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Battle of Old Wyoming Rocks For Tenth Straight Year

Tennessee Watson
Wyoming Public Radio

The town of Medicine Bow — population roughly 200 — nearly doubles in size every August for the Battle of Old Wyoming. It’s not a reenacted gunfight as the name might suggest, but a music festival where 24 bands play back-to-back 30-minute sets for 12 hours. 

Over the weekend, the Battle celebrated its tenth year. Brandon Schulte, manager of the Sonic Rainbow music store in Casper, is the event’s organizer.  

“This is the one day out of the year where weird music from Wyoming is the focus of it,” said Schulte. “Ya know, it can be that one great day that can keep everybody’s spirits up and moral going all year.”

More than 20 bands from across the state showed up to perform. Schulte said a vibrant alternative music scene can help revitalize towns and attract young people to stay in the state.

Annie Wheeler, who is 20 years old, performed at the Battle in two different bands: Beef Baby and Bijuu.

“I just came back from Denver...to work on more music and have more time.” Wheeler recently ditched the big city to move back to Casper. Citing the Battle as an example, she said Wyoming is a more affordable and supportive place to be creative.

“The Battle is really special to me because there’s so many different genres that come together here and everyone supports each other,” said Wheeler. “It’s super cool to see punk rockers listening to electronic music and then jamming out to some metal.”

The Battle is volunteer-run, the bands donate their time and it’s free to attend. Schulte said that’s intentional and he hopes participants turn around and spend their money at local businesses instead.

The Historic Virginian Hotel hosts the event. Innkeeper Vickie Scott said she welcomes the influx of punk rockers and weirdos. It’s the one time every year she sells out all the rooms.

“This place has forever been a place of hospitality and this is just a new way of looking at it,” said Scott. “We’re so glad the kids have brought their Battle of Old Wyoming back for their tenth anniversary. This is awesome!”

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-producing Wage/Working (a jukebox-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.

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