Club.

“We try to start the year’s ice fishing season and I think Saratoga follows us by a couple of weeks,” he said.

The event  usually draws from 200 to 250 adults and 20 to 25 youths — under the age of 14 — who compete for cash prizes for the largest fish caught. In addition, if someone catches a fish that has been specially tagged and returned to the lake, he or she will win $2,000, Lyon said.

This is the third year for the specially tagged fish and in past years, the prize has gone unclaimed, he added.

The adult who catches the largest fish, as determined in measures of length, girth and weight, will receive $1,500. Cash prizes will also go to those who catch the second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-largest fish. A $25 prize will go to the person bringing in the smallest fish.

In youth competition, the angler bringing in the largest fish will win $150. Prizes will also be awarded for the second-, third- and fourth-largest fish, as well as for the smallest fish — again, $25.

While fishing through ice in frigid weather might not sound comfortable to some, Lyon said most of the ice fishermen are well prepared for the winter conditions.

“I like to stand up by the fire and get warm, but there’s people who like to stand out there on the ice,” he said. “You look at some of the huts that they have, they’ve got heaters in them, they’re pretty comfortable.”

Lyon predicted that up to two-thirds of those competing will be return visitors to the derby.

Fishing begins at 8 a.m. Saturday and ends at 4 p.m., resuming at 8 a.m. Sunday and ending at 2 p.m., when the derby closes.

The winners of the derby will be announced about 20 minutes after the fishing ends, Lyon said.

“We shut down at 2 p.m. and give them 20 minutes to get in off of the ice in case somebody caught one right at 2 p.m.,” he said.

The admission fee for the derby is $35 for adults and $5 for children and money raised during the event will be used to support one of the Lions Club’s several charities, which include providing assistance to those who need glasses or eye examinations, support for the Allen H. Stewart Lions Camp near Casper and support for the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank in Colorado.

For more information on the derby, visit the Lions Club’s website.

Wyoming’s first ‘SantaCon’ held in Cody

in Travel
SantaCon
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Santa Claus’ big night may be past for 2019, but before his trip around the world, a party in his honor was held in Cody.

Wyoming’s first “SantaCon,” a gathering of people dressed like the big man himself, was held Saturday, Dec. 21, in conjunction with a winter brewfest.

The party featuring costume contests, games and a wide variety of microbrews, was the creation of Janie Curtis, who said she had seen similar events in other communities.

“There’s not a whole lot going on in Cody this time of year, people are always looking for something to do,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “So I thought it would be fun to pair the brewfest with some kind of theme and SantaCon, to my knowledge, has never happened in Cody or even in Wyoming.”

The event helped raise money and awareness for “Got Your Six Outdoors,” a veteran support group in Cody.

“I’m always looking for organizations in town to support with my events,” Curtis said. “I try to choose organizations that could help anybody and touch as many different kinds of people as possible, so the veterans group was just kind of a natural choice.”

Curtis is also the organizer for the Bill Cody Races, another event that raises money for Cody charities.

Given the success of this year’s SantaCon, Curtis said she will absolutely put on the state’s second such event next year.

“I’ve heard about some costumes that people are planning,” she said. “People are definitely getting in to it, not just Santa, but theme Santas and elves and reindeer and just kind of being creative with it.”

Cheyenne stages ninth ‘Ball Drop’ for New Year’s

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Cheyenne Ball Drop
A huge ball lit by thousands of bulbs will “drop” at midnight on Dec. 31 at the Cheyenne Depot Plaza. The ball drop and accompanying fireworks have been a Cheyenne tradition for nine years. (Courtesy photo)
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A nine-year tradition of welcoming the new year with a large, glittering ball will be observed again in Cheyenne this week.

The Cheyenne Ball Drop, held on the Cheyenne Depot Plaza since 2011, will see celebrations running through the day Dec. 31, offering activities for both children and adults.

Activities begin at 3 p.m. inside the Depot, with games and inflatable toys for children, said Laura Levi, organizer for the Ball Drop and the digital marketing coordinator for Visit Cheyenne.

“A few years back we decided we needed a children’s element,” she said. “Something to take the edge off if people have too much energy to stay inside all  day.”

The “princesses” will visit the children’s New Year’s celebration inside the depot at the Depot Plaza on Dec. 31. The children’s celebration will begin at 3 p.m. and feature games and inflatable toys, along with an early “ball drop” and fireworks show at 6 p.m. (Courtesy photo)
The “princesses” will visit the children’s New Year’s celebration inside the depot at the Depot Plaza on Dec. 31. The children’s celebration will begin at 3 p.m. and feature games and inflatable toys, along with an early “ball drop” and fireworks show at 6 p.m. (Courtesy photo)

The games will continue until 6 p.m., when the huge, lit ball used to mark the new year when the clock hits midnight will make an early trip for those who may not be able to stay up late.

“It will be the same ball and same fireworks show so you don’t miss anything from the regular show,” Levi said. “This way, you can take the kids, see the ball drop and then you can come back out and see the one at midnight.”

After the children’s celebration wraps up at around 6 p.m., the adults’ party will begin at 11:30 p.m., Levi said, featuring a DJ who will play music through the celebration. The ball will drop at midnight, when a fireworks display will take place.

Last year’s ball drop had to be canceled because of sub-zero temperatures and high winds. However, the long-range forecast for this year predicts low temperatures in the high 20s, although winds may be brisk.

For more information on the Cheyenne Ball Drop, go to the Visit Cheyenne website.

Something different for the New Year — a mac&cheese festival

in Travel/arts and culture
Mac&Cheese Festival
The team from HQ Southern Barbecue in Casper serves up a sampling of macaroni and cheese as part of the 2018 “Noon Year’s Mac&Cheese Fest” in Casper. (Courtesy photo)
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By Cowboy State Daily

A New Year’s celebration for those who love macaroni and cheese and may not be able to stay awake until midnight is on tap in Casper on Dec. 31.

The “Noon Year’s Mac&Cheese Festival” will mark the arrival of the new year 12 hours early in events to run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31 at a civic auditorium known as “The Lyric” in downtown Casper.

The festival, in its third year, features macaroni and cheese samples from restaurants across Casper, said Julie Schmitt, marketing manager for Casper’s David Street Station, an outdoor events facility across the street from The Lyric.

“It kind of stemmed from the idea we are a family friendly facility,” she said. “We wanted to crate something fun for families to go to and we wanted to host a fun countdown event. And what draws people more than food?”

Kustom Koncepts in Casper created these trophies for the winners of the 2018 “Non Year’s Mac&Cheese Fest.” Trophies and bragging rights are on the line again on Dec. 31 as the annual celebration takes place in Casper. (Courtesy photo)
Kustom Koncepts in Casper created these trophies for the winners of the 2018 “Non Year’s Mac&Cheese Fest.” Trophies and bragging rights are on the line again on Dec. 31 as the annual celebration takes place in Casper. (Courtesy photo)

Free samples of the macaroni and cheese will be given away, with larger servings available for purchase.

The countdown to noon will begin at 11:59 a.m. and the winning “People’s Choice” and “Kids’ Choice” macaroni and cheese chefs will be announced at 12:45 p.m., Schmitt said.

The winners will earn a special trophy created by Kustom Koncepts, along with bragging rights.

“So the … winners will go home with a trophy and the glory of being the top mac and cheese people in town,” she said.

In the past, up to 1,000 people have attended the event, braving sometimes inclement weather to get to The Lyric, Schmitt said.

“Wyoming people are hearty people,” she said.

For more information, visit David Street Station’s website.

‘Holidays Around the World’ to be celebrated at Burns library

in Travel
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By Cowboy State Daily

A celebration of holiday traditions from around the world will greet visitors to the Burns branch of the Laramie County Library on Friday.

“Holidays Around the World” will give children a chance to celebrate the holiday traditions of other countries in a program that will run from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., said Kasey Mossey, communications coordinator for the Laramie County Library system.

“The whole point is to celebrate diversity, to teach children that there are a ton of different holiday celebrations that happen all over the world,” she said.

The program will feature crafts, games and snacks, all based on different holiday traditions and celebrations.

Among the events will be a dreidel game, a game involving a top played during Hanukkah, a Mexican hat dance to commemorate Christmas celebrations in Mexico and the making of tree-shaped Rice Krispies treats as a nod to German holiday traditions.

Attendees will also make “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” ornaments out of paper plates and make drums from oatmeal containers to celebrate Kwanzaa.

Children will also be given books during the celebration to recognize Christmas celebrations in Iceland, where books are traditionally exchanged, Mossey said.

“(The librarian in Burns) is trying to collect enough books to give a book away to each kid who comes in,” she said. “And if she doesn’t reach that goal, it is a library, so they can check books out.”

People wishing to donate books to help the Burns library reach its goal may do so by dropping off books at the Burns Library at 112 Main St.

For more information on the celebration, visit the Laramie County Library’s website at LaramieCountyLibrary.org.

Fireworks, story reading mark Ucross Christmas Celebration

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Ucross Fireworks
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A Christmas celebration featuring fireworks and the reading of a holiday story by a nationally acclaimed author will be on tap this weekend for visitors to an artist’s colony near Sheridan.

