PRESS RELEASE - April 30, 2012

Contact: Aaron Lyles, Director of Finance, (406) 600-8231

Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center announces winning building site

Sixty-plus years after State Senator Leo Cremer of Sweet Grass County proposed the need for Montana to build a cowboy hall of fame; this vision took major steps towards becoming reality as the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center (MCHF & WHC) announces that it has completed its ten-month long building site selection process. Big Timber has been selected as the new home and building site of the MCHF & WHC.

Through a request for proposals process, an evaluation committee, made up of MCHF &WHC board members, selected finalist communities based on the infrastructure and capacity to sustainably operate a visitor attraction. In the final phase of the process, the committee evaluated the specific building site proposals offered by Big Sky, Big Timber, Livingston and Madison County. 

“As we concluded our process, the important factors of sustainability, working with Montana’s tourism infrastructure, and the overall cost for development of the project played an important role in Big Timber’s selection,” said DuWayne Wilson, MCHF & WHC president. “The Stetson building is highly visible and centrally located on I-90. All of the necessary infrastructure is fully developed at the site, while the building itself is simply an open shell that we can incorporate our exhibition plan into. In all, this unique package has been offered at an extraordinary cost savings over what it would otherwise cost to implement at any other site. Additionally, the contract terms gave us greater flexibility than some of the other property offers.”

“We had a tough decision with fantastic proposals from Big Sky, Livingston, and Madison County,” Wilson said. “Every finalist had some quality that ranked higher than their peers. In the end, it was our responsibility to make the best business decision we could and we could only choose one. We want to express our deep appreciation to the community leaders who put forward an exceptional effort and demonstrated themselves as true ambassadors for their communities. It made our decision that much harder.”

With the site selection process completed, the focus of the MCHF & WHC will be implementing a capital fundraising campaign to move forward with developing the campus in Big Timber. 

“We have a clear line of sight for success,” said Mike Gurnett, MCHF & WHC board member. “This is truly a project whose time has come. With this great central I-90 location, I can envision the parking lot filled with school buses from across the state as students explore Montana’s Western Heritage. The timing could not be better for people to step forward with financial support and artifact donations to keep us moving forward to achieving our goals to celebrate what makes Montana so great.” 

Background information:

Under a 2003 Montana legislative effort, Wolf Point was identified to be the future building site for the MCHF & WHC. With the mission of “honoring our cowboy way of life, American Indian cultures, and collective Montana Western heritage,” the organization has been greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm from all corners of the state. After successfully organizing a statewide network of Trustees and implementing the annual Hall of Fame inductions, the organization set its sights on the development of its future museum and visitor center attraction. As interested donors watched other state-wide museums and non-profits struggle under the crippling economic downturn, donor concerns quickly rose regarding the feasibility and sustainability of such a facility, given the planned location’s distance from major tourism and interstate corridors. To address these concerns, the membership, Board of Trustee’s and Board of Directors unanimously voted to pursue a legislative revision which would allow them to study the feasibility of any building location throughout the state and to invite all interested communities to express their interest. House Bill 528 was signed into law in April of 2011 and efforts began to organize a request for proposal process that would objectively evaluate offered building sites. 

The request for proposals was developed under the advisement of special taskforce of top industry experts from across the state and the nation. The resulting request for proposals was implemented in three phases. Phase one consisted of an open invitation to all Montana communities to express their interest in being considered. In phase two, all interested communities were asked to complete a comprehensive questionnaire to study, in detail, issues such as community infrastructure and those factors essential to operating the visitor destination attraction business. These submissions were evaluated under a standardized scoring system that resulted in a field of finalists to participate in the third and final phase. Finalists worked in the third phase to identify specific building sites within their community and to bring forward community resources.

PRESS RELEASE - November 4, 2011

Media Contacts: 
Christy Stensland, Executive Director, (406) 653-3800,  
Aaron Lyles, Director of Finance, (406) 600-8231,

Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame Names Building Site Finalists

After an extensive review of proposals, the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center (MCHF & WHC) is one more step closer to construction by announcing the field of communities to continue into the third and final phase of the organization’s building site selection process. The review of nearly 2,500 pages of submitted proposal materials from 10 Montana communities was conducted by the MCHF & WHC Board of Directors, the MCHF & WHC’s preliminary architect, Scott Cromwell of Helena, Mont., and the nationally recognized non-profit consulting firm Martz and Lundy. Taking into consideration those factors essential to developing and sustaining a premier museum destination attraction, the MCHF & WHC Board of Directors is pleased to invite the following communities into the third and final selection phase: Big Sky, Big Timber, Livingston, Madison County, Miles City and Wolf Point. 

