Buffalo Bill Days again comes to Sheridan, Wyo., June 23-25
Fort Collins, Colo.
Last June, my husband and I spent a couple of days in Sheridan, Wyo., attending the third annual Buffalo Bill Days. Sheridan was also celebrating the 112th year of the Sheridan Inn. What a fun time it was!
This year, from June 23-25, Edre (Annie Oakley) Maier and Tammy (Calamity Jane) Burr, will work to bring history alive again at the Fourth Annual Buffalo Bill Days event.
As Edre Maier gave us a tour of the Inn last summer, she said, “Annie Oakley was a lady who had learned to use just one bullet to shoot a squirrel for the family supper. She loved to say, ‘I’m the best shot around! I won all these medals.” Sitting Bull nicknamed her ‘Little Sure Shot.'”
Edre told us that Buffalo Bill created his Wild West Show to show people in the East and Europe what life was in the West. He was invited to take the show to England to help commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, thus improving relations between the two countries. Two years later he took the Wild West Show on a tour of the European Continent.
Tammy Burr, whose grandpa actually was in the Wild West Show, was dressed in buckskins, toting her gun and a bottle of whiskey. In her “Calamity” voice, she explained, “I got the name of Calamity here on Goose Creek when I saved Captain Patrick Egan in a fight with Indians. My horse Satan carried us both to safety. The Captain said, ‘Wherever you are, there’s a calamity.’ My real name is Martha Jane Canary.”
Bill Cody presented his Wild West Show in Sheridan in August 1911, and loved staying in the rooms that looked out at the railroad, or sitting in a rocking chair on the 14-foot-wide veranda that ran the length of the Inn. Colonel Cody was part owner of the hotel from 1894 to 1902.
In 1914, Cody made his last visit to Sheridan and once again led the parade down Main Street.
The Inn was built by the Burlington and Missouri Railroad, along with the Sheridan Land Company, in nine months at a cost of $25,000 in 1892.
Edre explained that the Sheridan Heritage Center, whose motto is “Saving the Irreplaceable,” bought it out of bankruptcy court in 1990. They spent $1.5 million to replace the roof on the building known for its 69 gables. They have plans to refurbish the upper floors as funds become available.
The first floor of the Inn is available for catered meetings and weddings. The Heritage Center leases the restaurant to Wyoming Rib and Chop House that has the original bar, where Buffalo Bill favored the third seat from the end. They pride themselves on their famous barbequed ribs and great service. After enjoying both, my hubby and I concur.
Thomas Kimball, an architect from Omaha designed the Inn (first called W.F. Cody Hotel) to be like a hunting lodge he had visited in Scotland. His architectural blueprints are in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
The first electric lights in Sheridan were installed in the inn and the magical appeal of the lights fascinated the town’s children. Having the first telephone in town was a big deal, even though it was just connected to the local drugstore. The 60 rooms had steam heat, but everyone shared the two bathrooms. The three fireplaces on the main floor were made of local cobblestone at a cost of $1,000 each.
Each room has a dormer, enabling people to exit through a window to the roof in case of fire. At the time the Inn was built, ladies couldn’t fraternize with men while the men smoked Sheridan cigars and talked, so they visited in the ladies’ parlor. Room and board cost $2.25. The Inn is one of 20 buildings on the National Historical Landmark register in the state of Wyoming.
The Grand March for the inaugural ball was lead by Colonel Cody when the inn opened on June 23, 1893. Bill Cody ran his stagecoach business behind the Inn, with service between Sheridan and Deadwood. He sat on the veranda to audition acts for his show here and, it was here, he planned the city of Cody with George Peck.
For 60 years the Inn was the place for ranchers to stay when in town and the gathering place for social events. Some of the lace dresses that ranchers’ wives stored in trunks at the Inn to wear to formal affairs are on display, along with dishes and other antiques. Many photographs grace the walls to tell the history of famous guests, past parades, and the colorful life of Buffalo Bill.
Among famous guests who slept at the Hotel were Western artist Charlie Russell, President Herbert Hoover, Will Rogers, Bob Hope, Vice President Charles Dawes, generals Pershing, Carrington, and Howard Wood, and several Wyoming senators.
Dr. Salisbury, the first optician in Sheridan, Dr. Frackelton, a dentist, and Horace Alger, a real estate agent all had offices on the third floor of the new building.
Miss Kate, a 22-year-old dressmaker from Virginia, came to the Inn in 1901, seeking employment. She was a tiny energetic woman. Kate not only managed to put in a hard day’s work, but would attend three or four dances a week. She worked here until 1965 when the Inn was closed.
Kate did whatever jobs needed to be done, from mending and kitchen chores to working the front desk. She loved to garden and provided fresh flowers to decorate the lobby and dining hall of the beautiful inn.
After she died, her ashes were entombed in the wall of her room. Her ghost is said to be in residence near her room, making her presence known by turning lights off and on, slamming doors, and other harmless pranks.
This year’s Buffalo Bill Days celebration begins June 23 at 7 p.m. with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, followed by the Grand March Ball at 8, led by an authentic looking Buffalo Bill Cody. Period dance attire is required and can be authentic turn-of-the-century style, or simply a long skirt and blouse. Guys can wear jeans, shirt and bolo tie. Dance lessons are included in the ticket price.
Saturday will be filled with activities, a barbeque lunch at the Inn, and a parade. The New Sheridan Cornet band will play the music of Bill’s Cowboy Band on the Inn’s veranda, and the Wild West Show starts at 7 p.m. at the fairgrounds.
On Sunday, Living History demonstrations will be presented at Fort Phil Kearny at 10 a.m., and a Polo match will take place at the world famous polo grounds. Tours of the Inn will be given for a small fee.
We thoroughly enjoyed every bit of the Wild West show last year, from the Indians chasing a stagecoach to two talented Indian dancers, Pistol Packin’ Paula, and everyone in between.
Back in 1911, entertainment was scarce and my imagination carried me back to when people traveled miles in horse-drawn carriages to dress in their finest for the Grand Ball, then attend the Wild West Show on the next day.
Come June, we will pack our bags with clothes to wear to the ball and head north to savor the ribs, visit King’s Saddlery after the parade, and be amazed at the talented performers in the Wild West Show.
On Sunday we plan to attend the Polo Match. Once again, it will be a time to enjoy the slower pace of a small town that bustles with entertainment all summer long.
Tickets for the ball and Wild West Show are available at the WYO Theater, or by calling (307) 672-9084.
Information is listed online at http://www.buffalobilldays.org.
To step back in time for a memorable weekend of true Western hospitality plan to be in Sheridan the weekend of June 23-25.
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