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Rendezvous: Hard Work, Tradition & Fun
Yes, Rendezvous is for tourists and the business they bring to Pinedale's biggest weekend of the year. But this week also will have an even greater impact for the local community.
"I'd take a good Saturday night, anytime, over Rendezvous," says Courtney Davis of the Cowboy Bar. It's a big weekend for him in terms of gross sales, but "my expenses double," he says.
First, Mr. Davis has to hire extra help to handle the crowd. This year he plans on hiring 3-4 bartenders, 3-4 cocktail waitresses, a couple of bar boys and two bouncers.
Secondly, in years past, Courtney woke up Monday morning to thousands of dollars of damage to his establishment - broken chairs, tables, and doors.
"Rendezvous is just another hard day's work for us in the bar business," says Mr. Davis. Years ago, when Rendezvous really brought in the crowds, Courtney says he and his wife Sharon spent 60 of the 72 hours of Rendezvous weekend working in the bar.
Courtney has enjoyed the past 2-3 Rendezvous the most, because of the decreased number of people. He believes part of the decrease is because, more and more, other communities are holding similar events.
The hard work is the same for Billy and Annette Pape at the Patio Grill. "Years ago it was really big," says Mr. Pape. "It's dropped off quite a bit. There was a time when the Sunday morning before the pageant was crazy."
For the staff of the Museum of the Mountain Man, Rendezvous weekend is the most important time of the year. Director Laurie Latta and her staff labor all year in preparation, writing grants and scheduling events.
Next weekend's events are the biggest fundraisers for the museum, including the art auction (a 60/40 split with the artists) and buffalo feast. To draw more visitors, the museum advertises year-round and nationwide to promote Rendezvous weekend.
Promoting Rendezvous weekend is also a big job for the Pinedale Chamber of Commerce. Director Betty Hunt sits on the Rendezvous Committee, which meets quarterly to organize, combine efforts, and prepare for the weekend. She answers numerous calls and inquiries from potential visitors concerning Rendezvous.
The Chamber also coordinates the out-of-town street vendors who come to town every year. Each vendor pays a $25 application fee, says Ms. Hunt, and the Chamber tries to encourage items that are handmade or old-fashioned in keeping with the mid-1830's period of the Rendezvous. As of last Friday, the Chamber had issued 31 permits for street vendors with many last minute applications expected.
Rendezvous Weekend is "excellent" business-wise, says Bob Bing of the Cowboy Shop. "And yes," he adds, "it is a lot of hard work and a pain."
Much of the hard work comes with organizing the pageant and the weekend's events. Julie Early, General Chairman of the Rendezvous, is a volunteer who has participated in the Rendezvous pageant since 1954. In the early years, Ms. Early felt Rendezvous wasn't as commercialized and was a fun break before haying season.
Julie says that a few years ago, local participation in the pageant dropped off significantly, partly due to personality conflicts. She and the Rendezvous Committee have worked the past four years to increase local involvement by moving the dress rehearsal to Thursday night, preceding it with a free buffalo burger cookout for cast and crew, and completing the rehearsal in two hours. Today, she describes the atmosphere as "calm, easy-going, and laid back."
Carmen Hittle plays the floosie, Ruby Britches, in the Pinedale Social Club's shootout skit. She has played Ruby for thirteen years and has only missed one performance. Behind the scenes, Ms. Hittle recruits volunteers for the skit, organizes the annual beard shave, and provides entertainment for the buffalo feast and the fun run.
Concerning the skit, Carmen says it's a "struggle" every year to find enough volunteers. She likes to have at least 15 people involved, but has had up to 30. The Social Club performs a new skit every year, which translates into lots of practice and preparation. They began rehearsing last week for the four performances this coming weekend.
Sheriff Hank Ruland says, twenty years ago during Rendezvous, there was a "blood bath in the streets," because of all the drinking and fighting. By comparison, patrolling during Rendezvous these days is a "pleasure." All the same, each and every deputy will be working next weekend.
During the early 1980s, when Rendezvous weekend was its roughest, local law enforcement made a maximum of 22 arrests. Mr. Ruland recalls seeking assistance from the Lincoln and Sweetwater County Sheriff Departments and having the fire department on call in case of a "riot."
Last year, there were just three arrests during Rendezvous weekend. Mr. Ruland attributes this decrease to several factors. First, the tone of Rendezvous has changed to more of a family event instead of a big party.
Secondly, the Sheriff's department has developed a "saturation" enforcement strategy during the weekend, reports Mr. Ruland. This amounts to maintaining a highly visible presence on the streets and in the bars.
The work increases at the Pinedale Medical Clinic, too, says Dr. Tom Johnston. Clinic business picks up during the weekend, commensurate with the number of visitors in town. Most of the cases the clinic sees during Rendezvous involve dehydration, heat stroke, hyperthermia, and sunburn.
Pinedale Mayor Rose Skinner emphasizes community and heritage; Rendezvous is a "community event," she says. This year the Rendezvous pageant will be sixty-three years old, and Mrs. Skinner points to the tradition of putting on Rendezvous in Sublette County.
Lynn Zumbrennen of the ZZZ Inn on Main Street also thinks Rendezvous is a very important community and cultural event for Pinedale. She hopes it continues for a long time.
In addition to being a shop owner, Bob Bing has played an Indian chief in the Rendezvous pageant for fifteen years. He also helps organize the Rendezvous rodeos. Bob's children participate in the pageant and he recognizes the family tradition that has begun. Despite all the work, for Bob Bing, Rendezvous', "worth it for the culture and history."
Rendezvous wasn't just a pageant for Julie Early's great-great grandparents. It was the real thing. Her family's been involved with the pageant since it's inception, and Julie's son is carrying on the tradition. At seventeen years old, Jesse has been a pony dancer in the pageant since he was six.
We've been told that many locals "go to the hills" during Rendezvous weekend to avoid the crowds. Linda Rawlins, however, enjoys the pageant and people watching, but she really likes the Rendezvous nightlife. All the bars have live bands, and Linda loves to dance.
Carmen Hittle, though busy behind the scenes, considers her main job to be "have fun and entertain the crowd."
Even Bob Bing, who works the entire weekend at his business, the pageant, and three rodeos, says he still looks forward to Rendezvous. "But I wish I could be a tourist, sometimes, and attend the buffalo feast and some of Michael Terry's presentations."
For Paul Rock, Rendezvous also is a lot of fun. Mr. Rock plays Reverend Spalding in the Rendezvous Pageant. He enjoys the people watching. Each year, Paul takes at least one turn through town to see who is selling what, and who is doing what. Paul believes Rendezvous reinforces the delight of the summer, it's warmth, and the fact that Pinedale is a perfect place to live.
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