The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Buffalo Bill Days planning underway, with different approach

  • A 16-member committee of community members plucked from a number of different businesses and agencies are now meeting to make decisions on this year's Buffalo Bill Days Festival.
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  • A 16-member committee of community members plucked from a number of different businesses and agencies are now meeting to make decisions on this year's Buffalo Bill Days Festival.
    The annual community festival scheduled for September has for the last two years been organized and promoted by the Leavenworth Main Street Program. But the organization's board of directors voted in May to hand the reins of the event to Christine “Cricket” Pugh, owner of Scrivner Creative Center in Leavenworth. She said she approached Main Street about the opportunity with the idea that a large community festival could be organized with far fewer expenses by relying primarily on volunteer efforts and focusing more intently on showcasing local bands, entertainers and vendors.
    “I said 'If I'm going to do it, it has to be open to everybody,'” in the community, she said she told the Main Street board.
    Pugh said she asked for the responsibility of the festival intending to create the committee to guide the events at the festival. That committee, now with 16 members from across the community, has met several times, she said.
    Pugh said she has already taken a slightly different approach to the community festival compared to the two previous years, posting to Facebook and looking to other community members to help decide together the schedule and types of activities that will take place during the festival. She said it did not take long to get responses or for people outside the committee to start putting forward ideas and coordinating ways to bring them to fruition.
    “It became the community doing this, and the community getting excited,” Pugh said.
    She said those types of conversations have led to a list of events so far that includes a slate of mostly-local musical acts, a guided walk through Leavenworth's historic downtown that will take visitors to businesses decorated in Wild West style, an interactive youth stage and existing festival favorites like the outhouse races, root beer and other popular food vendors and Native American dancers ― all of which, she said, will be grounded in the Western theme in honor of Buffalo Bill Cody.
    The committee includes representatives of local businesses, the Leavenworth Public Library, the city of Leavenworth, the Fort Leavenworth Spouses Club and other entities. She said the plan is to also promote the festival largely through local outlets.
    “I figured by promoting through Facebook, by doing some local promoting and advertising, by just everybody getting excited and talking about it, we would get our locals downtown,” Pugh said. “They're the ones who are going to come, again and again and again.”
    She said she hopes the new direction restores a sense of community ownership over a festival that for much of its previous existence had been guided by a similar committee.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We started it in 1967 and we ran it for probably 30 years,” Leavenworth resident Tony Baker said of the original incarnation of Buffalo Bill Days. “It was run by a committee set up at the very beginning.”
    The original idea, Baker said, was to raise funds to build a park in honor of “Buffalo” Bill Cody, a one-time resident of the county, in the Salt Creek Valley. Land to build the park became expensive and the project was abandoned, but proceeds from the festival were used for other community needs, like playground equipment at Leavenworth's Cody Park at Limit Street and Shrine Park Road.
    In 1995, the committee agreed to turn the festival over to the Leavenworth Main Street Program, combining three community festivals into one, dubbed “River Fest.”
    In 2011, Main Street resurrected Buffalo Bill Days and again organized the event in 2012. Main Street Executive Director Wendy Scheidt said transferring the responsibility for the organization of the annual Leavenworth community festival was a goal going into this year.
    “It kind of frees up some of our time that we spend planning the festival to concentrate on our core mission,” of helping downtown businesses, Scheidt said.
    But giving up the control for organizing Buffalo Bill Days doesn't mean that Main Street is bowing out of the festival entirely. Scheidt said Main Street will still sponsor the Leavenworth Hog Wild West Barbecue Competition, sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.
    In the meantime, Pugh said she encourages those who remember activities from Buffalo Bill Days of the past, or those who have a new idea, to come forward.
    “There's tons of stuff that can be done,” she said.
    Pugh said the best way to reach the committee is by emailing Lvfestivalcommittee@yahoo.com.
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