SHERIDAN — Victoria “Vic” Moretti is a fictional deputy sheriff from Philadelphia who found herself in the charming, small town of Durant in Absaroka County that sits at the base of the mountains and was once a stop on the Oregon Trail in 1880. The domineering woman in the “Longmire” television series, based on a character from Craig Johnson’s 12-novel Longmire series, is played by Katee Sackhoff.
Johnson’s success of his novels is celebrated annually at Longmire Days in Buffalo, which is the real-life inspiration for Johnson’s fictional town of Durant. The actual town of 5,000 attracts an estimated 12,000 people every year. Not only do die-hard fans and local community members attend, many of the actors from the TV show attend.
“I feel so blessed to have these such incredibly loyal fans,” Sackhoff said. “The show’s been off the air for two years, and just as many people are still coming to Longmire Days, which is really a testament to the books and the show.”
The eighth annual Longmire Days included lectures, concerts, meet and greets, 5K run, painting party, talent show, softball game, pancake breakfast, parade, car show, rodeo, street dance, guided horseback rides and roller derby with Sackhoff.
“There’s no other event like it,” Sackhoff said. “It’s nonstop fan engagement, which is really fantastic, but it can be tiring.”
But fans don’t take the actors or the festival for granted.
“It’s an incredible experience because it’s like we’re stepping into our TV screens and hanging out with my favorite characters,” said Jeremy Trolspher, a man from Minnesota who has attended all eight Longmire Days.
Billings resident Bridgette Hamlet agreed.
“Buffalo is such a beautiful place, and I think Craig did a wonderful job conveying this small-town western charm,” she said. “I think the festival holds integrity to the show, and I think the show holds integrity to the books.”
Almost the entire cast tries to attend the festival every year along with producers and directors.
“The time we spend at the ranch together as a cast is very special,” Sackhoff said. “It’s a really great opportunity for us to continue the camaraderie that we developed when the show started.”
None of the celebrities are paid to make an appearance, and the tickets are all sold directly from the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce.
“There’s no appearance fee, which is unusual, but we aren’t being paid to come,” Sackhoff said. “We come because we love interacting with the fans.”
Julie Sowers, a mother of four from Jackson, has come with her family almost every year.
“The actors have begun to not only remember me but get to know me and my family,” Sowers said. “My oldest has begun reading the books, and when Robert Taylor recognized us from the previous year, it made him feel like he was on top of the world.”
Even with the show being off the air for a few years now, Longmire Days continue to host flocks of fans from all over the nation, causing the festival to be Buffalo’s largest event of the summer.