The seventh annual Ucross Christmas Celebration will be held Saturday, highlighted as always by musical performances, the lighting of trees decorated for the holidays, refreshments and the reading of a story by “Longmire” author Craig Johnson, who lives near Ucross.

“The Christmas celebration came from (Ucross Foundation founder Raymond Plank’s) passion for Christmas,” said Ucross Foundation spokeswoman Carly Fraysier. “For seven years it’s been the same routine.”

The celebration is free to the public and will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday. Throughout the event, refreshments will be available, as will crafts for children.

Music will be provided by area resident Taylor Corum and Buffalo High School Balladiers.Johnson, who has read a Christmas story at the celebration for at least the last three years, will read “Who’s Your Daddy,” a story with ties to Christmas from a recent “Longmire” book.

At 6 p.m., attendees will go outside to watch a fireworks show staged by former legislator Bruce Burns, followed by the lighting of thousands of Christmas lights strung on dozens of trees in the Park at Ucross.

“It really is a community-wide celebration,” Fraysier said. “Bruce does an amazing job. The Park at Ucross is a beautiful setting. It’s pretty special.”

Over the years, the event has drawn people from throughout the Sheridan and Buffalo areas, along with some from as far away as Casper, she added. 

“It’s kind of a special event and people from even a little further away try to put it on their calendars,” she said.

For more information, visit the Ucross Foundation’s website or its Facebook page.

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

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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 Travel/Agriculture
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
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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 Travel/Community
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 Travel/Food and Beverage
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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
2117

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.

Bill Sniffin: Sinks Canyon and Loop Road are magical places this time of year

in Travel/Column/Bill Sniffin
Lander Wyoming Loop Road
Folks who live on the east side of the Wind River Mountains have a tradition of getting “looped,” as often as possible. This is my term for driving the spectacular Loop Road.
2094

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

Folks who live on the east side of the Wind River Mountains have a tradition of getting “looped,” as often as possible. This is my term for driving the spectacular Loop Road.

Fall colors were already showing up on the Loop Road when this photo was snapped Sept. 15. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

On a recent Sunday, there was just a hint of color as we headed for the mountains. It sure felt like fall, but the colors were still green and summer-like. Soon it will turn totally golden.

We were re-visiting a magical place that cast a spell on us exactly 49 years ago.  Sinks Canyon and the Loop Road outside of Lander are what caused my wife Nancy and me to move to Wyoming from Iowa almost a half century ago.

It is every bit as beautiful now as it was then. I recall telling Nancy about being blown away by how the Popo Agie River was so picturesque. It looked liked color photos I had seen on calendars but never dreamed that these places really did look like this in reality. It was a transcendent experience.

A tourist from Washington state was swimming in the Little Popo Agie River on the Loop Road on this sunny afternoon before finding this nice rock for sun bathing. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

Sinks Canyon is the primary gateway to the Wind River Mountain Range from the east. Located just south of Lander, the canyon’s sheer cliffs and magical river make it a haven for sightseers.

The remarkable reason for the name of Sinks Canyon is that the river disappears into the side of the canyon wall and reappears a quarter mile downstream on the other side of the canyon.  If you have not visited this eighth wonder of Wyoming, you should. There are wonderful visitor centers there to explain things.

This huge rock formation called Windy Point towers over Sinks Canyon south of Lander. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

Then you climb out of Sinks Canyon and head up the Loop Road. The highway up the paved switchbacks and pretty soon you are climbing up to the saddle below Fossil Mountain and Windy Point.  I always thought Windy Point should be called Chief’s Head, as it looks like old Chief Washakie looking up to the heavens.

Beautiful lakes in the form of Frye Lake, Worthen Reservoir, and Fiddler Lake greet you along this first section of the Loop Road, which is graveled but passable for sedans.

Wind River Peak is the tallest mountain in the southern end of the Wind River Range.  This view is also showing Frye Lake along the Loop Road. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

The gigantic form of Wind River Peak at 13,192 feet looms over this entire scene.  It is the tallest mountain in the southern Wind Rivers.  It has plenty of snow on it now and glistens in the distance.

Another monolith that shows up in your rear view mirror is the massive hunk of rock known as Lizard Head Peak, which is 12,842 feet high.  It is one of the signature mountains in the famous Cirque of the Towers.  It is amazing that you can see it so well from the Loop Road, but you need to know where and when to look.

A huge mountain named Lizard Head Peak strikes a pose in the distance for tourists driving the Loop Road south of Lander. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin) 

Highest point of the road is Blue Ridge, which sits at 9,578 feet above sea level. A short hike farther up and you can climb stone steps to an old Forest Service fire lookout station. Again, well worth the trip and the view is breathtaking for 360-degrees.

There is a spectacular spot where the road crosses the Little Popo Agie River.  I stopped and snapped some photos and then saw a gal swimming in the frigid river. She climbed out of the water onto a big rock and started to sun bathe.  It must have been very invigorating. She was from Washington state, according to the license plate on her small car parked nearby.

Louis Lake on the Loop Road has nice beaches for families to enjoy at an altitude above 8,000 feet. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

Louis Lake (pronounced Louie) is the showpiece of the Loop Road. It is a very deep lake. It has nice beaches on its east end and is a favorite place for boating, canoeing, fishing, and just enjoying life.

From Louis Lake to WYO Highway 28 on South Pass, the Loop Road goes by Grannier Meadows and up and around Dead Horse Curve.  The reason it is called the Loop Road is that you never need to backtrack.  You just keep going and complete the loop drive back to Lander.

As you get to South Pass, you look off at the vast Red Desert, which is one of Wyoming’s seven legitimate wonders.  Continental Peak and the Oregon Buttes stand out in the distance.

A moose casually munches on lily pads in a small pond next to Fiddler Lake on the Loop Road. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin) 

On the way back down the mountain back to Lander the most stunning sight is the vast Red Canyon. This is a huge box canyon, which is striking by all the red rock of the Chugwater Formation. It is one of the most photographed places in this part of Wyoming.

And then we were back home, having enjoyed a wonderful three-hour drive that reinforced all the wonderful reasons of why we live here.

Another of our reasons for this particular trip was that we had not driven the entire Loop this year.  We ALWAYS drive the Loop at least once each year.  Time was running out. What a great pleasure it has always been; it was this time, too.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Excavate an artifact at Gillette’s “Archaeology Fair”

in Travel
1st Annual Northeast Wyoming Archaeology Fair
2086

Some hands-on experience with archaeology awaits those who visit Gillette’s Rockpile Museum this weekend.

The museum is hosting its first annual Archaeology Fair on Saturday, featuring stations where participants can get a feel for activities such as excavating artifacts, using an ancient tool to throw a spear, making pottery and grinding corn.

“We’re hoping the kids and adults get an idea of what archaeology is,” said Cara Reeves, the Rockpile’s collections assistant and a member of the committee that organized the fair. “We hope they get a better idea of what archaeologists do.”

This year’s inaugural Archaeology Fair, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, coincides with Wyoming’s celebration of Archaeology Month in September.

A number of experts from different areas, such as the Wyoming Archaeological Society, Vore Buffalo Jump, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and University of Wyoming, will set up stations through the day where attendees can take part in different activities.

For instance, the Wyoming Archaeological Society’s Pumpkin Buttes Chapter will set up a booth where participants can take part in a mock excavation.

Reeves said replicas of artifacts will be placed inside boxes of dirt to be “excavated.”

“The kids or adults will learn how to excavate on a small scale,” she said. “There is an an activity sheet where they can draw what they find and talk about what it is so they get the idea of what archaeologists actually do.”

Another station will allow attendees to recreate ancient pottery using clay and cooking demonstrations, using a recreated hearth outside of the museum, will be offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.Also on tap is a demonstration of an “atlatl,” a device used to throw spears with added velocity and power. Attendees will get a chance to use the atlatl at targets on a range.

Dog sled racer Tara Lynn will also demonstrate the use of a “travois,” a sort of sled used to drag loads over land, with the assistance of two of her dogs which will pull the load.

For more information, visit the Rockpile Museum’s website.

Top singer-songwriters to compete in Ten Sleep

in Travel/Tourism/arts and culture
2019 Singer-Songwriter Laramie Qualifying Round at the Alibi. (courtesy: Wyoming Singer-Songwriter Competition)
2048

Fans of Wyoming music will want to be in Ten Sleep this weekend for the state’s second annual Singer-Songwriter Competition.

The contest will see some of the state’s top singer-songwriters, as selected in competitions in 10 communities around Wyoming, compete for a chance to have one of their songs professionally recorded.

“Top to bottom, it will be great music,” said Jon Gardzelewski, founder of Wyoming Singer-Songwriters and an organizer of the competition. “It’s a great opportunity to hear and meet new people. Some of the best people writing and recording songs will be there from every corner of the state.”

Wyoming Singer-Songwriters for five years sponsored a Laramie competition before opening it up for artists from around the state in 2018.

The first year’s competition saw 75 musicians from around the state take part. This year, the number grew to 85, 37 of whom advanced from the preliminary rounds to the semi-finals.