In the third phase, interviews will be conducted in each finalist community to fully investigate the physical building sites that have been presented in each proposal. This phase will also include negotiations with prospective donors in the community, region and around the nation, to determine the ultimate financial feasibility and degree of support that exists for each location. 

“Each community that submitted a proposal did so with the belief that they were the best future building site for the Hall of Fame and they each had something excellent to offer unique to their community,” said DuWayne Wilson, MCHF & WHC President. “Every proposal submitted was exceptional and collectively reinforced the statewide interest in the cultural facility becoming a reality. Respondents rallied around their great love and pride for the towns in which they live and the state they each call home. The amount of sincere effort put into each proposal was truly humbling.” 

Since the beginning of the RFP process, the MCHF & WHC has strongly held that no community has the exclusive rights to Montana’s collective western heritage. For this reason, the decision of which communities to investigate further was based on factors such as financial feasibility, volume of resident and non-resident visitation, characteristics of the proposed physical building sites, and infrastructure available within the community to support a major development project of this nature.

The MCHF & WHC plans to announce the winning site at the end of November; however, the timeframe for the final announcement will largely depend on scheduling availability with each community and the pace of negotiations with landowners and prospective donors. 

“This is truly an idea for which the time has come,” said MCHF & WHC Board Member Mike Gurnett. “Each day we lose a little bit more of our rich Montana cultural heritage to the passing of time. How many of us regret not having captured the many colorful stories of our grandparents, friends and neighbors before we lost them forever? This is capturing our history on a statewide stage and making it relevant to people’s lives. Equally important will be taking the cultural story of Montana and creating a vibrant, interactive resource for all visitors to contribute to and draw from. There is no more important stewardship decision we will make during our tenure as board members than the selection of our future building site. It will serve an important role as a learning center and resource to all Montanans interested in preserving and passing forward their heritage.”


October 05th, 2011


PRESS RELEASE - October 5, 2011

Media Contacts: 
Christy Stensland, Executive Director, (406) 653-3800,  
Aaron Lyles, Director of Finance, (406) 600-8231,


The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center (MCHF & WHC) Board of Directors was pleased to announce today the list of respondents that have submitted proposals to “Phase Two” of a three phase Request For Proposals selection process that will decide the organization’s future building site.  

Proposals have been submitted from:  Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation, Terry;  Madison County Economic Development Corporation, Madison County; Miles City Chamber of Commerce, Miles City ; Missouri Valley Development Corporation, Wolf Point; Montana Event Center, Huntley; Musselshell County Commissioners, Roundup; Park County Extension Service, Livingston; PhillCo Economic Growth Council, Malta; Ryan Hamilton on behalf of the Community of Big Sky; and Sweet Grass County Commissioners, Big Timber.   

The Request for Proposals Evaluation Committee will now take up the task of evaluating each proposal response against a standard set of criteria.  From this evaluation the MCHF & WHC Board will announce a field of finalists to be considered in the third and final phase of the selection process.  Each proposal will also be evaluated by an independent evaluator with expertise in non-profit administration and museum operations.  The third phase will include interviews and comprehensive negotiations with each of the finalist candidates.  The Board of Directors currently plans to announce the awarding of the future building site by the end of November.  

Directed by the organization’s vision to develop a facility that will serve as a “premier destination attraction that honors and celebrates Montana's unique western culture and heritage,” the MCHF & WHC has taken on the ambitious effort to move forward with development of the facility despite the economic downturn that has slowed or stopped many other major development projects.  Christy Stensland, MCHF & WHC executive director stated, “The support and sense of urgency that many feel about the need to capture our heritage before it is lost and to pass it forward to future generations has driven us to move forward with the project.  This site selection request for proposals process is an incredible undertaking for everyone involved.  It is humbling to see folks from all corners of the state join together and rally around the important task of honoring our cowboy way of life, American Indian cultures and our collective Montana Western heritage.”  

With the passage of H.B 528 in April, the Board of Directors moved to open the opportunity of being considered as the future building site of the MCHF & WHC to all Montana communities.  Aaron Lyles, MCHF & WHC director of finance stated, “The decision of issuing the request for proposals and allowing any interested community the opportunity to be considered was the best approach and most objective way to select our future building site.  The selection process requires the highest standards of transparency to meet the expectations of the public trust we operate under.”  The Board of Directors chose a traditional Request For Proposals process to administer the site selection.  Therefore, the organization could not comment at this time on any one community’s prospects or standing in the evaluation process. The organization will announce the finalist candidates upon the completion of the Phase Two evaluation.  Lyles continued, “Since no community can claim exclusive rights to our collective Montana Western heritage, this selection process had to be focused on an objective alignment of the resources necessary for accomplishing our vision and mission to those communities that have expressed a desire to be considered.  Though each community is anxiously waiting the final decision, it is clear after seeing the hundreds of letters of support that have poured into our office that no matter the final location our Montana community is behind the project.”

