Monthly Archives: July 2014

Forest fires burn near Lovell, Hyattville

by nathan oster

Cooler temperatures and higher humidity on Tuesday helped firefighters reach 100 percent containment on the Roane Creek fire, which has been burning in the Bighorn National Forest since a lightning strike last week.

The U.S. Forest Service reported the fire in timber and grass about two miles south of U.S. Highway 14 in the Pete’s Hole area on Thursday. High temps, low humidity and strong winds pushed the fire to 25 acres on Friday and to 30 acres by the weekend.

By Sunday, fire crews including one Type 2 IA crew (Yankton), three helicopters, one water tender, two hotshot crews (Tatanka and San Juan), firefighters and support crew had brought the fire to 60 percent containment.

It reached 100 percent containment on Tuesday. Firefighters were continuing to secure control lines and check for hot spots as the day drew to a close.

While many of the firefighting resources were being released, the USFS planned to keep a Tatanka hotshot crew, a 10-person hand crew and a light helicopter on scene to continue mopping it up.


Hyattville fires

Two fires in the Hyattville area were also started by lightning last week, according to Big Horn County Fire Warden Brent Godfrey.

One fire, dubbed Hyatt by the Bureau of Land Management, consumed five acres. It was located six miles northeast of Hyattville. The BLM was responsible for containing the fire.

The second fire was approximately one mile west of Medicine Lodge and consumed 81 acres, Godfrey said. Firefighters from Basin, Ten Sleep, Manderson, Hyattville and the BLM responded and were able to get the fire contained.

No structures were destroyed in either fire, Godfrey said.


No restrictions…yet

Godfrey said there are no fire restrictions in Big Horn County at this time but he will be reviewing the conditions weekly.

According to the Forest Service, “Fire restrictions are not in force in the Bighorn National Forest at this time. If the hot and dry weather persists, restrictions may be implemented. Partial fire restrictions in Sheridan County apply only to state, county, and private lands.”










What’s happening to honeybees?

by marlys good

What is causing the unprecedented losses of honeybees in the United States that has been occurring within the past decade, but more so in the past seven or eight years? Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)? Parasitic mites? Nosema? Pesticides? Or a combination of all four?

The blame can be spread almost evenly across all four. According to Gary Patrick, owner/manager of River Road Honey, “In the ‘90s we started seeing a change. It was hard to keep colonies healthy. There were stories about whole operations collapsing. Suddenly people were finding their bees were gone; the hive was gone. It was a huge problem.“

In the winter of 2007-08, the loss of honeybee colonies across 21 states averaged 35 percent. A lot of the cause was CCD which is unlike other ailments that affect honeybees because worker bees simply disappear, and never return to the hive. The main symptom is very low or no adult honeybees present in the hive, but with a live queen and no dead honeybee bodies present. Often there is still honey in the hive and immature bees (brood) are present. Varroa mites, a virus-transmitting parasite of honeybees, have frequently been found in hives lost to CCD.

The parasitic mite, Patrick noted “gets on the backs of bees and lives there – on the blood of the bee. It doesn’t kill the bee outright, but it weakens them. It used to be we would lose 10-20 percent of our hives every year; now we lose 30-40 percent, about double.”

Pesticides are most likely a part of CCD. As their use has increased, so have the side effects. One of those is the toxicity to honeybees.

Pesticides damage the ability of bees to gather food and are also killing them. Since bees are the most important pollinators of crops, the use of pesticides has considerably reduced the yields of cross-pollinated crops.

Some pesticides kill the bees directly, such as when they are on the flower at the time of application; other types allow the bees to return home; then they die. Some pesticides have no effect on adult honeybees but cause damage to the young, immature bees.

Patrick said lack of forage for the bees is also a problem. Today “all row crops and irrigated areas, even borrow pits, are sprayed, so there is no longer any natural forage for the honeybee.”


Patrick said as beekeepers, he and youngest son and right-hand man Nathan, have to be vigilant. “Staying on top of the queen bee is an issue, a big problem, part of the problem keeping hives alive. Some will fail in raising their queen and we have trouble defining that in time. We have to catch them when they are going bad, keep them requeened.”