“The first year, I twisted the arms of everybody I knew and that helped,” Gardzelewski said. “This year, I didn’t do that. I had my hands full with new venues — Rock Springs, Ten Sleep, Gillette — and each of those places had a wealth of new people who were not aware of the competition last year.”

The field of competitors at the weekend’s event will represent a broad mix of musicians, Garzelewski said.

“We’ve got a good mix of old and young, guys and girls, just a good diversity,” he said. “What people will find is they will hear somebody they just fall in love with and that person may not even make it to the finals, there’s so much good music.”

Judging in the preliminary rounds was handled by the musicians themselves. At this weekend’s contest, musicians performing at the Ten Sleep Brewing Co. will be joined as judges by panels of music professionals.

After four semi-final rounds beginning at 4 p.m. Friday and running through Saturday, eight musicians will advance to the grand finale, to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The champion as determined in voting by the musicians and the judges will receive $500, a headline performing spot at the Beartooth Music Festival in Cody, a performing spot at next year’s What Fest and a chance to record their song in a professional studio.

An additional event at this year’s contest will be a Traditional Song Challenge, where participating musicians will offer their versions of folk or traditional songs.

Tickets for the event cost $15 per day or $30 for the full competition. Those buying the full-access tickets will also receive a four-disk compilation of songs from the 2018 competition.

For more information, visit the Wyoming Singer-Songwriters website at WyomingSinger-Songwriters.com or check out their Facebook page.

Lander celebrates fruit-filled heritage with ‘Apple City Festival’

in Travel
Apple City Festival
2004

It’s not widely known that Lander once was once such a leading producer of apples that it earned the nickname of Wyoming’s “Apple City.”

The area’s relatively mild climate, rich soil and plentiful water made it a haven for orchards that used to cover hundreds of acres.It’s that heritage that is being recognized this weekend as the city’s Pioneer Museum hosts the first annual Apple City Festival on Saturday.

“It seemed like a real appropriate activity for us to explore as far as Lander’s history,” said Randy Wise, the museum’s director. “When you think Wyoming, you don’t think of fruit trees. But the Lander Valley has been very productive, particularly of apples, since the very earliest days of the community.”

Wise said early settlers in the valley, led by German pioneers Ed Young and Jacob Meyer, in the 1870s thought that apple trees might do well in the valley because it is sheltered from the wind that rakes much of the rest of Wyoming.

“Both (Young and Meyer) started out raising cattle, but then they both had an interest in fruit trees and they started experimenting,” he said. “The first batch were trees from the midwest and they didn’t make it. They found that Russian trees worked best here.”

Through grafting and cross-breeding, the two were able to develop a species of apples well suited to the area, Wise said.

“Just about every property of any size had an orchard,” he said. “Ed Young had 3,000 trees. There are still a couple of hundred trees left. We’ve got an old apple tree in our back yard and I suspect it was part of an orchard.”

Several small orchards continue to grow apples that are sold at Lander’s Farmer’s Market and some are even sold to a Jackson company, Farmstead Cider, for use in its hard cider.

Plums and pears have also been raised in the valley in the past, Wise said.

Activities scheduled for Saturday include the pressing of fresh apple cider, crafts for children, live music and a contest for the best apple pie.

“I’ve had a lot of interest in that,” Wise said. “But I’ve had even more people asking to be judges. I’ve got a long list of people who want to be a judge.”

Also planned for the day is an applesauce eating contest for children. Competitors will be given a cup of applesauce and a straw.

“Who ever can eat the cup of applesauce the fastest with a straw wins,” Wise said.

A petting zoo will also be on hand, he said.“It’s very much an agriculture-oriented event,” he said.

Farmstead Cider will also be at the festival to offer adults a sample of its cider.

For more information about the day, visit the Pioneer Museum’s Facebook page.

Wyoming Tourism: Travel Back In Time Through The Ghost Town Of Kirwin

in News/Travel/Tourism
1959

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Hop back in time to the era of stage coaches and mining camps through a visit to the abandoned mining town of Kirwin, Wyoming.

In the 19th century the bustling mining town of Kirwin, Wyoming featured a general store, mining office, and sawmill.

After an avalanche hit the town, killing three people and destroying property, the town slowly died out.

Visitors can make the trek to Kirwin, tucked high up in the Absaroka Mountains outside of Meeteetse, Wyoming, with the help of a good four-wheel drive vehicle.

The beauty of the area draws visitors each year.

Prior to her disappearance, famed aviator Amelia Earhart and her husband were captivated by the natural beauty of Kirwin and its surroundings. The couple began building a cabin just a mile from Kirwin but the project was never completed.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

It’s all about tractors at Encampment’s Copper Days Festival

in Travel
Tractors Saratoga
Tractors on display at last year’s Copper Days Festival in Encampment. The annual festival, to be held this weekend features tractor parades, tractor pulling contests, antique tractors and even toy tractor displays. (Photo courtesy of the Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce)
1947

Antique tractors, toy tractors, feats of tractor strength, a tractor parade — if it has to do with tractors, it’s in the spotlight this weekend at Encampment’s annual Copper Days Festival.

The festival, celebrating its 25th year on Saturday and Sunday, is a salute to rural living, especially the role tractors play in agriculture in the Platte Valley, said Stacy Crimmins, CEO for the Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s definitely dedicated to rural and ranch living,” she said. “It’s kind of a way for us to celebrate the agricultural heritage of the Platte Valley.”

The focus on tractors is usually something associated more with states, Crimmins said.

“This is definitely unique for this part of the country,” she said. “You don’t have to travel halfway across the nation to see these things.”

The part of the two-day celebration dedicated to tractors is organized by Encampment’s Chug ’N Tug Tractor Club, while the Platte Valley Arts Council sponsors other events such as a performance by polka band “The River Boys” and a kids’ art workshop. The chamber of commerce handles marketing and promotion for the event, Crimmins said.

Events begin at 10 a.m. Saturday with a tractor parade through Encampment.At 11 a.m. Saturday, the action will move to the Encampment-Riverside Lions Club Arena, where competitors will take part in a tractor pull. There, tractors are hitched to trailers carrying weights. As the tractors move forward, the weights move closer to the front of the trailer, increasing the amount of power needed to move the trailer.

The kids’ art workshop will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, as will the toy tractor display.

“We’re trying to keep the enthusiasm for tractors up with the younger generations,” Crimmins said of the toy tractor display. “We’re just trying to make sure there’s an outlet for those who are a little younger to enjoy tractors.”

The community dance at the Grand Encampment Opera House is the only event of the weekend with an entry fee — $15 for adults, which includes a light dinner. The dance runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday.“

A lot of the more experienced dancers are very willing to give lessons and help people remember the steps or even help the younger people get a gist of the steps,” Crimmins said.

A second tractor pull will be held Sunday at 10:30 a.m.For more information on Copper Days, visit the Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce’s website or see the chamber’s Facebook page.

Way out West! Evanston is unique gateway into state of Wyoming

in Travel/Column/Bill Sniffin
Evanston paddle boarding
A paddle boarder slowly works her way across the Bear River Ponds in the middle of Evanston. The ponds are used year-round for recreation by the 12,500 residents and visitors. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)
1867

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

EVANSTON – Most Wyomingites think of the city of Evanston as more of a gateway than a getaway. But upon closer examination, many might find their opinion changed.

Community leaders in the Uinta County seat have done a magnificent job of transforming their city into one of the nicest spots in Wyoming.

With a beautiful state park, perhaps the state’s best river walk, a gigantic railroad roundhouse complex converted into convention space, first-rate airport, 18-hole golf course, a towering mountain range plus nearby lakes – well, it could be argued that Evanston has just about anything that anyone might be looking for.

The Bear River only travels about 100 miles as the crow flies as it flows from the Uinta Mountains to the Great Salt Lake. Much of that flow is in Wyoming and because of its twists and turns, it covers probably over 1,000 miles, according to Mark Tesoro, publisher of the local newspaper, the Uinta County Herald. 

Bear River Evanston
The Bear River features elaborate landscaping along its banks as it flows through downtown Evanston. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

That river provides a spectacular greenway complex that includes some busy downtown ponds, which are full of fish,  paddle boarders, canoes, and kayaks. That river also flows into nearby Bear Lake in Idaho, a popular recreation area for residents of Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah.

Historically, Evanston was first and foremost a railroad town. It was the last “Hell on Wheels” outpost of the Union Pacific as its crews worked their way west to create the most fantastic engineering feat of the 19th century, the transcontinental railroad. This is one of the state’s oldest towns, with railroaders working here in 1868. 

Evanston River Walk
The Bear River is spectacular has it flows through downtown Evanston. Local leaders have created a scenic River Walk that criss-crosses the entire area. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

Evanston was home to huge railroad repair facilities, most notably the massive roundhouse.  When the Union Pacific abandoned these structures, the community took them over and now they serve as venues for statewide and national conventions and events.

Most folks zip through Evanston on their way to Salt Lake City, Las Vegas or San Francisco. They can see big hills around them as they go, but they have little idea of the size of the mountains just over the horizon.  Utah is famous for mountain ranges, but the state’s biggest mountains actually border Wyoming.

