NEWS BRIEFS for Friday, May 29, 2020

Cancellation will “virtually wipe out” Frontier Days savings

CHEYENNE (WNE) – Just a few years ago, a global pandemic – or perhaps a more foreseeable disaster – could have spelled the end of Cheyenne Frontier Days.

But about three years back, the CFD Board of Directors, along with CEO Tom Hirsig, decided to institute a more stringent saving policy for the annual event.

“In our minds, we were thinking, ‘What would happen if a tornado came and knocked our grandstands down a week before Frontier Days and we couldn’t have our show? Could we absorb that?’” Hirsig said in an interview Thursday.

Following the cancellation of CFD and five other large Wyoming rodeos Wednesday due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those hypotheticals have suddenly become reality. The organization that puts on CFD has already spent $2 million on this year’s event, and estimates an additional $5 to $6 million hit due to the cancellation, which was the first in the rodeo’s 124-year history.

Because they began reserving money for such a loss a few years ago, event organizers expect the world’s largest outdoor rodeo to survive, but it will be left in a precarious position financially.

“It’s going to virtually wipe out everything we’ve saved to get to next year,” Hirsig said.

“I can tell you if this would have happened seven years ago, we would be out of business. We’d be borrowing money to put on the next year’s show.”

In total, it costs the organization roughly $15 million a year to hold the 10-day event, which includes rodeo competitions, parades and evening concerts. Additionally, Hirsig noted the organization has year-round expenses, such as staff salaries and upkeep of its new headquarters building in Frontier Park.


Lingle mayor, city council members won’t take salaries

LINGLE (WNE) —Mayor George Siglin and the Lingle Town Council have decided that if COVID-19 takes a financial toll on the town, it will start with them. 

The town’s leaders voted unanimously that no one on the council would take a salary for their duties on the council for the next two years, beginning with the new fiscal year on July 1.

“I had touched base with everyone of you about the salaries we get paid as a council and the mayor,” Siglin said. “Starting the fiscal year on July 1, in agreement with everybody – and they’ve all expressed the same desire I have – we will not take a salary for the next two years. I know cuts are going to come, and if there is going to be cutting, it’s going to start at the top. It will start with us.”

The announcement the mayor and council would be foregoing their salaries came at the tail of a 15-minute council meeting on May 20. Earlier in the agenda, Siglin asked the council to consider cutting their meetings to once a month for the duration of the summer months.

“Our second meetings are not very business-pressed, I should say, so maybe for the months of June, July and August, you guys might consider starting in June that we don’t have our second meetings,” Siglin said. 

Councilman Joe Welte said the only issue would be if the council needed to pass an item on multiple readings in a certain time frame, but the council could call an emergency meeting in order to do so.


Jackson community COVID-19 test day nets 1,000-plus swabs

JACKSON (WNE) —About 1,000 tests for COVID-19 were administered in the first eight and a half hours of a community testing event Thursday at Teton County Fairgrounds.

Turnout for the event was much higher than anticipated. 

Teton County Health Department officials had estimated that 300 tests might be administered, and were surprised to have performed more than triple that number by 5:30 p.m., with 90 minutes left to go.

By 10:30 a.m., a stream of Jackson residents waited in lines for around an hour for their turn.

At the entrance to the fairgrounds, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Captain Lily Sullivan and fellow team members greeted each car. She said the influx of cars began long before setup was complete. Workers surmised that many residents wanted to be tested before heading to work.

The fairground setup had seven lanes that eventually narrowed to two paperwork stations. Once paperwork was complete, vehicles were ushered to the next station where health workers collected nasal secretions.

“I just want to do my part staying healthy and safe,” said Kathie Chandler, despite the unappetizing prospect of getting a stick up her nose. “I’m gonna buck up.”

This was accompanied by a short, determined nod. 

Adrian Croke of the Teton County Health Department joked that “no one’s screaming yet,” so Chandler would probably be fine.

Wisconsin man killed in wreck near Lyman

EVANSTON (WNE) — Bridger Valley Fire and EMS responded to I-80 milepost 41 for a semi rollover just before 1 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. 

A medical helicopter was also dispatched to assist from the University of Utah. Crews worked to free the driver from the wreckage but the driver succumbed to the injuries at the scene. 

According to the Wyoming Highway Patrol Wednesday morning, the 2018 Freightliner Conventional commercial truck was traveling eastbound on Interstate 80 when the driver of the vehicle failed to negotiate a slight curve to the right. 

The Freightliner crossed the left lane and entered the median before overturning. 

The driver of the Freightliner was identified as Kevin W. Smith, 43-year-old Green Bay, Wisconsin, resident. Smith was wearing his seatbelt and succumbed to his injuries at the scene of the crash. Driver inattention or fatigue is being investigated as possible contributing factors, according to WHP. I-80 eastbound was closed during the incident and traffic was detoured through Lyman. 

No report at press time if the wind had anything to do with this accident. However, four semis were blown over west of Tooele, Utah, on I-80 Tuesday and the road was closed for several hours. 

This is the 27th fatality on Wyoming’s roadways in 2020 compared to 64 in 2019, 36 in 2018, and 36 in 2017 to date.