PRESS RELEASE - August 13, 2011

2011 Custer Ranch Rodeo Results

Contact:  Tami Blake, Custer Ranch Rodeo organizer, 406-342-5579,
               Christy Stensland, Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame executive director, 406-653-3800,

The 2011 Custer Ranch Rodeo, held in June in Custer, raised $1,952.50 for the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame.  Each year the ranch rodeo makes a donation to the MCHF (a nonprofit dedicated to preserving our state’s great cowboy heritage), made up of a percentage of calcutta income, entry fees, and sponsorship monies.

Reflecting modern-day ranch reality, each team at the Custer Ranch Rodeo is required to have at least one female member.  Custer is also unique in that each team rides for a sponsoring business that is supporting both the MCHF and the participants.

The BLS Horse Sales / Montana ProRodeo Hall & Wall of Fame team finished first this year.  Members were KC Verhelst, Jolee and Kelly Holmquist, and Caleb Scott.  This team will advance to the NILE Championship Ranch Rodeo in October.

The MCHF Trustees team finished second.  Members were Pat O’Neill, Sam Kortum, Zane Dempewolf, and Dan Harrington.  Dempewolf, of Glendive, won the handiest cowboy award.  Rachel Lohof, competing on the Junction City Saloon team, was named handiest cowgirl.  Blaine Tucker, competing on the Montana Cattlemen’s Association team, took home the top horse award.

Other competing teams were sponsored by Northern Ag Network, Hardin community businesses, Custer community businesses, PV Ranch, Cat Coulee Beds & Birds, Stockman Bank and the Montana Stockgrowers Association, the Montana Ranch Horse Association, and Grasslands LLC.

Nearly everything needed to make the Custer Ranch Rodeo run is donated.  Special thanks go to Swanke Saddlery, Allison Saddlery, H-Bar Hatworks, Newman Rodeo, Farmers Union Oil, John Pinkerton, and the many volunteers who made this benefit event possible.

The Custer Ranch Rodeo is also dedicated to benefiting the Custer community.  The Custer FFA serves concessions, an after-event is held in downtown Custer, free events for kids are included in the program (with awards donated by the Jeff & Corinna Keller family), and the ranch rodeo committee donates profits to the improvement of the Custer arena.

PRESS RELEASE - July 23, 2011

Media Contacts: 
Christy Stensland, Executive Director, (406) 653-3800,  
Aaron Lyles, Director of Finance, (406) 600-8231,

MT Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center Building Site Identification RFP Invitation Update.  

The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center (MCHF & WHC) would like to remind all interested Montana communities that the Request For Proposal Invitation Response deadline for your community to request a copy of the Request For Proposal documents to be considered for the future building site of the MCHF & WHC is July 29th, 2011.  The MCHF & WHC has updated its website to include answers to questions that have been offered to the organization to date.  All interested parties should go to http://www.montanacowboyfame.comfor all RFP related information and materials.  A list of those entities that have responded to the RFP Invitation and the status of their respective RFP Invitation Responses to date, is published on the website.  

If you would like your community considered as the future building site of the MCHF & WHC, please review the RFP Invitation and coordinate your community’s response as directed.  

For more information, please contact Executive Director, Christy Stensland at the MCHF & WHC office in Wolf Point at the MCHF & WHC office in Wolf Point at (406) 653-3800 or at, or visit

PRESS RELEASE - July 15, 2011

Media Contacts: 
Christy Stensland, Executive Director, (406) 653-3800,  
Aaron Lyles, Director of Finance, (406) 600-8231,       

Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame seeks nominations for Class of 2012 

The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center (MCHF & WHC) is seeking nominations for the 2012 Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame induction round. In 2012, the MCHF & WHC will honor inductees who made their mark in Montana between 1880 and 1980, no matter the year of death or closure. Nominees can be men, women, ranches, stage coach lines, animals, hotels, etc.—anyone or anything that has made an impact on Montana’s western heritage.