The Uinta Range is one of the most unusual ranges in the country as it runs east and west, rather than the more typical south to north. The highest mountain in Utah, Kings Peak, towers over Wyoming’s Uinta County at more than 13,000 feet.  

A climb up the hill northwest of Evanston to the municipal airport reveals a view of mountains that rivals that of Pinedale, Buffalo, Lander, or Sheridan.  There, laid out in front of you, is a full vista of snow-capped silver-gray mountains.  

Wyoming State Hospital
Construction is underway at the State Hospital in Evanston. This is part of a $182 million project that includes work in Evanston and also at the Life Resource Center in Lander. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

Evanston has both enjoyed and endured the booms and busts typical to Wyoming.  In the 1970s and 1980s, the town doubled in size with an oil boom as companies discovered the Overthrust Belt, a unique formation full of oil.  Oil is still big but not as dominant as back in those hectic times. 

The Wyoming State Hospital was established in Evanston in 1887 and currently is undergoing a massive expansion. Its expansion, along with a shared expansion at the Wyoming Life Resource Center in Lander, will cost $182 million.  The State Hospital sits on a small hill overlooking the town.

Spankys Bar Evanston
Marsha Redding is the owner of Spankys Bar in Evanston, which features a comfortable patio setting. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

Two local establishments stood out recently.  The philly cheesesteak and chicken fried steak at Jody’s Diner were treats, as was the patio atmosphere of Spanky’s Bar.  There are over 1,000 hotel rooms serving the traveling public. 

Most Wyomingites will speed through Evanston many times over the next few years either leaving the state or coming home to it. Spending some quality time in Evanston would be well worth the stop.

For more information future visitors can contact www.evanstonwyo.com

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.

Expedition Island site of River Festival

in Travel
River Festival Duck Race
1805

The island where explorer John Wesley Powell launched his two groundbreaking explorations of the Green and Colorado rivers in the 1800s will be the site this weekend for Green River’s official final party of the summer.

River Festival, now in its 18th year, will feature live music, a marathon, a shrimp boil and much more, all offered on Expedition Island on Friday and Saturday.

The festival sponsored by the Green River Chamber of Commerce is the city’s way to say farewell to summer, said Lisa Herrera of the chamber.

“It’s the last hurrah of summer before the fall season hits us,” she said. “It’s a good time.”

Powell launched his expeditions of 1869 and 1871 from the island and today, it is a 7-acre city park.

Activities at the park this weekend will begin Friday with a shrimp boil and spaghetti dinner, a “Micro Brew Beer Garden,” craft vendors, fireworks and live music by the band NoWhere Fast.

Saturday morning will begin with a pancake breakfast and the “Run with the Horses Marathon,” a run that will take participants from Expedition Island along the area’s Wild Horse Loop Tour and back.

“There’s a real good chance you will see wild horses up there,” Herrera said.

The marathon draws people from around the world, this year including a 64-year-old woman taking part in her 307th marathon.

The “Micro Brew Beer Garden” will be open through the weekend, as will the craft vendor booths.

Other activities on Saturday will include a car and bike show, a dog fetching competition, a “duck race” — where toy ducks are released on the Green River — and a horseshoe tournament.

For more information on the River Festival, visit the chamber’s website at GRChamber.com.

Cowboy State Bucket List covers 97,000 square miles!

in Travel/Column/Bill Sniffin
1799

By Bill Sniffin, My Wyoming columnist 

What is on your ‘Cowboy State Bucket List?”

By definition, the term “bucket list” stands for those places you want to visit or those things you want to do before you die.

For some time now, I have annually been publishing my own version of this list and have gradually been checking a few off my list. 

In a land of 97,000 square miles full of mountains, canyons, rivers, historical trails and outposts, Native American sites, and modern marvels, it is easy to compile such a list. 

And yet, there are so many more places to see it seems like my list is getting longer rather than shorter. 

For example a dinosaur dig or a buffalo jump have zoomed to near the top of my list.  Our family had never been to either and Wyoming has some of the best in the country. The dinosaur digs near Thermopolis is of the most prominent dino dig in the country.  The Vore buffalo jump near Sundance is amazing. I also want to get out in the Red Desert and see the one on the summit of Steamboat Mountain between Rock Springs and Farson.

Among the things that I wanted to do, and did do, included finally seeing Sybille Canyon between Laramie and Wheatland and driving the back road over the Snowy Range Mountains between Saratoga and Laramie.  

Also, I finally took that Red Desert back road from Rock Springs to South Pass and visited Boars Tusk and the Killpecker Sand Dunes. On my earlier list was a visit to Bill, Wyoming, which I managed to do one Sunday afternoon while listening to a Bronco football game on the radio. 

Also finally I drove that fantastic Wild Horse Loop from Green River to north of Rock Springs above White Mountain. We also re-visited the fantastic petroglyphs just south of Dubois. Amazing.

But I still have not made it to some very important events. So here goes my Cowboy State Bucket List for today: 

  • Am hoping to take a closer look at Vedauwoo area outside of Laramie.  I have driven by it hundreds of times. It is time for a closer look. Also, to spend some time at Curt Gowdy State Park. 
  • Between Jeffrey City and Muddy Gap is an odd rock formation I call Stonehenge. Locals call it Castle Rock.  Reportedly it has names written in it including John Sublette. Sometime this summer I hope to have it finally checked off.
  • I want to spend more time in extreme western Wyoming from Afton to Evanston. Lots to see there. 
  • Our family lived on Squaw Creek for 23 years outside of Lander and our view looked out at the imposing Red Butte.  Hope to climb it this summer.
  • If Fossil Butte is not on this list, my friend Vince Tomassi will scold me about it.  He serves incredible meals every Thursday night in Kemmerer-Diamondville at Luigi’s. Perhaps a tour and dinner, Vince?
  • In 1993, I spent a very nervous time hunting a bighorn ram in the Double Cabin Area northeast of Dubois.  Would love to go back for a more relaxed trip this time around. There were petrified forests above timberline and a place that included a meadow full of vertical rocks standing on end. 
  • I still need to take the time to tour all the new parts of UW with a knowledgeable guide and see first-hand all the new buildings and new programs. 
  • Some 48 years ago, I photographed what looked like a horrible scar on Togwotee Pass where the area was clear-cut. Would like to go back to those areas and see if the timber has recovered or not.
  • Historian Phil Roberts says he will give me a tour of the “breaks” north of Lusk?   I flew over that area by private plane many times and looked down in awe at this rough country.
  • A tour of Wyoming’s giant coalmines makes sense.
  • On the Wind River Reservation, I finally visited the Arapaho Ranch and also visited the mountains at the extreme north end of the rez. Saw the Legend Rock petroglyph site in that neighborhood –fantastic. 

To wrap this up, my friend Tom Hayes does not like the term “bucket list” and calls his a “leap list” for a list he does every leap year to plan their visits over the next four years.   

Jim Hicks always offers perspective on these kinds of lists when he says he always wanted to break par, then he always wanted to break 80.

“Now I just want to be able to get out there and play,” he concludes. 

So that’s my Cowboy State bucket list.  What’s yours?

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

It’s all about art at Lander’s Riverfest

in Travel/arts and culture
Lander Arts Center RiverFest
Courtesy Lander Arts Center.
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A plethora of art forms, from music to poetry and theater, will be on display in Lander this weekend when the Lander Art Center hosts its annual Riverfest Art and Music Festival.

To be held Saturday in Lander City Park, the event will feature a full day of art exhibits and demonstrations before things wrap up with a performance by Wyoming bluegrass band Ten Cent Stranger.

Sam Rastatter, an official at the Art Center, said the event was started by the center shortly after it was opened.

“The early directors started it after the Art Center got on its feet,” she said. “It’’s grown a lot. It used to be held in the Noble Hotel and it was fairly small compared to what it looks like now. Now, we take over the city park for the day and we typically get around 1,200 people coming through.”

Events at the 11th annual festival begin at 7 a.m. with the “Color Me River Run,” a 5k run sponsored by Child Development Services in which participants will be pelted with colored powder along the route.

At 11 a.m., children attending a theater camp offered the group Communal Pancake will perform a series of sketches and at 2 p.m., a series of spoken word performances, including poetry and prose readings, will begin.

The spoken word pieces will all focus on the Popo Agie watershed, Rastatter said.

“The performers are all from Fremont County and all are very familiar with the Popo Agie,” she said.

Ten Cent Stranger will wrap up the day with a performance beginning at 4 p.m.Throughout the day, some 40 art vendors will show off their original works in vendors’ tents. Demonstrations on arts including glassblowing, pottery and flint knapping — shaping a stone by striking it with another — are also scheduled throughout the day.

Tents offering children’s activities such as art projects will also be open, sponsored by organizations including the Lander Children’s Museum, the Fremont County Library and the Art Center itself.

For more information, visit the Art Center’s website at LanderArtCenter.com.

