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Encampment Hosts 34th Annual Sierra Madre Winter Carnival

in Travel
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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 Travel/Uncategorized
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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

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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

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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 arts and culture/Travel
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

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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
Attendees at the 2018 Ucross Christmas Celebration watch a fireworks show staged by Bruce Burns. This year’s event, to be held Saturday, will also feature a fireworks show, along with a reading by nationally acclaimed author Craig Johnson. (Photo courtesy of the Ucross Foundation)
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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.

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