About 15 years ago Patrick started migrating his bees to California for the winter. “Before we migrated the bees we went through the winter (here) and it took longer to build them up to make a good crop of honey. I’ve developed a friend in California to receive the bees, he puts them through (his) almonds, takes care of them and sends the back; we split the pollination fees.”

To migrate the bees the Patricks put hives on pallets, load them on a semi (about 408 per load), net them down and send them off to the west coast.

“Come spring we go to California, bring them back and having just come out of the almonds, they are very strong.”

The advantages of migration are spread both ways. Almond growers in California had found their hives decimated, which created a pollination shortage that threatened the almond crop, the first to bloom in the spring.

The loss was a clear indicator that further pollination shortages for fruit, berries, vegetables, tree nuts, oil seeds and legume crops was likely to develop throughout the United State. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture about one-third of the human diet is derived directly or indirectly from insect-pollinated plants and about 80 percent of this pollination is accomplished by honeybees. One researcher into the loss of pollinators stressed, “Because our survival depends on healthy pollination, we must do everything in our power to solve the problem.”

Statistics show that Wyoming has about 65 commercial beekeepers with about 32,000 hives that produce two million pounds of honey per year. A bee farm is defined as anyone with five or more hives so in reality, less than a dozen commercial beekeeping families produce all that honey.

The typical beekeeper has more than two thousand hives. In November he migrates to California for almond pollination, then returns in March to make a crop of honey off the hay fields. (Alfalfa honey is light amber to water white in color with a delicate, spicy taste and is a premium grade table honey.)

Patrick has appreciated the good years and weathered the bad years since purchasing his business from Glen Peters.

“Everything pretty much has to be lined out just right; keep the bees alive and healthy and after that it’s up to God to bless the process and make it all work.”


Amy Sue Coguill Love

July 29, 2014


Funeral services for former Greybull resident Amy Sue Coguill Love of Gillette will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 5 at the Zion Lutheran Church in Emblem with Reverend Jais Tinglund officiating. Amy passed away Tuesday, July 29 at the RiverStone Hospice Home in Billings.

Burial will follow services at the Emblem Cemetery.

A full obituary will follow in next week’s paper.

Atwood Family Funeral Directors, Inc., assisted the family with arrangements.



Charles W. “Charlie” Shannon

Sept. 21, 1926 – July 22, 2014

A memorial service for former Greybull resident Charles W. “Charlie” Shannon was held July 26 in Pueblo, Colo. Charlie, 87, died July 22 in Pueblo.

He was born Sept. 21, 1926, in Clark County, Ark., the only child of Charles H. and Effie Shannon. Charlie was inducted into the United States Army in 1945.

Shortly thereafter he met LaVerne Quisenberry; they were married Nov. 10, 1945.

Following his stint in the Army, Charlie worked as a barber for several years, was an ordained Southern Baptist minister and served as a bi-vocational pastor in Wolf Point, Mont., for five years.

The family moved to Greybull in 1962 where Charlie served as director of the Department of Public Assistance and Social Services. He retired in 1987.

After his retirement he and LaVerne worked as volunteers and in interim ministries until their second retirement in Pueblo in 2002.

He was active member of the First Baptist Church.

He was preceded in death by his parents and a granddaughter, Kathleen Shannon.

He is survived by his wife LaVerne of Pueblo; two sons and a daughter-in-law, Roger, of Albuquerque, N.M., and Dennis and Shirley Shannon of Parker, Colo.; his daughter and son-in-law, Gene and Linda Shannon McKenzie of Larkspur, Colo.; his former daughter-in-law, Patricia Thomas of Cody; four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Charlie’s cremains will be scattered by family members on top of the Big Horn Mountains.




County shooters claim victory at State Shoot

Tucker Hatch of Burlington and Weston Haley of Greybull paced the 17-member Big Horn County shooting sports team at the State Shoot held July 10-13 in Douglas. More than 600 kids from across the state competed in the event.

