Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Last Christmas Present To You

The holiday season in the North Platte and Sutherland area has just been incredible, and now it's drawing to a close. So as my last holiday present to all of my readers, I give to you Christmas at the Cody's 2009.
Buffalo Bill Cody served as an Army scout stationed at nearby Fort McPherson (at the time he was here, Fort Cottonwood). He liked what he saw, and developed a 4,000 acre ranch that encompassed most of what is now North Platte north of the Union Pacific railroad tracks.
He was living here in 1882 when North Platte city fathers asked him to organize an Independence Day celebration. He did, and did such a good job at it, that he decided to take the show on the road and the rest, as they say, is history. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show is still known worldwide as the ultimate representation of America's western heritage.
Buffalo Bill fell on hard times, and the ranch eventually changed hands. The new owners took very good care of the historic property they had acquired, and in the late 1960's, the city of North Platte, in partnership with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission raised enough money to purchase the house, barn and about 25 acres.
Buffalo Bill's mansion and large horse barn were restored, and the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park welcomes thousands of visitors every year.
While the busy season is the standard Memorial Day through Labor Day, each holiday season, Buffalo Bill's home is transformed into a beautiful display of Christmas present and past.
Four volunteer organizations partner with the staff of the Historical Park in decorating ten rooms of the mansion.
The three interior photos above are of Buffalo Bill's study right inside the front door.
The work begins right after Halloween, and the staff spends three days a week, about five hours a day in decorating every nook and cranny.
The above photo is the parlor.
This is Louisa Cody's (Buffalo Bill's wife) bedroom, right at the top of the stairs.
Buffalo Bill's bedroom, just down the hall.
The back half of the upstairs, in rooms that were added after the original mansion was built are dedicated to display cases filled with Buffalo Bill and Wild West Show memorabilia. They are also beautifully decorated for the holidays.

At the bottom of the back stairs, in the enclosed back porch is a beautiful red cedar tree. It is the only real tree in the house, and it fills the area with the aroma of fresh cut cedar.
Outside, the draft horses are maneuvered into place, awaiting the first guests for the hayrack ride.
Back inside, visitors are enjoying the dining room, where Buffalo Bill presideded over many a formal and non-so-formal dinner. This is the room decorated by my partners in crime in the local tourism industry, the Lincoln County Tourism Advisory Council.
Right off the dining room is Irma's bedroom. Irma was Cody's daughter, for whom the Irma Hotel in Cody, Wyoming is named.
Right at the top of the stairs, is the tree that got the most compliments. While not "historically" accurate, it is a beautiful vintage white revolving tree decorated in turquoise blue, complimented with a white wreath on the wall.
This landing is right outside of Cody's bedroom. The stairs lead up to the cupola, where the family and staff would watch for visitors coming out from town. The door leads out to a balcony.
The kitchen is always one of my favorite rooms. Here, gingerbread cookies are ready for the oven.
Peeking into the dining room from the landing of the front stairs.
It's now full dark and you can enjoy the many thousands of life the staff uses to decorate the grounds. The final lights were put in place the afternoon of the first day of the event.
Every nook and cranny of the house is decorated. On the right is a shed and spring house, where the hot cider and roasted chestnuts are served to the visitors.
Outside, the lights illuminate the great lines of the house.
I understand that the outdoor staff of the ranch subscribe to the Mike Rowe theory of "safety third". Not only was he almost electocuted in the process of hanging the lights, but fell off a ladder ten feet to the ground. The job comes first.
All of his dedication paid off though.
Back inside, even Santa made an appearance. This room, at the far back of the house is a later addition, and is known as the "Cowboy dining room." I guess maybe the cowboys were a little too rough to be allowed to eat in the formal dining room.
It takes lots of lists to organize any event, and Christmas at the Codys is no exception. From keeping track of the hayrack rides to the entertainment in the parlor, the staff at the ranch are on top of everything.
And yes, Buffalo Bill made an appearance to greet guests and give each a small token.
The real Buffalo Bill loved nothing more than to entertain people, and I am sure that he would be happy that his tradition of hospitality is still being maintained in the home that he loved so much.
And there you have it. My last Christmas present to you, and my last post of 2009. Wishing all of you the best the world has to offer in 2010.
Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Santa's Workshop and Winter Wonderland in Cody Park - A Holiday Tradition

