The good news is that there will be a Buffalo Bill Days event in downtown Leavenworth this year and it is on the second weekend in September at Haymarket Square. Christine Pugh, also known by her stage name Cricket, has taken on the task to organize BBD and to pull in performers and booths that will attract lots of folks from the immediate area and also from the greater Kansas City metro region.
You can go online to get the information to register for a booth if you like or to participate in any of the activities or to volunteer. You can also just drop into her Scrivner's shop across from Immaculata High School to learn more. Basically, BBD will be a totally volunteer effort this year with no paid employees and I believe that even the performers are doing it completely on a volunteer basis.
Downtown Leavenworth has great potential to draw a good crowd based solely on its history and the continued existence of many of the old buildings. As an example, when we visited one of the Buffalo Bill homesteads in Iowa, where the Cody family lived as caretakers for a large land holding of an Iowa politician before they left for Kansas, the present-day caretaker said that they always had an interest in visiting Leavenworth for a festival and that they could arrange for buses to drive out from Iowa.
There are many other examples of old towns like Tombstone and others that attract lots of visitors who want to be someplace where American history actually happened and most or many of the original buildings still exist. It has always been a mystery to me why Leavenworth has not been able to capitalize on its history the way that other towns have done so.
Both in Cody, Wyo., and Tombstone, Ariz., I have walked on their streets alongside people dressed in Old West outfits who were visiting those downtowns. The interesting part was that many of those folks in Western garb were speaking German or Japanese and they were dressed up just for the day. I visited with a lady in Tombstone who owns a shop on a backstreet that rents clothing to people just for the thrill of dressing up.
One aspect of this year's BBD is that Cricket is asking potential booth renters to dress up in Western garb to help create an atmosphere of the Old West. I see this as being very similar to the Renaissance Festival just a few miles south of here where even the visitors will dress up in period clothing. Booth vendors are required to dress up, but I have seen plenty of regular folks who pay to go through the gates also dressed up and the period clothing sale stores at Ren Fest do a bang up job of selling their wares.
Page 2 of 2 - So, Old West is really a lot easier to do because blue jeans and cowboy boots and a cowboy hat will go a long way to doing service as period clothing for the guys. Gals will probably have to wear a dress if they want to dress the part. I think that if the word gets out that BBD is a very short version of Ren Fest as a dress-up affair, that it will attract plenty of visitors from the region who just want to walk historic streets surrounded by folks in period clothing.
In theory, the concept could develop into something much bigger and that lasts a lot longer than a one-weekend affair.
I have no plans to grow any facial hair, but I might get myself a pair of boots and a hat to wear.
Maybe someday the concept will grow so that visitors may be able to stop into a downtown shop and rent or buy period clothing to wear as they walk the streets of Old Western Leavenworth. I would have no problem with that picture all year around if it draws people to town. Put the second weekend in September on your calendar and remember to wear Western clothing and then come out and have a good time in Old Western Leavenworth.
Matt Nowak lives in Lansing and works as a natural resources manager.