Hatch, competing in the junior division, took first in .22 Rifle Light Target division as well as in Archery Class B, while Haley captured his firsts in the Shotgun division. The two young shooters also joined forces with Paige Flom of Shell to win an Archery team competition.

Team members have competed in weekly practices since May, polishing their talents and honing their skills.

“We are fortunate to have dedicated youth, parents, leaders and supporters,” said Gretchen Gasvoda. “Special thanks to Code Red Tactical for sponsoring shirts for our state shooters.”


22 Pistol

Junior Division: 4, Nicole Boreen (Otto).

22 Rifle

Light Target

Junior Division: 21, Jeremy Holloway (Emblem).

Sporter Jr Division: 1, Tucker Hatch (Burlington).   11, Nathaniel Boreen (Otto). 13, Conner Hatch (Burlington).

Intermediate Division: 22, Will Dalin (Greybull).

Senior Division: 5, Kade Gifford (Lovell). 13, Dawson Wood (Cowley). 20, Drayton Griffin (Shell). 30, Cody Strauch (Greybull).


Air Pistol

Junior Division: 10, Nathaniel Boreen (Otto).


Air Rifle Light Target

Senior Division: 40, Drayton Griffin (Shell).



Class B

Junior Division: 1, Tucker Hatch (Burlington). 13, Paige Flom (Shell). 19, Weston Haley (Greybull).

Intermediate Division: 29, Karina Boreen (Otto).

Class D

Junior Division: 33, Jeremy Holloway (Emblem). 71, Tyler Dalin (Greybull).

Intermediate Division: 12, Harley Flom (Shell). 16, Morgan Haley (Greybull). 58, Will Dalin (Greybull).

Senior Division: 15, Reece May (Cowley). 22, Kade Gifford (Lovell). 36, Drayton Griffin (Shell). 49, Cody Strauch (Greybull).


Outdoor Skills Competition

Junior Division: 8, Jeremy Holloway (Emblem). 18, Weston Haley (Greybull).

Intermediate Division: 49, Morgan Haley (Greybull).

Senior Division: 23, Drayton Griffin (Shell). 44, Cody Strauch (Greybull).



Junior Division: 1, Weston Haley (Greybull).

Intermediate Division: 20, Will Dalin (Greybull). 40, Morgan Haley (Greybull).

Senior Division: 24, Drayton Griffin (Shell). 31, Dawson Wood (Cowley). 32, Cody Strauch (Greybull). 84, Kade Gifford (Lovell).


Shotgun with Handicap

Junior Division: 1, Weston Haley (Greybull).

Intermediate Division: 30, Will Dalin (Greybull). 46, Morgan Haley (Greybull).

Senior Division: 16, Drayton Griffin (Shell). 25, Dawson Wood (Cowley). 55, Cody Strauch (Greybull). 78, Kade Gifford (Lovell).


Pistol : 9, Senior Team 9 (Drayton Griffin, Kade Gifford, Cody Strauch).

Sporter: 4, Junior Rifle Team (Tucker Hatch, Nathaniel Boreen, Conner Hatch).

Unsighted: 1, Junior Archery Team (Tucker Hatch, Paige Flom, Weston Haley).

Freestyle: 12, Junior Archery Team (Harley Flom, Morgan Haley, Jeremy Holloway, Karina Boreen).

Freestyle: 7, Senior Archery Team (Reece May, Kade Gifford, Drayton Griffin, Cody Strauch).

Joyce S. Massey

Oct. 11, 1921 – July 20, 2014

Surrounded by her family Joyce S. Massey of Basin died Sunday July 20, 2014 at Westward Heights Nursing Home in Lander. Funeral services will be Wednesday, July 23 at 11 a.m. at the United Methodist Church in Basin. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Atwood Funeral Home in Basin.

Joyce was born Oct. 11, 1921 to Ingvald B. Samsal and Emma Knoblauch in Benson, Minn. Joyce attended kindergarten and first grade in Benson. The family moved to Sheboygan Falls, Wis., in 1927 where she attended grade school and high school. She graduated with honors in 1939. Joyce attended Sheboygan County Teachers College, graduating with honors in 1941. She taught school for three years in Plymouth, Wis.