Watch artists create their works live at the Brinton Museum’s “Bighorn Rendezvous”

in Travel/arts and culture
Big Horn Rendezvous
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Art lovers interested in seeing noted artists at work should head for Big Horn’s Brinton Museum on Saturday for the annual Bighorn Rendezvous.

Fifteen artists will set up outside of the museum for the Rendezvous annual “Quick Draw,” where they will complete paintings or sculptures in front of members of the public over a three-hour period.

“People can come out and watch them work and ask them questions and then wander around the property and see work by different artists,” said Tod Windsor, the museum’s marketing director.

The Quick Draw will run from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The finished works will be offered for sale that afternoon, with part of the money raised going to the artists and part being donated to the museum.

Windsor said about 300 people usually attend the event to watch the artists, who largely come from Wyoming, Montana and Colorado.

Some of the artists involved are Sonja Caywood, Gary Huger, Julie Iris and Randy Stout.

“These are artists we invited to come here,” Windsor said.

The celebration on Saturday will also include the museum’s commemoration of American Indian Heritage Day, featuring dance performances and a prayer celebration by members of the Wyoming’s Arapaho tribe, along with dancers from Montana’s Crow and Cheyenne reservations.

For more information on the Bighorn Rendezvous, visit the Brinton Museum’s website.

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.”

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.

Riverton Rendezvous: 39th Annual Balloon Rally This Weekend

in Travel
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The catch phrase for this weekend will be “Up, Up and Away” as balloonists from across the region take advantage of the Wind River Valley’s calm weather for the annual Riverton Rendezvous and Balloon Rally.

Fourteen balloonists from as far away as California, Utah and even Canada are set to take part in the 39th annual rally, started in 1981 as an event to celebrate Riverton’s Diamond Jubilee.

Balloon flights can be tricky in Wyoming because of the state’s windy conditions, but Riverton, inside the Wind River Valley, sees better flying conditions than most areas, said Eric Carr, chairman of the Riverton Rendezvous and Balloon Rally Committee.

“We have exceptional weather for ballooning in the mornings here,” he said. “We can get some wind, but by and large, this region of the state is one of the least windiest parts of the state.”

Events scheduled for the weekend include balloon flights Saturday and Sunday, along with live music, a radio controlled airplane demonstration, a fireworks display and a “balloon glow,” a nighttime event when balloons are inflated so the flames that heat the balloons illuminate their designs.

All of the balloons appearing in Riverton are sponsored by local businesses and many flights on Saturday and Sunday will be with representatives of the businesses, Carr said.

However, flights for the general public are also available. Tickets can be purchased by calling Riverton City Hall at (307) 856-2227.

Riverton even has two of its own balloons, “Cloud Kisser II” and “Cloud Kisser III” that will be present for the event. The two balloons visit various ballooning events to promote the Riverton rally.

A balloon flight can be a unique experience, Carr said.

“You just kind of let go,” he said. “To just get up in the air and it is so quiet you can hear everything. There’s no motor,  no propeller, you’re just up in the air floating around. So it’s a really, really unique sensation.”

Events kick off Friday with a barbecue for the balloonists featuring keynote speaker Cheri White, a Texas pilot who has won a number of awards form various ballooning organizations.

The dinner will be followed by the Rocky Mountain Rebels Car and Bike “Friday Night Cruise,” a parade through downtown Riverton.

Flights begin Saturday morning when the balloons take off from Central Wyoming College at 6 a.m., followed by tethered balloon rides at 7 a.m.

The balloon glow will be held at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by a fireworks show at 10 p.m.

The balloons will take to the air again at 6 a.m. Sunday.

For more information on the rally, visit its website at RivertonRendezvous.com or its page on Facebook.

Hundreds of Lusk residents take part in ‘Legend of Rawhide’

in Travel
Legend of Rawhide pageant
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Several hundred people will lend their talents this weekend to the annual staging of one of Wyoming’s oldest pageants celebrating life on the plains for settlers making their way west.

Lusk’s “Legend of Rawhide,” a fixture of the community since 1946, will run Friday through Saturday, featuring evening performances, dances, contests, a raffle, car show and a parade.

Jackie Bredthauer, director of the Niobrara Chamber of Commerce, estimates that half of Lusk’s residents are involved as volunteers in the pageant itself or the associated activities.

The pageant itself is held in the arena of the Niobrara County Fairgrounds, which is transformed to look a stopping point for a wagon train near Rawhide Buttes south of Lusk. Volunteers even bring in trees to stand in the arena and build a waterfall.

Actors and narrators, largely following a script written by EvaLou “Bonnie” Bonsell in 1946, act out the evening routine of a wagon crossing the plains from Missouri in the 1840s. Nearby, actors portray the activities of the residents of an American Indian village.

The main story surrounds a young pioneer who reportedly vowed to kill the first Indian he ran across in the West. His victim turned out to be a princess from the nearby village. The young man was turned over to the tribe to face justice in exchange for the wagon train being allowed to leave the area unchallenged.

The man was skinned alive, an event recreated during the pageant.

Members of a wagon train try to repel American Indians attacking the train after a member of their tribe was killed by a young man in a scene from the 2015 “Legend of Rawhide.” Hundreds of Lusk residents volunteer each year to put on the pageant that began in 1946. (Photo by Mary Angell)

Over the years, very few changes have been made to Bonsell’s original script, Bredthauer said.

“They added some extra scenes, for instance, we have kids fishing in the fishing pond,” she said. “But the gist of the whole thing is about the same. They didn’t want to change the history of it.”

The performances begin at 8:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday night and are followed by a dance each night.

On Saturday, a number of events will be held through the day, including a poker tournament, corn hole tournament, parade and “closest to the pin” contest.

In addition, the “Crossroads Show and Shine” car show will be held in Lusk through the day Saturday.

A special attraction this year will be the appearance of the “Moving Wall,” a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The wall will go on display on Thursday evening and will remain in place at the Lusk High School baseball field until Sunday morning.

Money raised from the annual performance, contests and raffles is used to benefit local charities. For instance, when a flash flood destroyed property in Lusk immediately before the pageant in 2015, money was used to assist people who suffered losses, Bredthauer said.

In addition, every year money is set aside to pay for scholarships for students from Lusk.For more information on the “Legend of Rawhide,” visit the event’s website at LegendofRawhide.com.

Visit Riverton for Mountain Man Rendezvous at real rendezvous site

in Travel
1838 Mountain Man Rendezvous
Re-enactors from the 1838 Mountain Man Rendezvous walk through Riverton in the event’s annual parade. The event’s opening ceremonies will be held Wednesday and will run through Saturday. (Photo courtesy of the 1838 Mountain Man Rendezvous)
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The beaver fur trade may be long gone, but there’s still a way to get a glimpse of how things looked when the fur trappers and mountain men of the mid-1800s got together.

The 1838 Mountain Man Rendezvous, the only rendezvous reenactment held at the actual site of a rendezvous staged more than a century ago, will run through the weekend in Riverton.

Featuring people dressed as mountain men and activities such as black powder shooting demonstrations, tomahawk and knife competitions and dutch-oven cooking, the event is a recreation of the gatherings held annually when fur trappers would meet to sell their wares to companies, said Rick Lechner, who has been involved in the rendezvous for a number of years.

A re-enactor at the 1838 Mountain Man Rendezvous in Riverton prepares to take part in black powder shooting. The annual gathering, to be held this weekend, features people dressed in period clothing taking part in activities that would have been common for the “mountain men” of the mid-1800s. (Photo courtesy of the 1838 Mountain Man Rendezvous)

“A rendezvous was where the trappers would come out of the mountains and fur companies would come from places like St. Louis and they would do their trading there every summer,” said Lechner, who goes by the name of “Smoking Hawk” while wearing his mountain man clothing. “It was a time for the trappers to blow off some steam, have some fun and sell their furs.”

The 1838 rendezvous was one of the last held in the Rockies as silk replaced beaver pelts in the manufacturing of hats, Lechner said, but it was also one of the largest on record.

“That was the last big rendezvous because the silk industry came in,” he said. “There were over 1,000 horses and mules. They would set up a main area for trade, but then they would go up and down the river for several miles.”

The event’s activities center around what would have been common skills for the period, including starting a fire with flint and steel, trap setting, skinning, dutch oven cooking, black powder shooting and embroidery.

Events begin with opening ceremonies on Wednesday and continue throughout the weekend at the camp near the Popo Agie River.

Dressing in period clothing is encouraged, but not required.

For more information, visit the Rendezvous website or see its page on Facebook.

Casper to host first ‘Comic Con’ at Events Center

in Travel
Casper Comic Con
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Those who like to dress up as fantasy or science fiction characters will feel right at home in Casper this weekend as the Casper Events Center hosts the city’s first Comic Con.

Fantasy and science fiction costumes and costume contests, toys, clothing, art and even tattoos will all be found at the inaugural event, said founder Clint Randolph.“

There’s going to be a little bit of everything,” he said. “There will be a costume contest each day, we’ve got a lot of artists, a lot of comic books and toy dealers. It’s kind of a mix and match of everything.”

The featured guest for the weekend will be Montana native Kerry Cahill, a star of the AMC series “Walking Dead.”

