The Dickinson Press: Medora shines light on Johnny Cash with special Broadway musical

The following story by Jackie Jahfetson appeared in the September 21, 2021 edition of The Dickinson Press:

The Broadway musical made its way to the Western Edge, where a schedule of nearly a month-long series of showings is expected to shed light on the man in black. “Ring of Fire” will continue through Oct. 10, with live performances at 7:30 p.m. MDT each day from Wednesday to Saturday, and with a special 2 p.m. MDT on Sundays at the Old Town Hall Theater in Medora.

Actor Dorian Chalmers noted in an interview with The Press before opening night, that not many people understand all of the struggles and trials Johnny Cash went through in his life. 

“I think a lot of it is his honesty about his life because we’re telling his story through his songs… He’s being really honest about what he’s done and what he’s experienced in his life through his music, so I think that’s why his songs touch people because they identify with that honesty,” Chalmers said.

Throughout the theatrical production, the cast reveals how the musical legend crafted his heartfelt songs through the experience of loss and pain, such as losing his older brother Jack after he was seriously injured from a table saw accident as well as overcoming pill addiction. 

“When someone falls down and struggles in life but then kicks themselves back up, that’s always inspiring to people too. So I think that’s probably an important part of his story also. And the fact that he and June went through a lot and they stuck it out,” Chalmers said. 

Through hits such as “Cry Cry Cry” carved a rockabilly sound that would inspire several acts to follow in the country music industry, actor Tim Drake noted. With “universal themes” of love, loss and humor, Johnny Cash had a way to spin a situation he dealt with into a motivational message. 

“His songs are all songs that people can relate to,” Drake said, adding, “… He plays in different genres (such as) rockabilly and a while back… he reimagined the Nine Inch Nails’ song ‘Hurt’ with Rick Rubin and it was a big big hit that they did together.”

Johnny Cash’s 1974 spoken song “Ragged Old Flag” — which was penned following the political turbulence resulting in Nixon’s impeachment and the Watergate scandal — is highlighted within the “Ring of Fire” musical. Performed by Drake, the song tells the story of an American flag and the trails it has gone down. With its patriotic lyrics and sentimental simplicity, Drake’s performance of “Ragged Old Flag” left many in a standing ovation on opening night. 

“I just love this show, it’s so much fun to do… We rarely don’t get standing ovations with this show. Because it’s impressive to people to see (actors) moving around, playing different instruments, dancing and singing at the same time,” he said. “… And it’s Johnny’s music so you can’t go wrong with that.” 

Tickets can be purchased at medora.com, or at any location in Medora that tickets are sold.

Relive the 2021 Medora Hot Air Balloon Rally & Badlands Kite Fest!

The final weekend of the Medora Musical had us looking skyward.

We sent off summer in Medora in a picture-perfect way: by inviting kite fliers of all skill levels to the 5th Annual Badlands Kite Fest. Watch the video above to meet a few of the kite lovers who made the weekend special!

And on Sunday, September 12th, we were treated to another colorful sight: the 18th Annual Medora Hot Air Balloon Rally!

Although less-than-ideal weather conditions required the balloons to be tethered to the ground for safety, it still made for an amazing finale to what was a wonderful summer in the Badlands. Enjoy a few photos below!

Celebrating a record year at the Pitchfork Steak Fondue… with a pitchfork!

The Pitchfork Steak Fondue in Medora has come a long way in the last 50 years.

What started with a single pot in the back of a truck has grown to become a big, nightly undertaking. We’ve gotten used to serving thousands of tasty steaks fondue-style each summer. But we’ve never had a summer like this!

For the first time in our history, we served more than 50,000 steaks at the Pitchfork Steak Fondue in a single summer in 2021—50,383, to be exact!

So to celebrate the milestone, we decided to give away a very special gift to the lucky 50,000th guest: an authentic Pitchfork Steak Fondue pitchfork. (Don’t worry, we deep cleaned it!) Have a watch!

2021 Summer Wrap-Up: Thank You from TRMF!

2021 Summer Wrap-Up: Thank You from TRMF!

Another summer has come to an end in Medora. But it was one we won’t soon forget.

In 2021, we had a celebration in Medora. We took hikes on a brand-new trail. We ate a whole lot of steak at the Pitchfork Steak Fondue. We made memories with our loved ones. We returned to old traditions, and even started some new ones.

And of course, we enjoyed the Greatest Show in the West. In fact, 123,992 people saw the Medora Musical this summer—our second-highest attendance ever.

To say thank you to everyone who made it such a memorable few months in Medora, we put a quick video together, featuring many faces of TRMF.

Enjoy—and we’ll see you again soon!

Media Roundup: Approaching the 2021 Medora Musical Finale, and the Fun Continues this Fall!

If you’ve been watching or reading the news in North Dakota in the last few days, you might have caught a mention or two about Medora recently!

So in case you missed it, here’s a roundup of recent stories featuring the Medora Musical and other fun events we have planned.


KFYR-TV aired a feature on “Fall Fun In Medora” on September 4th:

“The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation says this summer was one of the two best ever for visitors.

“‘If there’s one upside from 2020 and that people realized how much they enjoyed getting outside together, getting the hiking boots out, dusting off the mountain bikes, thinking about national parks and camping and doing those things as a family. I think the passion was really ignited for many and we saw that happen a lot in Medora,’ said Justin Fisk, Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.”