On July 21, 1944, she married Donald G. Massey in Red Lodge, Mont., and made their home in Basin, Wyo.

Three children were born to Joyce and Don: Tommy, Curtis and Phyllis.

Joyce worked for her husband in his insurance office for 20 years and then as broker for Massey Realty for seven years.   Both Joyce and Don retired in 1982. She loved her family and grandchildren, travelling, golf and playing bridge. One thing she was most proud of was being the first one in her family to get a hole-in-one.

She belonged to a number of organizations including: Basin Women’s Club, Midway Golf Board of Directors, Eastern Star, and Daughters of the Nile.

Survivors are her sons Tommy (Imogene) Massey Sr. of Lander, Curtis Massey of Basin, and daughter Phyllis (Jim) Penzien of Riverton; grandchildren Tammy Laughinghouse of Mooresville, N.C., Jackie Massey of Gastonia, N.C., Tommy Massey Jr. of Lander, Erika Crippen, Janelle Mendes and Teri Penzien, all of Riverton, and Casey Massey of Basin; 14 great grandchildren, and 14 great-great grandchildren. Her sisters Viola Brewer of Sheboygan Falls, Wis., June Martin of Sheboygan, Wis., and Jean Toepel of Kohler, Wis., also survive her.

Joyce was preceded in death by her parents, husband, grandsons Thad Massey and Tate Penzien and brothers Virgil, John, and Wesley Samsal.

Donations in Joyce’s memory can be made to Frontier Home Health and Hospice in Riverton, Homestead Assisted Living in Riverton, or Greybull Senior Citizens.



Balls away!

by nathan oster

The culminating moment of another successful “Balls Away” fundraiser for Midway Golf Club came Saturday afternoon when 334 golf balls were dropped on a target located on the course’s driving range from a helicopter piloted by Bob Hawkins.

Lonnie Koch, a member of the club, did the honors, releasing the balls from 60 feet off the ground. The one that landed closest to the pin was one purchased by Ron Fiene, owner of Ron’s Food Farm. It came to a rest just 6 inches from the hole.

“It seemed fitting that Ron would hold the winning ticket as much as he does for our community,” said Eddie Johnson, a member of the golf club. “Ron has always been one that is willing to support many different things in our community financially. He also donated some of the winnings back to the golf course.”

The golf ball drop was a fundraiser to help offset some of the costs of operating the golf course. The local golfers, tournaments and other fundraisers keep the course operating, according to Johnson.

The Midway Open, one of three “majors” on the club schedule, is next on the horizon Aug. 9-10. It’ll be a three-man, two-man best ball, as in the past, but organizers are contemplating some slight tweaks to other aspects of this year’s format, including changing the tee-box locations for the older golfers. “We encourage all golfers with a handicap card to get together a team and be a part of this competitive event,” said Johnson.

“The ball drop was exciting to watch. Bob did an outstanding job of keeping the helicopter perfectly still at a hover as Lonnie dropped the balls. A good crowd of onlookers and hopeful winners were at the course to watch the event. It is always neat to watch a good pilot work and we appreciate the job Bob did. We also congratulate Ron on his ‘lucky’ ball.”



Reilly returning to his roots

by marlys good

Describe in your own words what it was like to grow up in Greybull, we asked 1948 GHS grad Bill Reilly. The retired lieutenant colonel, who lives in Missouri, summed it up in three words: “What a dream.”

He is coming back to Greybull next week to recapture part of that dream, and to share with his daughters and extended family memories of his old stomping grounds, although they have changed a lot in the ensuing 60 years.

The Friends of the Library will host a small reception for the Reilly clan from 3-5 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, July 29, at the Greybull Public Library. Friends are welcome to stop in, have some light refreshments and a cold drink, and visit with Reilly and his family.

