Friendly Folks and Traditions
Fourth of July is big around here. We have parades on both July 3 and July 4th, which include a Children's parade, and two large parades. The large parade on the fourth is usually pretty much the same as the one on the 3rd, but usually a little larger, as some bands, etc. only come for the 4th. You will see a lot of horses, wagons, cowboys, pack teams, etc. This is a real western event. Top cowboys from across the country come to Cody for the Cody Stampede Rodeo over the July 1 - 4 holidays where they can win big purses. Even with 5,500 reserved seating space, if you wish to attend this rodeo I would recommend making your reservations in advance. The 4th also brings activities in the city park, and firework in the evening.
Many cultural events take place at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Check out their web site www.bbhc.org for schedules. One of my favorites is the annual Indian Pow Wow at the Historical Center, which is usually scheduled in late June. The museum’s Draper of Natural History has an active laboratory, which I do volunteer work in. Sometimes if staff and volunteers are working in the lab the door will be open. Feel free to come in, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. We are always happy to explain to the public what we do in the lab. At other times members of the Draper's staff will present talks on various topic. Some summers you may even be lucky enough to view live snakes as you listen to a talk on about them.
The local people for the wide majority are friendly, small town folks. Looking someone in the eye and giving a smile and a 'hi' is the common thing to do here. Don't be afraid to ask for directions, recommendations, or even help if in trouble. It would be a rare local who wouldn't offer a helping hand or advice.
The statue in the photo is of Buffalo Bill Cody, and is located by the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. The second photo is of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center’s Draper Museum of Natural History’s Learning Lab.
Yellowstone National Park----OK, I know that most people coming through Cody are on their way to, or from Yellowstone. But, hey, this IS a Cody page! I include this in my Out of the Way section because although we are the East Gate Community, you still have to drive 50 miles to the park gate. But don’t despair, this is an interesting and beautiful 50 miles. First you pass through our tunnels, now you are in our beautiful Wapiti (an Indian word for elk) Valley. This valley, which follows the North Fork of the Shoshone River, will take you into the Shoshone National Forest, where the road continues along the river through mountain and valley vistas. If you have the time, the road to Yellowstone has some pull-offs with signs giving you interesting information about the area. Do not, however, make Cody your base for visiting Yellowstone! Cody is a great place to plan into your trip. Stay a full day or more, but then move to Yellowstone. I have seen it said on a number of web pages that we are the East Gateway community to Yellowstone, and it is an optional place to stay for a Yellowstone trip. NO--too many miles of National Forest between Cody and the park. It is fine for locals to take day trips to the park, but for tourists to stay in Cody to travel to Yellowstone over a number of days is a BAD idea!
When in Yellowstone, don't just go to Old Faithful and leave. There is SO much more to see.. One thing that is fun, is to take the Old Faithful Lodge historic tour, which is quite interesting. If you don't want to do this, at least go in and look around. It is the most outstanding log structure I have ever seen. Besides the Old Faithful geyser basin, Norris, the hottest geyser basin in the park is nice. The Canyon area and it's falls is a not to be missed area! Artists Point is my favorite view of the falls, and a must see, although Lookout Point is also a very nice view of the Lower Falls. Inspiration Point will give you a wonderful view of the canyon. You can also hike down to the base of the lower falls along the Uncle Tom's trail. It's quite a down/up walk with lots of stairs, but if you are up to it, it is a nice one. We took our son on Uncle Tom’s when he was about 8, and his tongue was hanging out by the time we got down there----and he still had to go up. If you have time visit the Mammoth Hot Springs area and Tower Falls. For wildlife check out Lamar Valley on the northeast side of the park, and Haden Valley on the east side.
My second photo is of a walkway in the Old Faithful Area. My third photo is of Sapphire Pool in Biscuit Basin.
