Officially, summer ends Monday, and what a summer it was in Sheridan County — huge events, grand openings for several new businesses, all the pomp and circumstance of the 89th WYO Rodeo and much, much more. From a tourism perspective, it was an outstanding summer season; occupancy and revenue are up from 2018 across the city (I don’t yet receive data on county properties), many retailers have reported stronger-than-expected revenue, traffic through our Visitor Center has increased and the number of requests for visitor information packets at my office has increased dramatically. So, what happens when summer ends?
The overall volume of visitors to Sheridan County decreases in the fall, of course, and our visitor economy takes on a whole new look — fall draws hunters in big numbers to the Bighorn Mountains while academic events bring large student groups to Sheridan College, as well as the high schools across the county.
Our office recently hosted producers, filmmakers and photographers from The Outbound Collective and The New Fly Fisher, two distinctly unique production companies keen to embrace the beauty of the Cloud Peak Wilderness and our region’s finest fly fishing, respectively. With children back in school, we see an increase in baby boomer travelers keen to explore Wyoming — many of whom are interested in our historic attractions, arts scene and local craft culture. Fall events keep the community’s energy supercharged — there’s Oktoberfest, the Sheridan WYO Film Fest, Behind the Picket Fence, shows and exhibits at the Whitney Center for the Arts, the Brinton Museum and the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center and so much more. In fact, fall might just be the finest time to visit Sheridan — smaller crowds, more affordable room rates, incredible colors up on the mountain. It sounds a lot like paradise to me.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call Sheridan the finest place in Wyoming in which to live or visit. We’re spared the infrastructure-stressing crowds of our two National Parks, and our events continue to cater, first and foremost, to locals — a surefire way to remain authentic in an age of tourist trap pandering. In fact, that’s why new events, like our WYO Winter Rodeo, can become instant smash hits; they’re planned expressly to engage residents, provide an outlet for entertainment and recreation, which in turn will always draw interested visitors from outside the community. The sheer number of our historic, art and outdoor attractions is staggering — there’s always something new to discover, whether you’re here on your first visit, or have spent a lifetime exploring from one corner of the county to the next. I can’t imagine a day when I’ll ever wake up and want to live someplace else — there’s enough to do in Sheridan for the next 10 lifetimes. Summer may be over, but the fun out here never ends.
Shawn Parker is the executive director of Sheridan Travel & Tourism.