Casper’s Comic Con is the latest to be organized by Randolph, whose work to set up the event in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has since grown to include seven such events in six states.

After putting on the Colorado Springs event a number of years, Randolph organized one in Salina, Kansas.

Spectra, a company that manages events at venues including the Casper Events Center, then asked Randolph to put on a Comic Con in Enid, Oklahoma. The event was so popular that Randolph was asked to stage events at other venues related to Spectra.

“Now we’ve got shows from Grand Forks, North Dakota, to Beaumont, Texas,” he said.

The growth in Randolph’s work reflects the growing popularity of the events around the country, he said.

“They are becoming more popular,” he said. “It’s what’s ‘in’ right now.”

Randolph said he may add shows in three to four more states by next year and perhaps even one in Canada.

Many attendees at the events are people who attend any Comic Con they can get to, Randolph said, while others are just curious to see what the fuss is all about.

“The appeal is it is something different that some people have never done and they want to do it,” he said. 

Events will kick off Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m., with doors closing at 5 p.m. In addition to the toy, costume and comic book vendors, the events will feature daily costume contests at 3 p.m. — one for adults on Saturday and one for children on Sunday. Both offer cash prizes to the winners.

“The contests are free to enter,” Randolph said. “If you even have just a mask on, you can enter the contest.”

Cahill will appear at 1 p.m. each day.

For more information on the Casper Comic Con, visit its page on Facebook.

Glenrock’s Deer Creek Days offers wide variety of fun

in Travel/Community
Deer Creek Days Volleyball in Glenrock
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If variety is the spice of life, then Glenrock is the place to be this weekend for the community’s annual “Deer Creek Days” festival.

Rodeo, mud volleyball, a car show, concerts are just a few of the activities on tap for the 40th annual festival, with most of those events being open to the public at no charge, said Kristy Grant, director of the Glenrock Chamber of Commerce and chairman of Deer Creek Days.

“It’s really designed for family who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money,” she said. “With few exceptions, all the events are free.”

Until this year, Deer Creek Days had been an end-of-summer celebration in August, Grant said, but organizers agreed to move it to June to avoid competition with other festivals such as Casper’s Beartrap Summer Festival and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.

“It was killing our attendance,” she said. “It made sense to change the date and change the focus from the end of summer to the beginning of summer.”

The response so far has been very positive, she said.

“Last year we had 17 vendors in our craft fair, this year we have over 40,” she said. “This year, food trucks are calling me and saying they want to come to Deer Creek Days.”

Deer Creek Days volleyball in Glenrock.

The weekend is full of a variety of activities, including a rodeo, concerts, a parade, a brewfest, ice cream social, “mutton busting,” a golf tournament, car show and more.

The full weekend of activities reflects the community’s desires to expand the festival over the years, Grant said.

“Every year, somebody would come forward and say ‘Can we do this’ and that’s how it evolved,” she said. “We do try to have something for everyone.”

Activities begin Friday with a cookout, gospel concert, “dummy roping” and a family concert by The Incorrigibles.

On Saturday, a 5K run/walk will open the day, followed by an art show, craft fair, parade, ice cream social and talent show.

A brewfest with live music and an “adult adventure zone” will open at noon Saturday.

The ranch rodeo will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday and a street concert by country musician Tris Munsick will wrap up the day.

Activities will resume Sunday with a car show, golf tournament, co-ed mud volleyball tournament, roping competitions, a horseshoe tournament, a comedy performance and a concert.

“There are a lot of things families can come do and have fun,” Grant said.

For more information, visit the Deer Creek Days page on Facebook.

The Busy Bee: Homestyle food in Longmire country

in Travel/Food and Beverage
Busy Bees Cafe
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When a restaurant is prominently mentioned in a popular western book and television series, you have to reckon it offers up some pretty good food.

Buffalo’s Busy Bee Cafe, a regular stop for fictional western lawman Walt Longmire, does not disappoint.

The Bee has occupied the space between the Clear Creek and the historic Occidental Hotel since 1927, offering up homestyle breakfasts, lunches and dinners to both locals and visitors on Buffalo’s Main Street.

Ucross author Craig Johnson created Longmire’s fictional county of Absaroka and town of Durant by borrowing elements from Johnson County and Buffalo, including the Busy Bee. Johnson’s books often describe Longmire walking into the Busy Bee and asking for “the usual,” which is now an available option on the restaurant’s menu (eggs, hash browns, toast or biscuit and a ham steak as an upgrade from the usual bacon or sausage).

The atmosphere is friendly, the cafe cozy (seat yourself at one of the dozen or so tables) and the food is just what you’d expect from the center of cowboy country: hearty, tasty and plenty of it.

The standard breakfast of two eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns and toast or biscuit is terrific, with the star of the plate being the homemade biscuits. Light and flaky, they are a perfect accompaniment to the meal.

Three-egg omelettes are also available and cooked to perfection, with the fluffy eggs providing a great shell for generous helpings ham, cheese, vegetables or anything else you might desire.

My personal favorite was the breakfast burrito: eggs, hash browns and your choice of bacon or sausage all wrapped in a flour tortilla and smothered in country sausage gravy. Finishing it is no small feat.

Top it all off with friendly, attentive service, and you’ve got the kind of diner you would expect to hold a position of honor in western literature.

Chips will fly in Encampment during Woodchoppers Jamboree

in Travel/Community
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By Cowboy State Daily

The chips will fly in Encampment this weekend as competitors from around the region gather for the town’s annual Woodchoppers Jamboree and Rodeo.

Participants will face off in a number of competitions based on skills common to the timber industry, such as sawing through logs using hand saws and power saws, wood splitting and axe throwing during the event.

Celebrating its 59th year, the celebration to be held Saturday and Sunday got its start when lumberjacks, unable to get into wooded areas because of wet conditions, would get together to compare skills, said Doreen Harvey, who organizes the woodchopping events with her husband Ron.

“When they were unable to work in the springtime … they thought it would be fun to get together for a competition,” she said.

Events such as the handsaw competitions grew from skills lumberjacks had to possess to bring lumber out of the forest, Harvey said.

“A lot of the competitions are based on what the timber industry used to be,” she said. “Handsawing and chainsawing are no longer the predominant way that they log.”

But competition by both men and women remains brisk, even though a number of participants are not involved in the timber industry.

“Some of them are just sportsmen who like to compete in things they are good at,” Harvey said.

Competitors come from a number of states, such as Colorado, South Dakota and Utah, in addition to Wyoming, she added.

Woodchopping events will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and will feature contests such as tree felling, using a handsaw, a team handsaw competition, using a chainsaw, axe throwing and pole throwing, where contestants are tasked with throwing a large piece of timber as far as they can.

Points are awarded in each competition and the man or woman with the highest point total at the end of the weekend will be named the Rocky Mountain Championship Lumberjack or Jumberjill.

Several events will also be held just for fun, Harvey said, such as the “Mad Loggers Chainsaw Throw,” where competitors attempt to throw a heavy replica of a chainsaw as far as they can — just as frustrated loggers do when their chainsaws won’t start. Plenty of activities will also be available for children, Harvey said, such as a greased pole climb, a sawdust pit and axe and pole throwing competitions for youngsters.

“We’re trying to keep it a family-friendly event,” she said.Wyoming Rodeo Association-sanctioned rodeos will also be held Saturday and Sunday.

“(The Woodchopper’s Jamboree) is a good side-by-side event for the rodeo,” Harvey said. “Rodeo is also a big thing in this town.”

Other event during the weekend include a pancake feed and parade on Saturday and a melodrama on both Saturday and Sunday.

For more information on the Woodchoppers Jamboree and Rodeo, visit https://www.wyomingcarboncounty.com/events/event-list/34-woodchoppers-jamboree-and-rodeo

Shoshoni’s Antique Tractor and Engine Show puts tractors in the spotlight

in Travel
Shoshoni’s Antique Tractor and Engine Show
The Wind River Flywheelers’ steam-driven tractor will be on display this weekend at the organization’s 24th annual Antique Tractor and Engine Show in Shoshoni. The event features tractor parades and “tractor pulls,” along with live entertainment, vendors and pedal-driven tractors for children to play on. (Photo courtesy of the Wind River Flywheelers.)
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By Cowboy State Daily

A celebration the makes old tractors the stars of the show is one of the top draws this weekend in Shoshoni, Wyoming.

The Don Layton Memorial Antique Tractor and Engine Show, featuring displays, parades and contests among antique tractors dating back to the creation of the internal combustion engine will be held Saturday and Sunday in Shoshoni.

Some 30 tractors of varying makes, models and ages are expected to be on hand for the event staged by the Wind River Flywheelers, said organization secretary Carlta Witthar.

The event, now in its 24th year, will even feature a steam-driven tractor which is tended to by Witthar’s husband Dave, a licensed steam engineer.

“My husband has two (John Deere tractors), but he is also the only licensed steam engineer,” she said. “So he can’t play with the green tractors because he’s got the steam engines working.”

The event is named after one of the founders of the Wind River Flywheelers, an organization made up of people who enjoy restoring, running and displaying antique tractors.