Past inductees have included historical figures such as Sitting Bull, Evelyn Cameron, the N Bar N Ranch, Charles M. Russell, Plenty Coups, Granville Stuart, Nelson Story, the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, Alice Greenough, the Montana Stockgrowers Association, Fannie Sperry Steele, Frank Bird Linderman and the Vigilantes of Montana. Full biographies of all inductees from 2008-2010 are available online at (2011 inductee bios coming soon). 

An unlimited number of nominations may be submitted from each of the MCHF & WHC’s 12 state-wide districts of which one living inductee and two legacy (non-living) inductees will be chosen from votes cast by the MCHF & WHC Trustees. (Visit the MCHF & WHC website for a list of the Trustees and a map of the twelve districts of the MCHF & WHC.) This is the second year the MCHF & WHC will induct living historical figures and the fifth year of honoring legacy inductees.

Anyone with an interest in Montana’s history and Western heritage is invited to submit a nomination. Requirements include a cover letter with details about the nominee, the submitter, and a contact person or next of kin for the nominee; a two-page-or-less computer generated document detailing the nominee’s background and contributions to Montana’s western heritage (in hard copy and CD copy); and a copy-ready photo if available. Please contact the MCHF & WHC at (406) 653-3800 for full details about submission requirements. All nomination documents must be postmarked by December 15, 2011. 

The 2012 Class of the MCHF & WHC will be announced by press release in June of 2012. Next of kin or an establishment representing the award recipient will receive a MCHF & WHC certificate and will be invited to be recognized at the 2013 Annual “Circle the Wagons” Gathering.

PRESS RELEASE - June 2, 2011

Media Contacts: 
Christy Stensland, Executive Director, (406) 653-3800,  
Aaron Lyles, Director of Finance, (406) 600-8231,       

MT Cowboy Hall of Fame invites communities to express interest in future building site

Today the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center (MCHF & WHC) issued an invitation to communities across Montana to express their interest in becoming the future building site of the MCHF & WHC. The MCHF & WHC is a 501 (C)3 non-profit organization designated by Montana State Legislature to fulfill a mission of “honoring our cowboy way of life, American Indian cultures and our collective Montana western heritage.” 
“Montana communities are invited to request a copy of the MCHF & WHC’s Request For Proposals (RFP) document,” said Christy Stensland, executive director of the MCHF & WHC.
The invitation explained that the vision of the MCHF & WHC is to be the state's premier destination attraction that honors and celebrates Montana's unique western culture and heritage. MCHF & WHC’s vision includes the development of a campus that will provide a safe, comfortable, exciting portal through which guests can enter to experience the character and teamwork it took to build Montana. From this campus, the story of Montana’s western heritage will be preserved and passed forward to future generations. 
The MCHF & WHC is asking communities to respond to the invitation and request the RFP by sending a cover letter expressing interest in receiving the RFP, the community represented, and the submitter’s role in representing that community; a contact information page stating the party’s name, mailing address, telephone number, and e-mail; and preference for receiving the RFP by e-mail or Postal Service. The MCHF & WHC is also requesting that interested parties review the MCHF & WHC “Position Statement on Community Heritage” prior to submitting their invitation response.
All invitations responses must be received no later than 4:00 P.M. local time, July 29th, 2011 at: Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center; C/O: Christy Stensland, Executive Director; 218 Third Avenue South, Suite C; Wolf Point, Montana, 59201. 
The selection of the future building site of the MCHF & WHC will take place in three phases. Phase One entails the invitation made to Montana communities encouraging them to request a copy of the RFP. Phase Two entails communities’ responses to the RFP. This RFP is a comprehensive document that will require a substantial investment of time and resources to fully complete. Through a detailed RFP questionnaire, respondents will provide data supporting the feasibility of constructing and sustaining our future campus in the community. The following areas will be examined in detail: Alignment of MCHF & WHC Vision with Community Goals and Objectives; The Role of Tourism in the Community; and Infrastructure: (including) Economy, Transportation, Services/Utilities & Physical Site Analysis. All Phase Two RFP responses must be received by September 29th, 2011. 
A field of finalists will subsequently be identified by the MCHF & WHC Board of Directors. These finalists will be invited to participate in Phase Three of the selection process. Phase Three entails interviews and negotiations with each of the finalist communities. Phase Three concludes with the awarding of the future building site to a community in November of 2011. 
In February of 2011, the MCHF & WHC Board of Directors, Trustees and Members voted unanimously to revise the organization’s existing legislative designation for the purpose of fulfilling due diligence and stewardship responsibilities related to the construction of their planned facility.  The resulting bill, H.B. 528, passed the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Schweitzer on April 8, 2011. The RFP is the next step in the process.
“The selection of a building site is critically important to the success and sustainability of any organization, especially ours, given our stated mission and vision,” stated Aaron Lyles, Director of Finance for the MCHF & WHC. “It is humbling to come to work each day for an organization that seriously reflects upon their responsibilities and then squarely meets those responsibilities with decisions that best further our mission and vision.  The decision to revise the legislative designation and the issuing of this Request For Proposals is a testament to our entire organization’s commitment to honoring those that have come before us.  Today we achieve an important milestone for all of those that have come to know and cherish our way of life.”
For more information, please contact Executive Director Christy Stensland at the MCHF & WHC office in Wolf Point at (406) 653-3800 or

