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Cody introducing winter concert series
Cody performer Dan Miller, who hosts a summer cowboy music show, is the first promoter to work with the Park County Travel Council on its Cody Wild West Show. The winter live music series aims to attract overnight visitors to the area by offering marketing and advertising support to promoters. A Saturday show by country music singer Lacy J. Dalton has sold out.

CODY - A new program aimed at increasing winter tourism in Park County will offer live concerts geared toward drawing area music fans. But the plan also gives marketing support to established or aspiring concert promoters.

Country music singer Lacy J. Dalton launches the new Cody Wild West Show live music series with a sold-out show Saturday at the 300-seat Cody Theater.

Additional scheduled performances include T.G. Sheppard on Feb. 21 and Mel Tillis on March 27, both at the 900-seat Wynona Thompson Auditorium in Cody.

"Our goal is to sell overnight packages by giving folks a reason to come to Cody in the wintertime," said Claudia Wade, marketing director for the Park County Travel Council, which has formed a committee to manage the Cody Wild West Show.

Wade said the council will partner with qualified promoters who can secure a Park County venue and a recognized musical artist by providing up to $3,500 in advertising and marketing support to publicize the concert and packaged hotel stays.

"We've always called winter our quiet season, so why not call this the music season?" Wade said.

"We will schedule these concerts on a weekend and put some overnight packages together with hotels," she said, adding that tracking hotel package sales is one way to gauge if the program is drawing visitors to the area.

Wade said the council will use lodging-tax revenues to fund the effort as part of ongoing efforts to build winter and shoulder-season tourism in Park County.

The council already supports winter activities like ice hockey through direct grants, and is offering expanded marketing support to anyone who can bring strong musical acts to the area during the winter, she said.

So far, Cody performer and producer Dan Miller is the only promoter who has booked acts under the program.

"It's an opportunity for people to hear artists that they might not otherwise get to hear, but it's also a risk," said Miller, who drew 10,000 people last summer to his Dan Miller Cowboy Music Revue at the Cody Theater.

Miller said he pitched the council on the idea of a concert series as a way to help tourism businesses, including his own, pick up additional revenue during the winter months.

Miller also works as an on-air host for rodeo and country music television shows, and he has close ties to Nashville's music scene.

Miller said that when he told performers there about his show and theater in Cody, many jumped at the chance to help.

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"They've all been to Yellowstone before and would love to come back," he said.

Miller decided to book Dalton, performing as a three-piece acoustic act, as a relatively low-cost test, but said that Tillis performs with eight other musicians and will be an expensive performer to bring to town.

Wade said marketing efforts will focus on communities within one day's drive from Cody, including Billings, Red Lodge, Gillette and Casper.

Wade said she hopes promoters from the area or across the country will pitch ideas for the Cody Wild West Show, but added that the council has set up strict criteria to ensure that performers will be a strong draw.

Miller said he thinks Cody could eventually build a reputation as a hot spot for live music, much as Branson, Mo., has done.

"I really believe in the concept. Cody is a diverse community and has a lot going for it, and Branson doesn't have Yellowstone or the Buffalo Bill Historical Center," he said.

Contact Ruffin Prevost at rprevost@billingsgazette.com or 307-527-7250.

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