Layton and the early members of the club launched the tractor and engine show just a couple of years after founding the organization, Witthar said.

“It’s not changed a lot from the time when they started their first show,” she said.

Events will begin with a parade or “tractor drive” in Shoshoni at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by live music, an auction and a “tractor pull” in the afternoon.

In a tractor pull, tractors are hitched to large sleds. Heavy weights are placed on a platform on the sleds. As the sleds move forward, the weight moves closer to the front of the sled, making it more difficult for the tractors to pull.

“It’s just for bragging rights, there are no prizes given out,” Witthar said. “It’s all fun to watch.”

Activities kick off again on Sunday with the tractor drive and tractor pull.

The weekend will also feature vendors, a craft show, food booths, a large sand box and pedal tractors for children to play with and a small “barrel train.” The club’s steam engine will also be used for demonstrations of corn grinding and water pumping.

For more information, visit the Wind River Flywheelers page on Facebook.

Quilting in the spotlight during Green River’s ‘Quilting on the Green’

in Travel/Community
Tuesday Travel Quilting on the Green
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By Cowboy State Daily

The centuries-old art of quilting gets its moment in the spotlight this weekend with a show, classes and lectures all dedicated to quilts at Green River’s Expedition Island.

“Quilting on the Green,” a celebration of the art of quilting and the artists who put quilts together, will be held Friday and Saturday, drawing quilters and vendors from throughout the region who will display their works and their wares, said Sue Hermansen, a member of the Quilting on the Green Committee.

“We have people from Colorado who have submitted quilts and we’re going out to Lyman to pick some up this afternoon,” Hermansen said. “I believe I have one from a lady in Utah.”

The celebration, now in its 29th year, features a display of all the quilts submitted for judging. Prizes will be given for first- and second-place finishers in each category.

There will also be a “people’s choice” award and a special award handed out by Green River Mayor Pete Rust.

From 150 to 200 people are expected to visit the display each day to get a look at judging results. The visitors come from all over, Hermansen said.

“We have a couple of women who come from Oregon and Colorado and they meet their sister here to do Quilting on the Green,” she said. “It s a nice way for them to get together.”

Quilting began centuries ago as a way to use up scrap fabric, but the practice evolved into an art form often featuring elaborate patterns, Hermansen said.

“A long time ago, that was how people used up their scrap,” she said. “They didn’t have a lot, so they used scraps, pieces of flour sacks and different things to make quilts.”

Events will begin Friday with the opening of the quilt show at 10 a.m., followed Friday evening by a “trunk show,” where well-known quilters and instructors talk about some of their works. This year’s featured quilter is Marci Baker from Fort Collins, Colorado.

The quilt show will resume on Saturday, when half- and full-day classes on techniques and quilting skills will also be offered.

Vendors from around the region will be on hand both days, Hermansen said, showcasing products including quilting materials, sewing machines and patterns.

Several quilts will also be offered for raffle.

For more information, visit Quilting on the Green’s Facebook page.

A day of family fun at Hyattville Cowboy Carnival

in Travel/Community
A day of family fun at Hyattville Cowboy Carnival
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By Cowboy State Daily

Pie contests, sheep dog trials, a quilt show, horse races and many more activities are in the spotlight in northern Wyoming this weekend as Hyattville holds its annual Cowboy Carnival.

The carnival, now in its 16th year, will be held Sunday, drawing hundreds of people to the small community for what is described as a day of family-oriented fun.

“What we focus on is trying to make it a good family event, where we don’t have a lot of drinking and all of this other stuff,” said Linda Hamilton, treasurer for the Hyattville Community Center.

The day’s activities, which also include a fun run and photo show, are designed to raise money for the Community Center, a former elementary school that is now used as a hub for events ranging from weddings to reunions.

“We use it for weddings and funerals, any kind of event that anybody wants to host that they don’t have enough room for in their home,” Hamilton said. “There’s a gym, people can come in and do inside activities.”

The building also features a small library and exercise room and is operated for the benefit of residents of Hyattville, which is 41 miles northeast of Worland.

“Hyattville is a tiny little town … and there just aren’t any places to host events and places to take kids to let them run off steam and energy,” Hamilton said. “That was the goal, was to be able to use this building for all those activities.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hyattville has an average population of 81, and Hamilton said many of those residents are involved in staging the day’s activities.

“We have a good community that steps forward to do this,” Hamilton said. “It’s quite an event and it’s amazing that we can pull a community together and have them do this much.”

The event usually draws from 400 to 450 people, Hamilton said, and raises an average of $10,000 to help with the community center’s maintenance and operation.

Helping raise part of that money is the annual silent and live auction featuring items donated by area residents.

Bob Herman, who is in charge of both auctions, said the events available for sale vary widely.

“To be quite honest, it’s fairly random,” he said. “We get a certain amount of agriculture-related stuff. Certain people are more artistic and will make jewelry. There are usually a couple of paintings and we’ve had a quilt donated.”

Activities begin at 10 a.m. with the 5K run-walk and the final event is the live auction taking place at 3:30 p.m. In between will be horse racing — featuring riders from across the area — children’s events such as pony rides, a petting zoo and “Pony Express” stick horse races, a photography contest, a quilt contest and a pie contest.Also scheduled for the day are sheep dog trials — where working dogs are put through their paces herding livestock — and a shooting competition.

Many of the events, such as the quilt show, photo show and live music, will be held in the community center. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children and $25 for a family and includes a barbecue lunch.

More information on the Cowboy Carnival can be found by visiting the Hyattville Community Center’s website at Hyatville.org or the Hyattville Cowboy Carnival page on Facebook.

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)
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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.

A horse sale on Main Street? It’s right in front of Cody’s Irma Hotel

in Travel
Cody Wyoming Horse Sale on Main Street
Buyers and sellers gather at the pen erected on Cody’s Main Street for the annual Cody Country Horse Sale. More than 100 horses will be offered during the sale on Saturday, which will take place in front of the historic Irma Hotel. (Photo Courtesy of Clark Management Co.)
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By Cowboy State Daily

A horse arena will go up in front of Cody’s historic Irma Hotel this week in preparation for what has been referred to as the “prom of the horse sales.”

The Cody Country Horse Sale, now in its 21st year, will be held Saturday on Cody’s Main Street, where an arena will be erected so those selling their horses can put them through their paces for a large crowd of potential buyers.

“It’s a fun time,” said Kay Clark of the Clark Management Co., the company that stages the sale. “It’s like the prom of the horse sales. The horses are spic and span, they’re looking good, you’re looking good, wearing all your western memorabilia.”

More than 100 horses are expected to be offered for sale on Saturday and those bringing horses for sale are urged to bring stock that is ready to ride, Clark said.

“We want people who are going to bring the right horse,” she said. “We don’t want any buckers at all. That’s how you treat your customers right. then they both get a benefit because the consignors get paid a good amount of money for the right kind of horses.”

Saturday’s sale is only part of the event and is preceded by a ranch horse competition at the Clarks’ ranch in Ralston, about 20 miles from Cody.

“We have an area there, so consignors can show off their horses’ abilities,” said Clark, who has run the show with her husband Jake for the last 19 years. “If they have a roping horse, they can show its roping ability, if the horse runs barrels, we can let them run barrels.”

On Saturday, the action moves to the front of the Irma Hotel, where a 400-foot arena will be erected across Cody’s Main Street.

“Saturday morning, the consignors can ride in the area to show (the horses) off for the buyers,” Clark said.

The sale in Cody will begin at 1 p.m. Video clips of some of the horses being offered for sale, along with more information about the event itself, can be seen by visiting the website CodyHorseSale.com or the sale’s Facebook page.

WyoCon features costumes, trivia contest, gaming

in Travel/Community
WyoCon features costumes, trivia contest, gaming
Family members get their superhero on during a past WyoCon at the White Mountain Library in Rock Springs. This year’s WyoCon, to be held Saturday will feature events including a cosplay contest, a pop culture trivia game, panel discussions and presentations by Wyoming authors. (Photo courtesy of White Mountain Library)
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Costumes, video gaming and panel discussions on major pop culture topics are on the schedule for this weekend’s WyoCon at the White Mountain Library in Rock Springs.

The WyoCon, now in its third year, is a one-day celebration of fandom and pop culture to be held form 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, said Aaron Volner, a public services librarian.

“It’s our attempt to bring a small slice of some of that larger ‘con’ experience here to southwestern Wyoming,” he said.

Events will include a small vendor hall, a pop culture trivia contest, video gaming and panel discussions on popular television series and movies such as “Harry Potter,” “Dr. Who” and “Firefly,” a science fiction television series that ran for only one season.

“Locally, we’ve got a very big ‘Firefly’ following here,” said Volner, the main organizer for the event.

Other activities will include presentations by Wyoming authors, a cosplay contest and themed “selfie stations” where people can take pictures of themselves with different pop culture-themed backdrops.

“The Dugout,” a game and comic store in Rock Springs, will also set up board games in the library, Volner said.Past WyoCons were held in 2016 and 2017 and Volner said the most recent event drew slightly more than 300 people.

For more information, visit the library’s website.