Cody Park is an extremely busy place in North Platte all year around. The first part of September sees the park filled with vendor booths for the annual Arts In The Park. Right on the heels of that comes the North Platte Rail Fest.

All of these events keep the parks department personnel hopping, and their work is really only beginning after the railroad displays and booths are cleared out of the park.

The weather may still say it's summer, but the parks department is already thinking about Christmas.
It's time to begin planning and preparing for the annual Santa's Workshop and Winter Wonderland. For more than fifty years, the animated display has signaled the onset of the Christmas holiday season.
Families enjoy roasting marshmallows for s'mores at the braziers maintained by parks personnel.

The history of the display goes all the way back to 1946 when Leo Anderson of Leo's Floral first created the display, which was first exhibited on the front porch of their home. Each year the Andersons added more figures until they closed the floral shop in 1981 and sold part of the display to the city of North Platte.
Santa's workshop was originally displayed in North Platte's Memorial Park, but the move to Cody Park was made in 2002. This allowed more events to be scheduled around the existing kiddie rides and concession stand.
A perennial favorite is the antique carousel.
The historic Herschell-Spillman carousel dates from 1913 and was updated in 2004.
The figures include 24 jumping horses and two chariots, one a stagecoach, in keeping with Cody Park's history as the location of the first Wild West Show produced by one of North Platte's favorite residents, Buffalo Bill Cody.
The goal is to have the display ready to go on the Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday. This year however, the more than three feet of snow North Platte received in October set the project behind and the display opened on December 5.
Water had damaged much of the display before the city was able to use it for the first time back in 1981. Members of North Platte's RSVP program worked tirelessly to restore the displays. Many individuals, clubs and organizations continue to assist the parks department in providing this Christmas tradition to the community of North Platte.
The display currently consists of nine huts, each one showcasing a different aspect of the Christmas celebration. The latest hut debuted just the Saturday before Christmas, showing that the work is ongoing.
Anyone is welcome to build or purchase a new hut. There are huts that are memorials to loved ones, gifts to the city, and even one that was built as a family project.
A single animated figure can cost as much as $500.00, and many of the figures are beginning to show their age. There are donation boxes set up at various locations throughout the display, and people are very generous, but the high cost of maintaining and replacing the displays means that the donations barely keep up.
In addition to adding new displays, the parks personnel are always working to add new activities. This year was the Golden Goose Scavenger Hunt. Maps were distributed at the concession stand, and kids scouted through the park to spot all of the Golden Geese. The National Guard provided tons of prizes for the successful competitors.
If your family is interested in adding to the display, contacting the City of North Platte Parks Department will get you on the right road.

One new event this year, sponsored by the North Platte Chamber of Commerce Hostesses was the "Kids on Parade". It was successful enough that plans are in the works to continue it year after year.
There are both horse drawn and tractor drawn hayrack rides for the enjoyment of the visitors.

There's still time to visit the North Pole in North Platte. The huts and animated figures are on display through December 30.
The great Blizzard of 2009 has made this a strange year for Christmas celebrations, as many loved ones have been stranded far from home. I hope this pictoral essay will make your holidays brighter if your Christmas wasn't what you hoped for.
Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Christmas Eve!

The freezing fog we woke up to yesterday morning can be deadly for drivers, but beautiful as it coats the trees with a layer of hoar frost.

My boys were kind enough to take my camera out to the Sutherland reservoir and capture some of the images.

Enjoy, and Happy Christmas Eve!