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Crowd members react to skier John Chase falling on the Sheridan WYO Winter Rodeo skijoring course Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020.

If this weekend were a country song, I would title it “I’d rather be skijoring,” because that’s what we should be doing today — hosting the third edition of what has already become a beloved winter classic. But hey, c’est la vie. I’m not going to cry into my whiskey over COVID this, 2020 that. We’re through looking back! Life goes on, and we will be back in 2022 with an even bigger, wilder weekend of winter action. For now, we have plenty of exciting things to look forward to in 2021.

What type of things, you might ask? Things you know and love but have not been able to experience for a long while. Tentpole events like the Bighorn Mountain Trail Run, Sheridan WYO Rodeo and the Dead Swede are set to return this year. That is great news — our local travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 1,000 people in this community, and it’s exciting to imagine a day where we’re once again helping to power the local economy.

There’s an apprehensive energy about town at the moment; I believe that it’s due in part to the decline in the number of cases of COVID in the community and the state, and a sense that we could be “back to normal” before too long. I hope that’s the case! Our team has been gearing up for Season 2 of “The Backyard”; we’ve been working with production companies creating features on Sheridan County attractions for both Netflix and Amazon; we’re doing all we can to prepare to welcome the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association convention in June. Our fingers are crossed that the vaccine rollout continues to move forward, and that by the late spring the world is spinning at full speed.

Speaking of “The Backyard,” we have decided to come back with a second season after the success of the first. We’ve been thrilled with the analytics data that has rolled in, and I wanted to share some if it with the community at large.

To date, we have released 10 episodes and three trailers for our streaming web series.

From July through December 2020, “The Backyard” received 466,189 impressions and 115,873 views on YouTube, and 841,967 impressions on Facebook (representing an increase in engagement of +175% year-over-year). Our Madden Media/Wyoming Office of Tourism Summer Insert Campaign received 2,339,148 impressions. Our Charter Spectrum ads received more than 275,000 views, per month. Wyoming Public Radio’s “Modern West” podcast, which we sponsored, was downloaded 395,905 times in September 2020 alone.

Campaigns with Lonely Planet and Outside Magazine put a few million more eyes on this program. All in all, “The Backyard” allowed our community to stand out in a crowded marketplace featuring ubiquitous safe travel messaging at a time when it was vital to be unique. Subsequent lodging and economic data show that we’ve outperformed regional competitors by a wide margin, and that we’re well on our way to recovering fully — and, for the most part, this community is doing a great job of doing it safely. That’s great news, and reason to be optimistic about 2021.

Shawn Parker is executive director of Sheridan County Travel and Tourism. 

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