It’s altogether fitting that the reception is at the Greybull library as Bill’s parents, Earl and Barbara, donated the land for the library in the late 1960s. The Reillys were long-time Greybull residents where Earl first was the manager, then part-owner of the Greybull Elevator; they later built the Reilly Motel, now the K-Bar; were active in various civic organizations and were dedicated members of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Bill left Greybull in July 1948, headed to West Point. West Point was not his first choice for college/career. He shared, “I expected to go to the University of Wyoming; my folks were thinking of Gonzaga in Montana, but Dick Krajicek had me scared about all the discipline they had there. So When Sen. E. V. Robertson talked to Supt. Quigg about West Point appointment, I agreed to at least look into it.”

The rest is history. His career in the army has taken him all over the world, and his visits to Greybull have been dictated by brief vacations, furloughs, etc.

But his memories of his hometown grew fonder as the years went by.

They go way back to “Mrs. Foe’s kindergarten to Harvey Michaels, Nellie Fletcher, J.C. Quigg — the whole bunch. That (last) trio really got me excited about science, and the atom. And then the A Bomb, which blew much of my learning out the window, so I had to learn more about that field. I learned a lot of geography by plotting World War II with pins on a map on my wall.”

He had “fantastic friends,” and recalls that “I was high scorer with the mighty Greybull Junior High Dinosaurs one time with eight points.” And then there are his memories of playing in the band. Said Reilly, “I was the biggest kid in the sixth grade so I got the tuba.” His recollections go back to high school basketball, and football plays on the “Rocky Clod Bowl, GHS initiation dodging seniors to avoid being driven out of town, being de-panted and having to walk home.” In an aside, high school initiations are long-gone, but remain some of the funniest memories of alumni of the ‘40s and ‘50s.

Reilly will enjoy sharing memories of the first Days of ’49 celebrations, high school proms, local dance bands, The College Inn, popular teen hangout right across the school from the main entrance to the high school; Rexall Drug and chocolate cokes, and Harry and Helen Kimball’s Helenary Shop.

He has already shared stories with his daughters about camping, Tin Can Alley, the fort he and his friends had in an abandoned refinery tank near the river, Sheep Mountain Cave and “trying to stay awake for Midnight Mass and the heavenly Sacred Heart Choir.”

But most important are “the local World War II heroes and the general kindness, courtesy, decency and patriotism of the town. There was no way, even in some dark hours, that I could slink home and face that crowd.”

As natives of small towns have learned, the best thing about the small town is that everyone knows you; the worst thing about a small town is that everyone knows you.

Join Bill at the Greybull library, meet his family and reminisce with him about days of yore in Greybull.


Ground broken for new middle school

by nathan oster

Ground was broken, ceremonially at least, on the new Greybull Middle School Wednesday night. But when it will happen for real, with heavy equipment operators rather than board members moving the dirt, remains anyone’s guess due to a procedural delay in the governor’s office.

Big Horn County School District No. 3 did what it had to do in June to keep the building on track to open in the fall of 2015. The board approved a contract for the construction, choosing Sletten Construction with its base bid of $4.965 million, and then lobbied for and was granted another $472,000 in unanticipated funding from the School Facilities Commission to move ahead with the project.

Since June 25, however, the project has been on hold, awaiting the governor’s signature.

That is, until late Tuesday afternoon, when Bryant reported that the governor had, in fact, assigned the transfer of funds and that both the notice to proceed and contract had been signed as well.

“Expect movement immediately by the contractor to start the project, likely within the next two weeks,” said Bryant, adding that the contractor is still on the hook to complete the new construction by July 1 and the remodel by Aug. 15, 2015.


Budget approved

In addition to breaking ground on their new middle school, board members also approved the 2014-15 budgets for the school district, the Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) and Greybull Recreation District.

The effects of the valuation drop in Big Horn County will be felt by the recreation district, which anticipates $111,351 in tax revenue during the 2014-15 fiscal year. That’s down slightly more than $11,000 from the $122,595 received during the 2013-14 fiscal year. The district is projecting total income of $149,851, down from $163,095 in FY 2014.

