Photo by Tim O'Neill
A huge Christmas moon shone on the Buffalo Bill ranch in this photo from 2005.
The festive Christmas at the Cody’s, on the verge of cancellation at the historical park on the north edge of North Platte, will be saved if enough local groups pitch in.
The annual attraction has been reset under a new arrangement that will send money to the state, instead of the other way around, city officials announced Monday.
Buffalo Bill State Historical Park was closed on Sept. 16 and will remain closed until May 1, the Nebraska Game and Parks department announced on Aug. 30, citing budget concerns.
For three days each Christmas, the historic manor where Buffalo Bill lived and the big barn where he kept livestock for his Wild West Show are festively decked inside and out with lights and holiday finery. Christmas gifts as well as historical items are displayed in an authentic Old West setting, with roasted chestnuts served up and buggy rides around the park.
Nearly 1,900 people attended last year, said Lisa Burke of the North Platte and Lincoln County Visitor’s Center.
Burke said when the park closure was announced and the celebration was jeopardized, talks began between city and state officials.
Burke said Monday that an agreement has been reached. She said individuals representing the visitor’s center, the chamber and development, Nebraskaland Days, the Lincoln County Tourism Advisory Council, the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation and the city agreed last week with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission that the celebration will be held this year under the new financial structure.
Money flow reversed
In the past, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission covered many of the costs of hosting Christmas at the Cody’s, mostly paying the bills from the ranch’s budget.
And, the income from admission was divided between the ranch and non-profit organizations that typically decorated eight individual rooms.
This year under the new arrangement, the state will receive money instead of sharing the cost.
Burke said the state will receive $5,000 to cover payroll and utilities. She said the entire cost will be around $9,000.
To raise the money, rooms will be opened to for-profit businesses to decorate, as well as the traditional non-profit groups, she said.
For-profit businesses will be charged $250 to decorate a room.
Non-profits can still decorate a room free of charge, but Burke said they would receive no financial proceeds. And, participants will have to provide at least two volunteers to staff the rooms on two nights.
People’s choice voting jars will be provided in all rooms, with votes cast with dollars, and organizations can keep the money received from the voting, or give it to the ranch, she said.
Echoing the Game and Parks Department, Burke said maintenance has been deferred on park projects, so it has been decided by the organizers that all proceeds of Christmas at the Cody's should be earmarked for vital projects at the ranch.
The dates of the celebration will be Dec. 19-22. Admission will be $8 for adults. Children 12 and under are admitted free.
Opening night is military night, with service men and women granted free admission with a current military ID.
More information, such as room availability and decorating times, will be available later.
Interested businesses or organizations in a room for Christmas at the Cody’s are encouraged to contact the North Platte & Lincoln County Visitors Bureau at 308-532-4729 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.