May 8, 2015

Buffalo to roam Cody this summer


A herd of 30 sculpted bison will roam the county this summer to help drum up support for West Park Hospital in Cody.

Before being dispersed around Cody the buffalo were gathered for a May 7 artist's reception.
The West Park Hospital Foundation commissioned the buffalo artwork as part of a fundraising effort called, “Where the Buffalo Roam,” that’s aimed at building new conference rooms in the hospital’s basement.

The 76-inch-wide and 60-inch high bison, crafted by Cody sculptor Jeff Rudolph, are being decorated and enhanced by other local artists. The collaborative pieces of art will be officially revealed and put on display May 16, along with a number of smaller versions.

“We’re going to have buffalo, hopefully, all over town,” said West Park Hospital Foundation Director Graham Jackson.

The fundraiser, which coincides with West Park’s 75th anniversary, will culminate in an Aug. 28 auction of the decorated sculptures.

The hospital foundation began the fundraising effort for the conference room project after Drs. Lenox and Frances Baker donated $500,000 and challenged the non-profit organization to come up with the rest of the estimated $1 million cost.

Each of the bison has a unique look.
The Baker Community Education Center will include three new conference rooms and new restrooms to compliment the hospital's existing facilities. Jackson said the center will give the hospital the flexibility to accommodate events ranging from board meetings to community, presentations and hosting gatherings from as few as five people to as many as 200.

West Park is the county's largest employer, with more than 600 staffers.

“We don’t really have meeting rooms to really get our team together, so this will really help us,” Jackson told county commissioners in March. “And we also really wanted to open it up to the community.”

West Park officials have been planning to display the buffaloes in Cody and Meeteetse, which lie within the hospital's district, through the summer.

Jackson went before commissioners to specifically ask permission to stage several of the large bison on the grounds of the Park County Courthouse and the Park County Complex in Cody during the summer.

“I think it’d be great,” said Commissioner Tim French, to unanimous agreement.

Commissioners Joe Tilden and Loren Grosskopf each wondered if Cody hospital officials wanted to also place buffaloes in Powell, suggesting the Park County Fairgrounds or the Park County Annex.

“Wherever you all think is best, we'd like to support that as well,” Jackson said.

Commissioners left the exact locations to be chosen by West Park and the county's buildings and grounds staff.

All of the gathered bison made for a prime photo opportunity.

The Park County Library Foundation did a similar fundraiser in 2008, using grizzly bears sculpted by Rudolph to support youth and children's library services across the county. Jackson said the bears were a big draw for tourists and locals and has similar hopes for the bison.

“We think it’s good thing for our downtown, a good thing for Cody, a good thing for Park County,” she said.

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