On the expenses side the total comes to $216,833, which represents a slight increase from the $215,673 figure for FY 2014. The biggest changes include a boost of more than $4,000 in capital outlay, a decrease from $35,000 to $28,000 for hall improvements, a $1,000 increase for summer and part-time help and $4,000 for youth league support.

The BOCES remains a relatively new thing for the district. In its first year, the district spent only a portion of the approximately $65,000 generated by the one-half mill property tax levy. So the BOCES heads into its second year with a healthy carry-over of around $55,000, to go along with the additional $55,000 it expects to receive in new tax revenues.

The new BOCES budget sets aside money for salaries and benefits, office supplies, advertising, dual and concurrent enrollment courses, the driver’s education contract and equipment, community education courses and community arts. The BOCES is planning to use some of its funding to purchase a better vehicle for driver’s education courses.

The school district’s budget shows an increase in the foundation guarantee from $4.46 million to $5.28 million to go along with a decrease in county taxes from $3.65 million to $3.48 million.

The cash carryover line item, which began 2013-14 at $1.09 million, stands at $958,000 for the new budget year.

The school district is proposing total expenditures of $9.142 million. When salaries and benefits that are funded outside the model are factored in, that total drops to $8.942 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

For the 2013-14 year, the district budgeted $8.510 million.

Supt. Barry Bryant explained the two line items that changed the most.

The Curriculum and Grants line item grew from $1,534 to $69,287, mainly to cover the cost of implementing new curriculum.

The other big change came in the Technology Rotation line item, as the board boosted funding from $67,530 to $135,000 in anticipation of opening the new middle school the fall of 2015. Bryant said six new computer labs are needed and that the district must make other infrastructure tweaks as part of a shift toward computer-based testing.

• Board members discussed scheduling a town hall-styled meeting sometime this fall to explain the Common Core concept to the community. They agreed that the general public lacks understanding about what it is and why it is important.

• Bryant informed the board that a contract employee, the school district’s psychologist, had given notice of her intent to end the contract. She is relocating to Gillette. The board is searching for a replacement.

• Francie Weekes is returning to her position as a speech pathologist, agreeing to do so on a part-time basis while the school district searches for someone to fill the position full time. Weekes retired last spring but indicated that she’d be willing to come back and work two days a week. She will draw a salary and the district will pay her retirement benefits, but she will not qualify for health insurance benefits, according to Bryant. She will again be headquartered at the elementary school, where most of the students in need of speech pathology are located.

• The board approved requests from three out-of-district families wanting to enroll their children in Greybull schools. The eight children covered in the approval range from second grade through the 10th grade and none of them require special services.

• The board approved membership dues in the amount of $3,353 to the Wyoming High School Activities Association and to appoint Nolan Tracy, the district’s activities director, as its official WHSAA representative.

GHS participates in 14 different WHSAA-approved activities.

• Janelle Craft was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Greybull Recreation District’s board of directors. Craft replaces Mike Carlson, who resigned. Craft’s term will expire in December. She was the board’s choice from a pool of candidates that also included Heidi Capser and Emily Anderson.

In her presentation to the board, Craft cited her Greybull roots — she grew up and has spent most of her life in the community — as well as her administrative background and experience playing, organizing and coaching sports. This past spring, she was instrumental in the launch of the South Big Horn Little League, which had more than 100 participants.

“My first recollection of playing organized sports started in the Greybull Recreation District,” Craft said in a letter to the school board. “I understand the importance of the recreation district for the children in our community and feel that it is the foundation for most when it comes to organized sports and activities. Whether it be learning the fundamentals and basic rules for different sports or taking an art class, the activities offered by the recreation district are essential to this community.”

• The board approved the transfer of the school district’s recycling trailer to the Town of Greybull. There will continue to be an emphasis on recycling within the district, but the town, and not the school, will be responsible for caring for and emptying the trailer.

• The school board authorized the superintendent to proceed with an excess property sale to rid the district of several items, including old camera equipment, furniture and TVs, as well as an old tractor and a 1992 Dodge truck, both of which will be sold in a silent auction with a minimum bid of $1,000.