Learn about Bighorn Canyon NRA during “Junior Ranger Day”

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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Junior Ranger Day this weekend
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By Cowboy State Daily

People interested in learning more about the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area should visit the recreation area near Lovell this weekend for “Junior Ranger Day.”

The day is filled with activities designed to teach kids and adults about the activities available to them in the park, said Todd Johnson, a park ranger and visual information specialist for the recreation area.

“It’s to get them to experience what the park is all about,” he said. “We have different activities for them. We have developed ‘junior ranger’ booklets and they get stamps in their booklets as they finish different activities.”

The celebration is part of National Park Week, observed April 20 through 28. Part of that observation nationally is “Junior Ranger Day,” Johnson said, although each park or recreation area is allowed to set its own activities and schedule for the day.

“It’s meant to help you better understand the individual park that you’re visiting,” he said.

Activities available during Saturday’s event at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area will include fishing, geology and art, Johnson said. Participants will also be encouraged at one station to use a camera to take some photographs that they will then be able to post on social media.

Once the booklets are filled with stamps, participants can turn them in at the Bighorn Canyon Visitor Center to receive a National Park Week Junior Ranger badge.

While the activities are largely aimed at children, Johnson said it is not unusual to see adults visiting activity stations as well.

“Last year we had some women who just wanted to go ahead and participate, which is fantastic,” he said. “It’s a popular thing for adults to do as well, because they learn a lot.”

For more information, call the recreation area at (307) 548-5406.

Bakers battle in Gillette’s ‘Cupcake Wars’

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Gillette Cupcake Wars
The “Dr. Seuss” table prepared for a past “Cupcake Wars” competition to showcase the caramel latte cupcakes of Eurana Altizer and Jessica Howard. This year’s battle of the bakers will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Campbell County Public Library in Gillette. (Photo courtesy of the Campbell County Public Library)
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By Cowboy State Daily

A battle of the bakers will take center stage this weekend as the Campbell County Public Library hosts its eighth annual “Cupcake Wars.”

More than 200 people are expected to visit the library Saturday to take part in the event, a fundraiser for the Campbell County Library Foundation and the final event in the library’s celebration of National Library Week.

There, they will sample cupcakes decorated according to each baker’s selected theme, such as the “Johnny Appleseed” cupcake entry (featuring apple pie cupcakes) or the “Elvis” cupcake seen in the past — featuring peanut butter and bananas.

“It’s really fun because people create their cupcakes and they also have a theme that they decorate their tables with,” said Genevieve Schlekeway, the library’s adult program coordinator. “It turns out to be a lot of work, too. We have 200-plus people come through the doors and people have to make a lot of cupcakes.”

The event began eight years ago as a way to raise matching funds for a state endowment program. Schlekeway said it was one of several events created to chase away the winter doldrums.

“It was the brainchild of someone working with the foundation,” she said. “She had a whole vision of ‘cabin fever relievers,’ a whole series of events. The Cupcake Wars is the one that hung around.”

Fourteen competitors will bring their baked and decorated cupcakes to the library, where they will spend most of a day decorating the 8-foot tables that will display their wares. 

“Some of (the tables) are very elegant and very elaborate,” Schlekeway said. “And some of the people come in costume.”

In addition to the “Elvis” themed cupcakes and table, past entries have included a 1950s “soda shop” theme, she said.The cupcakes will be judged by a panel including a local chef, a “junior” judge and three members of the library’s board of directors. Prizes will be awarded in three categories, a junior division for those under 18, an amateur division and an “experienced” division — for those who sell cupcakes.

The contest will also feature a “people’s choice” award determined in voting by the visitors who pay $5 each to sample the cupcakes.

Attendees at the event, to run from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, will also enjoy some entertainment from the Gillette Guitar Guild as they taste the cupcakes.

Money raised by the event will go to the foundation, which provides support for the library, such as bringing in authors to speak, providing continuing education classes and sponsoring fine art displays.

Outdoor living focus of Lander’s Garden Expo

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Outdoor living focus of Lander’s Garden Expo
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By Cowboy State Daily

Outdoor living — whether gardening, enjoying the wonders of your own backyard or traveling the streams and mountains of nature — is the focus of this weekend’s Garden Expo in Lander.

Sponsored by the Popo Agie Conservation District, Saturday’s free Garden Expo is about much more than its name implies, according to Diana Olson, the district’s program assistant.

“It’s titled the Garden Expo because that is what people can remember,” she said. “But we have three target audiences — one is those who enjoy gardening, one is people who just love their backyards … and the third is outdoor recreationists.”

Now in its eighth year, the Expo, held at the Lander Valley High School, usually draws about 1,500 people with its mix of workshops and vendors and special events for kids.

The Expo started as a way for the conservation district to help the community that supports it with tax dollars, Olson said.

“One component that really motivates us is is we are supported by a mill levy,” she said. “So we try very hard to cater to everybody — the rural community and the urban community.”

When the event began, it was aimed at gardeners and people who “love their backyards, the people who love their decks, grills, fairy lights and ponds,” Olson said.

But organizers decided to expand the offerings to non-motorized outdoor recreation in year three.

“We considered the fact that our backyard is the Wind River Mountains, so we brought in the third component, which is outdoor recreation,” she said.

In addition to the more than 50 vendors offering goods, the Expo offers a choice of two workshops every hour. Workshops this year address topics such as attracting hummingbirds, managing lawns, drying foods and raising strawberries.

The event’s keynote speaker is Panayoti Kelaidis, senior curator and director of outreach for the Denver Botanic Garden, who will address “Rethinking Wyoming Landscapes.”

And as if the variety of workshops wasn’t enough, the Expo will feature a Kid’s Corner, petting zoo and horse-drawn wagon rides.

“It’s an extremely fun thing and then we sprinkle the sugar on top,” Olson said.

Concessions will also be available, including “world-famous” roast beef sandwiches served by the Lander Valley Cattle Women and food from Deb’s Bread Wagon.

For more information on this weekend’s Garden Expo, visit the event’s website at http://www.popoagie.org/garden-expo.html.

#TravelTuesday is Cowboy State Daily’s weekly spotlight of events + happening around the state that warrant a little windshield time and fulfill your Wyoming wanderlust.

Pine Bluffs distillery a destination for adventurous whiskey fans

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

44th Pole, Pedal Paddle race set for Jackson this weekend

in Travel
Jackson Hole Pole Pedal Paddle Race in Jackson
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By Cowboy State Daily

An unusual race that sees competitors — often in costume — ski, bike, run and float more than 34 miles from the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to a spot south of Jackson is being held for the 44th time this weekend.

Jackson’s famous “Pole, Pedal, Paddle” contest will be held Saturday, drawing more than 200 competitors including both serious and not-so-serious racers.

“We’ve got everybody on the spectrum,” said Jeff Moran, chief marketing officer for the Jackson Hole Ski & Snowboard Club, the organizer of the annual race. “So we get a good mix of people doing all five legs trying to go as fast as they can, then a group of people who do it just for fun. It’s both a fundraiser and a fun-raiser.”

People celebrate after the Jackson Hole Pole Pedal Paddle Race in Jackson
March 24, 2018 – Hoback, WY: The party and awards at Astoria Hot Springs Park in the Snake River Canyon for the finish of the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club Pole Pedal, Paddle event. (Courtesy: Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club)

The race is a fundraiser for the JHSSC, which supports various skiing programs for Jackson’s youth. Last year, it raised more than $45,000 for such programs.

The race will begin this year at 8 a.m. Saturday with a giant slalom run of more than 2 miles from the top of the resort’s new Teton Lift to the Village Commons at Teton Village. From there, racers will run 1.2 miles to the Shooting Star Golf Course, where a 4-mile groomed cross-country skiing track will be waiting for them.

After the cross-country skiing, racers will take to bicycles for an 18-mile ride to the Snake River, where they will paddle for 9 miles to the finish line at Astoria Hot Springs Park for an awards presentation and celebration.

Competitive racers finish the path in a little more than two hours, while those more interested in fun may take five to six hours, Moran said.“There are people who just make a day of it,” he said. “People who do it on tandem bikes. Some people have big party barges. There are a lot of people who make it a huge celebration.”

There are two divisions for the race, one for competitive racers and another for “fun” racers. Racers can compete individually or in teams for ether division.

Racers in the “fun” division often wear costumes, such as the “Golden Girls” team Moran said competed last year using canes and walkers. Boats seen in the fun division have included a double-decker raft, complete with sound system.

Moran said in recent years, a pink theme has surfaced in some of the costumes in honor of Karen Oatey, a competitor who died during the race in 2015. The race has been officially named the “Karen Oatey Pole, Pedal, Paddle” in her memory.

This year’s awards ceremony will feature a special event — groundbreaking for the restoration of the Astoria Hot Springs Park. The Astoria Park Conservancy has raised $6 million to restore the park that was closed in 1999.

The most popular stretch of the race for viewing is along the Snake River and at the finish line, Moran said.

“Most people tend to congregate at the awards ceremony at the finish line,” he said. “The big thing about the awards ceremony is it is open to everybody.”