Coming together for recovery – Niobrara County sees support from neighbors
Lusk – On June 4, Niobrara County saw more than six inches of rain – more than one-third of the county’s average annual rainfall. Many called the resulting flood a 500-year event, and it resulted in a collapsed bridge, damaged homes, loss of rangeland and degradation of the city water supply.
“For the next week, an out-pouring of love, donations, warm thoughts and kind words came from those surrounding our county and those far off,” says the Town of Lusk. “As a community, we pulled together, letting nothing stand in our way on our road to recovery.”
Manville and Lusk saw the majority of the damage, though surrounding areas were badly hit as well.
On June 10, the Lusk Herald reported that an “estimated 35 residential homes and 28 businesses were destroyed or sustained major damage, according to Spencer Pollock, executive director of the American Red Cross of Wyoming.”
“There were a lot of ranchers affected also,” says Donna Hanson, area rancher. “One ranching family lost their house, several lost sheds and buildings and many lost vehicles.”
Hanson continued that areas that were once meadows were covered in sandbars, and fencing and water sources were destroyed.
“It was beyond devastating,” she comments. “I can’t believe that no one lost their life, but no one did. We are grateful for that.”
Over the three months after the flood event, 22 citizens came together as the Niobrara Recovery Committee and organized an event to rebuild their community. The resulting event netted incredible results.
“We had close to 1,000 people attend our dinner, dance and ranch rodeo,” says Hanson, also a Niobrara Recovery Committee member. “I’ve been in this county over 30 years, and we’ve had a lot of benefits and events. I have never seen so many people attend one event.”
She adds, “After donations, we raised $123,000 for Enhance Niobrara.”
The primary benefit of the Niobrara Recovery Committee included a dinner, dance and fundraising auction.
“We have a catering group who volunteered their services,” Hanson says. “They cooked brisket and pulled pork. It was absolutely fabulous.”
Following dinner, both a live and silent auction were held. The live auction featured 30 items, and Hanson noted that the silent auction had over 120 groups of items.
“We had so many things donated to the silent auction that we had to group them together,” she continues.
The top selling item during the auction was an Angus bull donated by Zumbrunnen Angus, which brought $12,000.
“Lex Madden was our auctioneer, and he was wonderful,” Hanson adds. “He was a big part of our success and raising money.”
Following the auction, Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band provided entertainment for the evening.
In addition, childcare was offered at no charge during the evening. Nearly 60 children participated in the evening, doing supervised activities while their parents partook in the festivities.
“Those services really added a lot to the event. The kids had a lot of fun,” Hanson says.
“There were so many people who helped so much,” she says, noting that the whole community pitched in to help during the event.
The following day, a ranch rodeo was held, and donations were sought instead of gate entrance fees.
Twelve teams participated in the event, and Hanson comments, “We had to turn teams away.”
The Four Three Ranch won the rodeo, with Boothill Seven in second, Forkner Ranch in third and Cross H Ranch in fourth.
“The Four Three Ranch will go to Winnemucca, Nev. in October to compete at the next level,” Hanson adds.
Also at the rodeo, the Angry Irishman of Lusk provided concessions and donated most of the proceeds.
Hansen mentions that now the Niobrara Recovery Committee will work to distribute funds to those who have been affected.
“The group is accepting applications and nominations,” she says. “We will be meeting in November to decide how to disperse those funds.”
Applications for funds or nominations are available at Bloomers, Rawhide Drug and the Townhouse Motel, or Hanson can be contacted for more information or an application.
“Applications will be available after Oct. 1,” Hanson says.
After that point, the Niobrara Recovery Committee will meet to distribute funds.
For more information on Enhance Niobrara or distribution of funds, contact Donna Hanson at 307-334-3357 or PO Box 4, Lusk, WY 82225.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.