• In his monthly report, Bryant indicated that the district has two unfilled positions, as it’s still looking for a middle school language arts teacher as well as an assistant boys basketball coach at the middle school level.

Board members raised the issue of the activities budget, which has been the source of some controversy since Bryant began taking steps to bring it more in line with what it receives for activities from the state.

Last year (2012-13) the district overspent on activities to the tune of around $50,000.

The deficit for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2014 is expected to come in around $28,000.

“Still better than last year,” said Bryant, who made a number of funding tweaks, including eliminating a weightlifting coach and reducing the national travel budget.

He pledged to trim it even more in the months ahead.

“We will balance next year,” he told the board.

For the 2013-14 school year, the district received $299,619 from the state for activities.

Bryant acknowledged that it’s a “touchy subject” with coaches and sponsors. They are paid in the form of a stipend for doing the job — not for the time spent doing it.   When all the time spent during the season and in the offseason is factored in, it ends up being a bargain for the district, as many coaches and advisors probably don’t make much more than $2 to $3 per hour on their extracurricular assignments.

• Shopko was recognized by the board for making a $2,000 donation to the district’s backpack program.

• It was announced that homecoming at GHS is going to be the week of Sept. 15-20.







Summer Festival a showcase for Antelope Butte

by nathan oster

A summer festival meant to showcase potential summer uses at Antelope Butte in the Big Horn Mountains was a tremendous success, according to organizers.

Mark Weitz, who heads the nonprofit Antelope Butte Foundation that put on the event, said 400 to 500 people attended, including many children.

Ten bands performed.

Twelve competitive events were held.

Four food vendors were on hand.

“All in a carpet of wildflowers at 8,400 feet,” said Weitz. “I visited with several people who skied the area when it was just a rope tow around 1960, and many, many more who learned to ski there and want their kids to learn to ski with them there as well.”

Weitz said organizers were “very pleased” with the event.

He said the Summer Festival concept grew out of a camping experience last summer.

“Most of us, we knew Antelope Butte as a ski area, a place you’d drive on a winter afternoon,” he said. “We were up there last summer, surrounded by wildflowers, just gorgeous, and it hit us: Why don’t we have an event?”

The area is a rich in opportunities for mountain biking, fishing and hiking.

Organizers were hopeful that the Summer Festival would be a success, but Weitz admits having some anxiety over it the day before the event. “We kept asking ourselves, ‘How many people do you think are going to show?’ We didn’t know. We were thinking 50, 100, 200.

“What we got was a resounding turnout. People loved it. A lot of them told us they had no idea how beautiful it was up there in the summer.”

Weitz said the ABF is planning another Summer Festival for 2015.

“Hopefully it becomes an annual event,” he said.

Meanwhile, his group continues to negotiate the purchase of the property with its current owner, the Bighorn National Forest. An appraisal — done at the foundation’s expense — was to occur this week. Weitz said once fair market value is established the ABF can enter into a purchase/sale agreement with the Bighorn National Forest.

On top of that, the ABF was recently designated as a 501c3, guaranteeing its tax exempt status.

“Those two things, I believe, will put us in a better position to start raising large dollars. Just as important, with the purchase agreement in place, hopefully by fall, that’ll allow us to get keys to the building.

“One thing we hear loud and clear, from individuals and contractors, is, ‘We want to contribute.’ Right now we have to tell them, ‘We’d sure like to put you to work, but we don’t have anything we can work on.’ With the agreement in place, we’ll be able to start asset building and begin with the refurbishments.”

The top priority in the short term will be repairing a leak on the roof of the solarium.

Weitz has no doubt it’ll happen.

In August, Weitz and the other members of his group will have logged three years of time and energy on reopening Antelope Butte.

Does he still believe it’s going to happen?

“More than ever,” he said. “We realized a year and a half ago that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Every step we make forward is a step in the right direction. People want to know how soon it’s going to reopen, but that’s not how these processes work.”

People who are interested in helping with the cause in any way are asked to contact the ABF through either its website or Facebook page. Two local residents, Doug Crouse and Barbara Burbridge, sit on the ABF board of directors.





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