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Wyoming: A Wild West Honeymoon
by Kathryn Lemmon, Wedding Zone Staff Writer
There can't be many lodgings which advertise nightly gun fights as a hotel amenity, but this is the wild west, more specifically, Cody, Wyoming. It's the town William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody put on the map. The nightly gun fights take place at the frontier hotel he built, called The Irma. Named for his youngest daughter, The Irma opened for business in 1902. If you're thinking of heading West for your honeymoon, put Cody at the top of the list.
Today, The Irma sits in the center of a thriving little town, however that wasn't always the case. Early photos show The Irma virtually alone on the barren landscape. Nevertheless, William Cody was a far-sighted individual and The Irma is still housing overnight guests after all these years. Cody's resume would also include Pony Express rider, Buffalo hunter, showman, frontiersman and a scout for the Union army.
Historians claim Buffalo Bill was the most famous man on the planet at the turn of the century. When he died in 1917, young boys across the nation sobbed at the loss of their hero. In the minds of many, Cody became the embodiment of the rough and tough men who challenged the American West.
I digress; back to our not-so-serious gunfight. Several hundred people had gathered on the porch of The Irma for the shoot-out. A one block section of the street was closed off and when the porch was full, more crowds assembled on either end. The lanky narrator began the show and gave out prizes for the visitor who had traveled the furthest. On our evening, a young man from Turkey was the winner, with a family from Germany as second runner up. As you might expect Cody, with his signature hat and fancy duds, was part of the show. The likeness was exceptional. I could almost believe the real Buffalo Bill was standing next to The Irma, as he had just over 100 years ago.
For a small town, population just under 9000. Cody, has plenty of attractions for visitors, most related to the Old West or to Bill Cody.
The complex of five museums which make up the Buffalo Bill Historical Center are the foremost attraction. A treasure trove of American history, it's been called "the Smithsonian of the West" with good reason. If you have any interest in the old west, Cody, firearms, or Native Americans, this place is for you. Plan accordingly, as it could easily require a full day or longer to see everything.
From the glass windows in the Whitney Gallery of Western Art, one of the five, I caught a glimpse of the famous statue called The Scout. Positioned against a gorgeous backdrop of mountains, the statue depicts Cody on horseback as a young man. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney completed this work and it was dedicated in 1924. The image captures movement in an interesting fashion, while managing to convey both the larger than life figure of Cody, plus the vulnerability of the man set against the harsh West.
Everyone can enjoy the trolley tour of Cody, operated by an enthusiastic husband and wife team. The one hour tour covers the history of the town and passes various places of interest. Old time photographs, greatly enlarged, help to illustrate how the little town appeared in times past.
I will always remember Cody as the place I attended my first rodeo. In fact, it was a "first" rodeo for several in my group. What better place, since Cody is recognized as the rodeo capital of he world? The event runs nightly from June 1st to August 31st and has been on-going for over 50 years. Each year during the first few days of July, the town hosts the famous "Cody Stampede," which draws top cowboys as well as rodeo fans from across the U.S.
The rodeo has a set program each evening, which included barrel racing. Both adults and children participated. Our cheers grew loud when the youngsters flew out of the starting gate. Tots barely able to reach the stirrups poured their hearts into those few intense moments of testing themselves and their horses. Although it was a chilly night for June, excitement and munching Hot Tamales candies kept us warm.
Besides it's general appeal, Cody is also a primary gateway city into Yellowstone National Park. Cody sits almost due east of the park, fifty-two miles from the East Gate. Combining a visit to the town, along with Yellowstone makes an ideal western adventure.
For more information on the Buffalo Bill Historical Center go to www.bbhc.org. For general information on Cody, check out www.codycountry.org.
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