Tuesday, August 31, 2010

goodbye, medora.

Well folks, the entire Institute has left ND. We had a great last hurrah (below), and are very happy to back in the lovely chicago.

Our last hurrah:
We knew from experience that 21st birthdays are not a big enough milestone to be announced during the portion of the musical where groups, anniversaries and birthdays are shared with audience. When Abby's 21st came around on august 21st, we used our inside connection of Theodore Rooselvelt (aka David Simmons) to inform the people in charge that the North Dakota Institute of Contemporary Art would be in the audience. We arrived on time, took our employee seats in upper level due the crowd of 2000 + and awaited our 15 seconds of fame. Here is a transcript of what procceeded:

"Also here with us the folks from North Dakota Institute of Contempor... (a lot of loud screaming!!!) ...I think that speaks for it's self."

That was a totally legitimizing moment for us. It felt good.

Thanks, TR!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Here's a great piece by the up and coming collaboration called the North Dakota State Historical Society.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


With Medora being such a small town, the chosen methods of transportation for those who live here tend to be quite interesting. As I sit outside the Badlands Pizza Parlor typing this blog, I have seen a horse drawn buggy go past three times, Lil' Smokey, the tour guide train, is parked just up the street outside the post office and the old three wheeled (2 in the back one in the front) really skinny truck thing with the steering wheel on the left side that maintenance uses to water flowers around town is parked next to the Chuck Wagon.

(carriage and maintenance thing)

As entertaining as those are, the prize goes to the golf cart parked across the street.

This beauty is brand new and owned by the Foundation and boy is this thing is customized. Not only does it have the Flintstones-esque woodgrain design, but the badlands are painted on the back and under the steering wheel, Theodore Roosevelt is painted on the sides, there are wild horses running out of a giant wave and Bully Pulpit (the golf course) is painted on the trunk between the painted on straps.

(Theodore Roosevelt on a horse)

There must be a design your own golf cart website, and I don't think it has an editor.

However, it is precisely these the over-the-top things that make Medora the fantastic, absurd, beautiful tourist destination that it is. Without these moments, it would be just another small town hiding in just about any national park.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

foundation fashion.

Half of this town is owned by the Theodore Rooselvelt Medora Foundation. There are about 300 employees that work for TRMF and we mostly dress the same. The housekeepers and the Rough Rider Hotel/Dining Room folk wear different uniforms, but for the most part, you can spot a foundation employee from miles away. Well, blocks anyway.

The first uniform we had was a blue checked button up, long or short sleeved, tucked into neat blue jeans with a black or brown belt and black or brown shoes, cowboy boots preferred. The shirts were unisex, meaning far too large for many of the females. We were also issued some nice "flair," colorful rectangular buttons asking if you've been to Bully Pulpit golf course, the Medora Musical or Theodore's Dining Room. And name tags, of course.

Next came the lovely red plaid snap front western shirts. These, thankfully, come in both women's and men's sizes and look so much better on everyone. And they more fully embrace our western town.

However, with the arrival of new shirts, the Rough Rider Gift Shop, which is higher end than the rest of the foundation gift shops, had to start wearing black pants in anticipation of the black skirts we would soon receive.

The day the black skirts did come was a sad one. Western? I think not. The silver concha belts, maybe, but the skirts were a bad idea. Even worse when Sarah left the foundation and I was the only person under about 50 wearing this this thing around town.

(sarah is missing her belt, fail)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Featured Act 2: David Crowe

Stand up comedian David Crowe graced our presence from June 27 to July 23, joining in the Medora fun. He took the place of the Extreme Canine Stunt Dogs, and I hear the backstage crew and cast were more than happy to have silence backstage. 13 dogs can create quite the racket. For those of us in the audience, were were just happy to have one of Buffalo Dales jokes cut out due to the much shorter set up time.

We saw David's progression from his first show to his last one. His first show was his first night in North Dakota, which is a bit of a different place from Seattle. As he spent more time here, he added more jokes about North Dakota and Medora, all of which were spot on.

Something you should know about the Musical: Before the show, they heard 2 elk with giant antlers to the top of the hill behind the stage and bribe them to stay there with feed. It never ceases to amaze the guests. David had a fantastic joke about all the hunters (and hunter is a much better term than sportsman, because if hunting is a sport it's the only one where the other team has no idea they are playing) who sit there and twitch at the sight of those beautiful animals.

The Medora Musical is a family event, and the featured acts must follow suit. As you can imagine, David has plenty of material he can't use during the show, so he so kindly offered to do a club set for employees one night after the musical. I think we all had side aches for a few days afterwards. He had been in town for long enough to know exactly what goes down here, and he delivered a beautiful show that, for the most part, only a Medora employee could fully appreciate.

He's funny, check him out sometime: http://comedians.jokes.com/david-crowe
Or youtube him.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hidden Messages

This ain't no Last Supper, but Medora hasn't fallen completely off the fresco bandwagon.

And Medora's version of the fresco comes with a not-so-subliminal message:

What exactly is better(n) than bacon? I'm still not sure.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pitchfork Fondue: the weirdest picnic ever

This was the event that we have been waiting for. That all our friends have been waiting to hear about. That defines the weird town that is Medora, ND.

It is the famous Pitchfork Steak Fondue.

(keep in mind that this happens every night. that is a lot of steak!)

We're talking steak on pitchforks deep fried in 55 gallon drums of sunflower seed oil. You can see all the pitchforks lined up and ready to go before the eating begins, and you can watch the fondue-ing process. It takes about 3-5 minutes. The menu also includes fruit and vegetables, cole slaw, baked potatoes, garlic bread and baked beans.

The evening went as follows:

Guests arrive, claim a picnic table under the pavilion, and when the word is given everyone lines up at the buffet, hands in their ticket in exchange for a color coded plate referring to either a 9 oz new york strip steak, 12 oz rib eye or hot dog. Somewhere near the beginning of the line, it started raining, which quickly turned into an absolute downpour. The pavilion provides shelter, but the rain still blows in from the edges, and the fight for tables in the middle commenced. There were only 4 of us and we were near the front of the line so we managed to score a pretty good location. Live entertainment was provided by Steve Lasiter, the Burning Hills Singer, and members of the Coal Diggers. They did a great job and started playing somewhere over the rainbow when a beautiful one appeared in the sky, the plus side of the rain.

(a few of our fellow diners)

Our take on this event:

It was like a giant picnic with hundreds of strangers. The food was good, the steak was average (abby though it was weird, and well, it was), and the live band was entertaining. The rain and the fact that were hundreds of people there made it a bit of a stressful event. I wish the actual fondue-ing was a more central focus of the event. It happens off on the edge of the pavilion, and you can watch if you want to, but no one really does. Worth the $26 that paying guests spend? I don't know, but it was certainly entertaining!

(notice the pitchfork hole)

Oh and they guy sitting behind us with the shirt that said "I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables" was simply priceless.