The Bismarck Tribune highlighted TRMF on September 6th in its piece “Medora Musical eyes near-record attendance year; attractions to see upgrades”:

Accessibility improvements are gaining steam at foundation attractions, part of a new initiative called Access Medora for upgrades in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One project added an ADA-compliant ramp and accessible restrooms to the Old Town Hall Theatre. 

A $1.4 million project will add a dual, high-capacity elevator to the amphitheatre. Plans are to begin construction this fall and finish in spring 2022.

You can read more about our Access Medora initiative here. The high-capacity elevator will allow guests with mobility needs to enter the Burning Hills Amphitheatre much more quickly and efficiently. We’re grateful to The Engelstad Foundation for leading the way with a $1 million gift to get this project underway!


Then on September 8th, KX News featured the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation in its KX Conversation segment. We discussed the Medora Musical, the upcoming Medora Hot Air Balloon Rally & Badlands Kite Fest, and Ring of Fire, a musical set to open on September 15th in Medora:

“If you like the Man in Black, there’ll be something here for you! Ring of Fire has about two dozen of his songs. It tells stories of family and perseverance—and has a really incredible cast. If you like the music of the Medora Musical, you can expect that caliber of talent singing music from Johnny Cash. We’ll keep the fun going into the fall in Medora!” said Tim Olson, Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.


We’ve Achieved Our 2021 Medora Musical Attendance Goal!

Thursday, August 26th, 2021 was a red-letter day in Medora, North Dakota.

To most anyone, it might have seemed like any other day. Guests were greeted. Tickets were scanned. Folks headed onto the escalator, descended into the theatre, and enjoyed another night of the Greatest Show in the West.

So what made it so special? Well, on Thursday, we sold our 115,000th ticket to the Medora Musical—and for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, that marks a huge success. It means we’ve reached our 2021 attendance goal, and we still have a whole lot of shows left!

After what was an unusual year in 2020, it was truly amazing to see so many of our friends return to their summer tradition in 2021. If you made it to the Medora Musical this summer, thank you.

If not—or if you’re itchin’ for an encore—now’s your chance to help us make history! With a few more big weekends at the Medora Musical2021 could go down as our #1 highest attended summer ever!

So from all of us at TRMF: thanks for making this summer so special, and we hope to see you again real soon!

Episode 5 of the Wisdom Chain Podcast: Daniel Gannarelli on the Wisdom Chain in Medora and on the Hockey Rink

Episode 5 of the Wisdom Chain Podcast: Daniel Gannarelli on the Wisdom Chain in Medora and on the Hockey Rink

How do words become wisdom?

How does wisdom become character?

To trace the answers to these questions and more, TRMF Development Team Member Daniel Gannarelli spoke to round out the first annual Wisdom Chain Day in Medora on June 15th, 2021.

In this final episode of our miniseries, the Wisdom Chain Podcast, hear Daniel explain how the Wisdom Chain Philosophy has come to life in his work, not only in Medora, but as a hockey coach.

And don’t forget to listen to the first four episodes of the Wisdom Chain Podcast, and hear from all of the great speakers who joined us in Medora to share their wisdom, leadership, and character!

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Episode 4 of the Wisdom Chain Podcast: Pastor Gerald Sharon on the Key to Unlocking Your Preferred Future

Episode 4 of the Wisdom Chain Podcast: Pastor Gerald Sharon on the Key to Unlocking Your Preferred Future

Why are you doing what you’re doing?

It might sound like a simple question, but it’s actually one of the most important things we can ask ourselves—at work, at home, and in every facet of our lives.

That’s the message that Pastor Gerald Sharon had to share with the audience at Wisdom Chain Day in Medora. And it’s the key point of the latest episode of the Wisdom Chain Podcast, available now wherever you listen to podcasts!

Gerald Sharon is a world-renowned faith leader who has led congregations as small as twenty and as large as twenty-thousand. He made the trip from California to deliver his message in Medora—and we think you’ll really enjoy it.

Remember to subscribe to the podcast at the links below, and listen to our previous episodes if you haven’t already!

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The Medora WISH: Thousands of families feel the impact this summer!

The Medora Wish Endowment is one of our fastest-growing and impactful funds at the TR Medora Foundation.

Why? Because in just a few short years, it’s helped thousands of kids see the Medora Musical and other attractions in Medora free of charge!

Take a few minutes to watch this story of how the Medora WISH began. Meet its founders—and some very special WISH recipients from 2021—and learn just how much greater its impact could be in the future!

Episode 3 of The Wisdom Chain Podcast: Laurel Nelson on the Code of the West

Episode 3 of The Wisdom Chain Podcast: Laurel Nelson on the Code of the West

In the stairwell of the Life Skills Center, our headquarters in Medora, a lovely mural greets employees and guests:

It displays “The Code of the West,” a set of ten guidelines for living inspired by the “cowboy ethics” of the Wild West. But there’s a lot that can be said for each of these tenets—much more than could fit on a wall!

So we hope you enjoy the third episode of The Wisdom Chain Podcast, a presentation by entrepreneur and TRMF Board of Directors member Laurel Nelson. It’s all about the Code of the West, and how we can apply it to our lives at work and at home.

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