PRESS RELEASE - May 27, 2011

Media Contacts: 
Christy Stensland, Executive Director, (406) 653-3800,  
Aaron Lyles, Director of Finance, (406) 600-8231,

Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame announces 2011 inductions

Today the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center (MCHF&WHC) announced the fourth class of inductions into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame. The inductees were chosen from candidates nominated by the public and Trustees of the MCHF&WHC that made a notable contribution to the history and culture of Montana through 1960, no matter the year of death or closure. Winners were selected by the MCHF&WHC Trustees. 

This year marks the first time that the MCHF has included a “Living” category in addition to the Legacy Award category. The Class of 2011 includes at least one inductee from each of 12 districts across the state. This year, 15 inductees were selected as Legacy Award recipients and six inductees were selected in the “Living” category.

The 2011 inductees into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame are:

>  District 1 (Daniels, Phillips, Roosevelt, Sheridan, & Valley Counties): Legacy Award – Harrah Brothers, Valley County.

>  District 2 (Dawson, Garfield, McCone, Prairie, Richland, & Wibaux Counties):Legacy Award – Montana Bill, Fallon community.

>  District 3 (Carter, Custer, Fallon, Powder River, Rosebud, & Treasure Counties):  Legacy Award – Chandler “Feeke” TookeLiving Award –Gladys  Maria Venable Cain, Miles City (nominated in Living Category but deceased 1/28/11).

>  District 4 (Blaine, Choteau, Hill, & Liberty Counties): Legacy Award (two-way tie) – Gregory “Buck” Joseph Henderson, Warrick; & Horace S. Raty, Great Falls.

>  District 5 (Cascade, Glacier, Pondera, Teton, & Toole Counties): Legacy Award – Brother Van – William Van Orsdel, Fort Benton.

>  District 6 (Fergus, Golden Valley, Judith Basin, Musselshell, Petroleum, & Wheatland Counties): Legacy Award – James “Jimmy” W. Kaaro, Lewistown;Living Award – Mildred “Mickey” Styer, Roy.

>  District 7 (Big Horn, Carbon, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, & Yellowstone Counties): Legacy Award – Cyrus B. Mendenhall, Springdale; Living Award –Dr. Barney Old Coyote, Jr.  – Ti loska sh wi (White Bison Calf), Crow Reservation.

>  District 8 (Broadwater, Jefferson, & Lewis and Clark Counties): Legacy Award (two-way tie) – Harland J. Herrin, Wolf Creek; & Brian D. O’Connell, Helena; Living Award – Stephen Woodrow Mosher, Augusta.

>  District 9 (Gallatin, Meagher, & Park Counties): Legacy Award – Johnny Flowers, Big Timber.

>  District 10 (Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, & Sanders Counties): Living Award –Fay Haynes, Pablo.

>  District 11 (Mineral, Missoula, & Ravalli Counties): Legacy Award –Jeannette Rankin, Missoula.

>  District 12 (Deer Lodge, Beaverhead, Silver Bow, Granite, Madison, & Powell Counties): Legacy Award (three-way tie) – The Brander Sisters, Violet & Margaret, Avon; Charles Frederich Meine, Dillon; & Theodore “Ted” Henry Parini, Butte; Living Award – Benny Reynolds, Twin Bridges.

Since the initial round of inductions to the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2008, including this year’s inductions, 110 historical figures have been honored as inductees. Full biographies for past inductees are available on the MCHF&WHC’s website,

In addition to the announcement of this fourth round of inductions into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame, the MCHF&WHC is announcing that it will be inviting all communities of Montana to respond to a request for proposals for the purpose of identifying the future building location for the organization’s headquarters. This future building site will serve as one of many ways the organization works to honor our cowboy way of life, American Indian cultures and the roots of our Montana Western heritage. The request for proposals invitation will be published on June 1, 2011.

For more information about the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center, or for more details on the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees, please contact Christy Stensland at the MCHF&WHC by calling (406) 653-3800, emailing, or visiting