“This is the perfect way to begin celebrating Christmas each year,” said Brian Mealor, one of the guests at our sixth annual Ucross Community Christmas Celebration held Dec. 15. We talked to Brian at the end of the evening, while we admired his 3- and 4-year-old sons sitting together like angels in front of the big fireplace that had burned out for the night. In the true spirit of the holidays, the event brought together many friends old and new. This year was very special as it was held in honor of the late Ucross founder, Raymond Plank (1922-2018). The celebration drew many of Raymond’s family members and close friends, who traveled from Colorado, Montana and Texas to pay tribute to Raymond’s life and share in the annual Christmas celebration.
Mike Plank of Buffalo said, “I saw so many people I haven’t seen in a long time.”
We estimate that more than 300 people attended the event. One past Ucross staff member, Ruth Salvatore, checked out the Ucross WYDOT webcam from her new home in Oregon, and wrote to us, “I saw so many cars! I knew you probably had an overflow crowd.”
Raymond’s longtime executive assistant Deborah Isaacks Koehler, recently found this quote from Ucross trustee Jesse Marion in one of our guest books, about the Ucross residency program: “Raymond Plank created this experience because he knew the impact this beautiful environment would have on the artistic process. He combined different disciplines with isolation knowing the two would force conversation, interaction of ideas, and even possibly a new or different way to view the world.”
The Christmas celebration was the perfect example of the potential Raymond saw in the land and the old ranch buildings when he created Ucross Foundation in 1981. It’s a location literally at an intersection of highways, but also represents an intersection of communities, the creative spirit and human potential. We are deeply grateful for all who made the trip to celebrate with us. It takes so many people to create a beautiful event, and we counted at least 40 individuals who helped in some way this year. It was a true community effort.
We want to extend gratitude to participants, including Bob Wyatt; The Buffalo Balladiers; Jim Nelson, Board Chair of Ucross Foundation; Craig and Judy Johnson; Dave Munsick; Bruce Burns and his fireworks crew; Joe Reed for the loan of the cannon; volunteers from Clearmont High School; Paula Calhoon; Bonafide Foods; Volunteers of America Northern Rockies; and Powder River Energy Corporation. Thanks also to everyone who brought food donations, which we will deliver to Bread of Life food pantry in Buffalo. The Ucross staff is honored to work alongside such a vibrant, creative and generous group of people. Roger and Connie Plank mentioned to us that the gorgeous fireworks brought tears to their eyes as they recalled past festivities with Raymond. This year’s event will be remembered for years to come by all who were present. Merry Christmas to everyone from of all of us at Ucross! May the holiday season bring you peace and joy.
Sharon Dynak, Ucross Foundation president, and Carly Fraysier, Ucross Foundation communications associate, contributed to this article.