For more detailed information on Yellowstone, and additional things to do, including a few short videos, visit my comprehensive Yellowstone pages at http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/3d935/dc5a0
A Scenic Drive to the Medicine Wheel
The Medicine Wheel, a National Historic Landmark, was mentioned as a side trip in my Off the Beaten Path tip, Scenic Drive Through the Big Horn Mountains. It is quite a drive from Cody, and you would want to pack a lunch and plan to spend the day. In this tip I will give you a more direct route for reaching the Medicine Wheel. For those of you passing over this mountain on your way to Cody, this would make a wonderful side stop, if you have the time. This sacred treasure for the American Indians is located in the Bighorn National Forest. This circle of stones is located at the top of a mountain at almost 10,000 feet above sea level, and you will walk one and a half miles from the parking lot along a graded road to the top of the mountain where the wheel is located. Although this road has been closed since 1993, if you are physically unable to make the walk, speak to the ranger located at the parking area. Exceptions are made, and some cars are allowed to drive to the wheel itself. The wheel is located above tree line and you will find the views along your walk magnificent as you look at distant, high peaks and the vastness of the National Forest below. Not only is this an artifact that is revered by the Indian People, but it is also a historic and archeological site. There are many legends about the origin of the Wheel, but scientists have not determined by who or why this was constructed. They do believe that it was probably built between 1,200 and 1,700 A.D. The most direct route to the Medicine Wheel from Cody is to take highway Alt 14 through Powell and Lovell. Just outside of Lovell you will see the Visitor’s Center for the Bighorn Canyon. If you stop here you may pick up a pamphlet giving you information about the wheel. Continuing on highway Alt 14 you will climb high into the Bighorn Mountains. You will see a sign on the road as you near the Medicine Wheel. If you get to Burgess Junction, you have missed it, but the sign is pretty easy to spot. See my Medicine Wheel Travelogue for additional views and information.
A great western town
Cody is a great little town, very friendly and welcoming, with several really interesting tourist sights, a lovely old-fashioned hotel, good shopping, restaurants and bars. Our visit here was certainly one of the highlights of our Wyoming road trip. After a few days in the national parks we felt we were ready for something a little more urban and lively, and Cody was just what we were looking for.
" Cody attractions "
The main sights are the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (which is really five museums in one) and Old Trail Town on the western outskirts of town. Both of these are excellent and will give you a real sense of the Old West, as will the old Irma Hotel in the center of town, which is worth a visit even if you don't plan to stay there.
" Outside the town "
I’ve also included some tips here covering the area between Cody and Yellowstone National Park. The Shoshone River runs through a spectacular valley, and if you prefer to stay somewhere quieter you could easily use one of the lodges here as a base for visiting Cody
Annual Plains Indian Museum Powwow
The Plains Indian Powwow is an annual event that is sponsored by the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Top Indian dancers and drummers from around the nation come to Cody in June for two days of competition in which cash prizes are awarded. In 2004 thirty tribes were represented at the powwow. This is a colorful pageant rich in authentic Plains Indian culture. Along with the dancing competitions booths are also set up to offer both contemporary and traditional Indian food, arts, and crafts.
The powwow is an opportunity for you as a visitor to develop a better understanding of the heritages and present-day dance, music, and arts of the American Plains Indian people. In the photo you see a woman dancing in the Woman's Traditional Dance category. The Woman’s Traditional Dance is the oldest type of woman’s dance. The woman uses a fan made of feathers, and often carries a shawl over her arm. Part of the dress may include a breastplate as worn by this woman.
Since several hundred Plains Indian dancers and their families attend this Powwow, this is also a time when the people from many tribes have the opportunity to come together. The officials for the Powwow are always Native American Indians and although the drummers are Indians invited from around the Northern Plains region, additional American Indian drummers are welcome to attend.
Competition categories include traditional dance, jingle dress, fancy dance, grass, and team dancing. There are men, women, children, and team categories including “Winner Takes All” prizes.
This is the Jingle Dress Dance. The Jingle Dress is a prayer dress, which has rows of small metal cones that are hung with ribbon around the skirt of the dress, so that they jingle as the woman dances. It is believed, however, that in the early history of this dance the jingles were made of shells. There are a variety of versions on the origin of this dance. One story tells us that the dance was first seen in a dream. It is said that a medicine man's granddaughter became very ill. In the dream, the medicine man’s spirit guides told him to make a jingle dress for his granddaughter and have her dance in it. This, he was told would heal her. When the dress was finished, the tribe gathered for a dance. On her first time around, the granddaughter was too ill to dance and so she was carried. As time went on she was soon able to dance in the circle. The little girl that you see in this picture loved to dance. She would enter into the circle and dance whenever a woman or girl's competition came up, even if it wasn't her entry.
An admission is charged, with children ages 7 to 17 paying a discounted price, and children under the age of 6 free. Tickets are purchased at the gate on the day of the events. We generally spend our summers in the U.P. of Michigan, but we stayed home in 2004. The price of tickets that summer was $5 for adults, and $2 for children ages 7 to 17.
Visitors may wish to bring blankets or lawn chairs to sit on, as there is only limited seating in the bleachers.
The Food booths include beverages, Indian tacos, fry bread, and buffalo burgers. I especially enjoy the Indian fry bread. Indian tacos have a topping similar to tacos, but are served on fry bread. To find out the exact date of the Powwow contact the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.