By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor
BIG SKY – The clock is ticking.
In late January, the board for the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center will announce its future home. The board interviewed finalists this fall, among them, Big Sky, Livingston, Big Timber, Wolf Point, Madison County and Miles City.
In Big Sky, a committee of community leaders has led the charge to host the destination museum. Now, with a new proposed site for the facility, this group believes it has strengthened its bid.
The Simkins family, developers of the Town Center, has offered the site at a discount of about 85 percent off the estimated value of the land. This amounts to a $3-4 million dollar in-kind donation to the MCHF & WHC, according to Town Center developer Bill Simkins.
The original proposed site was located in the Canyon along U.S. 191, but a high asking price combined with difficult permitting issues would likely remove it from consideration.
The committee maintains that Big Sky is a strong contender for many reasons, among them the fact that millions of visitors come to Yellowstone and Big Sky annually. Many fly in to Bozeman, drive up to Big Sky, and then head south through Yellowstone to Jackson.
Offering these visitors a broader view of Montana’s heritage would be a chance to honor the state’s strong cowboy history.
“Big Sky’s got tremendous opportunity,” said one committee member during a meeting with the MCHFG & WHC board. “You hear we’re not known for our cowboys. But we’re known for our dime store cowboys—the people that are going to pay to go to this museum.”
This concept appealed to the board, a varied group with deep Montana roots that drove to Big Sky in a snowstorm for the November 18 meeting.
“It’s not our job to guard the ashes, but to fan the flames,” said finance director Aaron Lyles. “[Our job is] to try to pass the culture forward before it does truly die, to share this culture with the world.”
A final effort to bring the facility to Big Sky will come in the form of emails and postcards sent to potential supporters.
“For those of you who would like to see this facility in Big Sky, here’s how you can help—look for an email or direct mail postcard in your mailbox in the next couple of weeks,” said Ryan Hamilton with the Big Sky committee. “Fill it out and help us show the MCHF & WHC board that we really want this facility in Big Sky, that we can and will support it as a very strong community partner, and that we will help market the museum facility to the millions of people visiting Yellowstone and Big Sky annually.”
For more information, contact Ryan Hamilton at (406) 580-2260, or contact Christy Stensland, Executive Director of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center at (406) 653-3800.