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

in News/Travel
Wyoming sign
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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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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)
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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

Cowboy State Bucket List covers 97,000 square miles!

in Travel/Column/Bill Sniffin
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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.

Learn about Bighorn Canyon NRA during “Junior Ranger Day”

in Travel
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.

#TravelTuesday: Celtic music, food and fun on tap in Evanston this weekend

in Travel
Evanston Wyoming Celtic Festival
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By Cowboy State Daily

Anyone with a taste for Celtic music, food and fun or a fake Scottish accent they want to show off should head for Evanston this weekend to take part in the city’s Ceili at the Roundhouse Celtic Festival.

The two-day festival, now in its 11th year, features traditional Irish music by bands from Ireland and Scotland, along with performances by regional bands, workshops on Celtic crafts and music and the opportunity to sample Celtic food and drink.

The Ceili (the Gaelic word for “party”) focuses on all Celtic cultures, not just the Irish or Scottish, said Carolee Bowen, executive director of The Arts Inc., the group organizing the celebration.

“Celtic is much more than Irish,” she said. “It’s really diversified Celtic, not just Irish or Scottish.”

The event was launched in 2009 as a way to draw visitors to Evanston and Bowen said it has succeeded, largely because of the broad variety of events offered.

“We have a lot going on at the festival,” she said. “You can bring the family and everyone’s going to be entertained.”

Headline musical acts include Realta, a Belfast-based band, Imar, a band from Glasgow and Irish supergroup The High Kings, a quartet referred to as the male version of “Celtic Woman.”

Bands from Colorado and Utah will also be performing throughout the weekend.

“I think you have to have a solid lineup of music if it’s going to be a Celtic festival,” Bowen said.

Unique workshops include Celtic craft sessions for children, a Great Norse shield-making workshop, musical workshops for the guitar, fiddle, Irish flute and fiddle a mead tasting session and many more.

Musicians who have attended workshops through the day can get a chance to apply what they’ve learned during a traditional musical session after Friday night’s concert by Realta.

For those with an urge to try exotic accents, a Fake Scottish Accent contest will be held Friday evening. The contest will feature a “real Scottish judge,” according to the event’s schedule.

The event takes place inside the Evanston Roundhouse, a tourist attraction itself. The roundhouse, formerly used by Union Pacific, was built in 1871 and restored in 2009. By holding the Ceili in the roundhouse, organizers can avoid problems caused by unpredictable Wyoming weather, Bowen said.

The Ceili is just one of the many events organized by The Arts Inc. during the year. Others include the MAT (music, arts and theater) Camp and the Young Musicians Festival.

The festival opens at 3 p.m. Friday and continues until 11 p.m. Saturday. For more details, visit the Chili’s website at EvanstonCelticFestival.com.

#TravelTuesday: Get a long little dogie — and head for the dachshund races at the Wyoming State Winter Fair

in Uncategorized
Wyoming Dachsund
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By Cowboy State Daily

A race between long little dogies will highlight this weekend’s activities at the Wyoming State Winter Fair in Lander.

Wiener Dog Races — where organizers promise there will be “no losers … only wieners,” will top the morning’s activities at the Lander Rodeo Grounds on Saturday.

The race is the first of its kind for the 52-year-old State Winter Fair, said Yvette Broadhead, the fair’s president.

“The Fremont County Fair in Riverton is putting it on for us,” Broadhead said. “They called us and said it would be a fun event and we just jumped on board because we thought it was excellent. We’re all excited for it.”

Races featuring 10 dachshunds will be held until the field for a championship race is filled. Broadhead said organizers hope competitors will come from across Wyoming to take part.

Another major event of the weekend will be a miniature bull riding competition.The Ultimate Miniature Bullriding event, put on by Howl Rodeo Bulls, features young athletes — under the age of 15 — competing on bulls that are smaller than those usually seen in rodeos.

Ultimate Miniature Bullriding is a national program designed to help young aspiring bull riders learn more about the sport by giving them a chance to compete.

The competition has been a feature at the winter fair for some years, Broadhead said.

“Those kids are so good,” she said. “The whole crowd just loves them.”

The weekend begins with team roping on Friday and will wrap up Sunday with a horse show at the rodeo grounds arena.

The State Winter Fair was created in 1967 as a way to give people something to do during the long winter months, Broadhead said. The year’s fair had to be held over two weekends because of scheduling issues at various venues. Activities held on Feb. 23 included a duct tape fashion show, live music and a talent show.

For more information, visit the Wyoming State Winter Fair website at WyomingStateWinterFair.org.

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