A crew works to add the final piece to the now-permanent drive-in movie screen Wednesday, June 3, 2020, at Terry Bison Ranch. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Have no fear, entertainment seekers – this local arts and culture drought has ended. Terry Bison Ranch is about to have a permanent drive-in theater on its premises.

Hamilton Byrd of Blue Pig Presents held the company’s first physical distancing-friendly screening at the ranch May 9, and it was so popular, he held a second May 23.

Both events sold so many tickets Byrd realized there’s a need for this kind of safe entertainment in Laramie County. So, he teamed up with the ranch to ensure these types of events can be held for months, and even years, to come.

“Terry Bison Ranch is really fronting the bill – they’ve got the crew and resources and equipment necessary (to build the platform and stage),” Byrd said. “And my project has been acquiring one of these insanely expensive projectors.”

The previous rented screen was only six feet off the ground, but this new permanent screen will be twice as high and thus improve visibility for all the cars, he said. The screen itself will be 48 feet wide by 20 feet tall, and the projected image will be 40 feet by 20 feet.

In front of the screen, there will be a 40-foot-wide stage for both local and potentially big-name acts to play on – Byrd said he’s got some exciting partnerships in the works, but can’t announce anything quite yet (but should be within the next week or so).

“We’re really excited to have a band come on it … We’ve got offers on national acts to come through as soon as this month,” Byrd added.

The ultimate goal is for Blue Pig Presents to host a drive-in event every Friday and Saturday night this summer, with the Friday night installments focusing on more family content, such as animated and other kid-friendly movies.

Saturdays, Byrd said, will hopefully be geared toward an adult crowd, and will rotate through several genres of both film and music. This Saturday’s event will feature a concert by local country artist Randy Burghardt, followed by a free screening of either “Grease” or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” depending on which wins the Facebook event poll.

If they can swing it, Byrd said he’d love to even get some newer releases and not stick to the classic movies Blue Pig has been screening lately.

Beyond this summer, he’s already thinking about the potential of what 2021 can bring. If they successfully host a national act in the next few months, for example, he thinks the ranch’s drive-in could become more of an amphitheater-esque venue for some familiar faces in the future.

“We hope by next summer we can do big outdoor concerts with a few thousand people,” he said.

Rica Robinson of Terry Bison said she’s ecstatic about what this drive-in could do for the ranch. She’s thankful to Blue Pig Presents for encouraging people to come out during a time when food and entertainment establishments are struggling, and noted that Byrd even gave her the idea for a Friday night bonfire concert series that will kick off this month.

“We’re super excited to be able to bring the community together in these crazy, trying times,” Robinson said. “And retro is so in, it’s a thing. People love it, and we keep hearing about how we might have this next wave again and how this (pandemic) isn’t going away anytime soon, so why not provide something on a more permanent basis?”

These events offer an escape from reality while still allowing people to distance themselves from others, she added, and the venue is unique because concertgoers can come early and hop on the bison train, fish, grab a meal at the steakhouse or take an ATV ride.

“Being able to put everything aside, socially distance, but with community,” she said of why these events are important. “It’s a break, and it’s still kind of off the grid.”

Niki Kottmann is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s features editor. She can be reached at nkottmann@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3135. Follow her on Twitter at @niki_mariee.

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