Theodore Roosevelt Dakota Datebook Podcasts

We at the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation are proud to support the independently-produced Dakota Datebook segments done in cooperation by Prairie Public Broadcasting, TR Repriser and historian, Steve Stark, and the North Dakota Humanities Council.

Theodore Roosevelt was one of the most influential and iconic Presidents in the history of the United States — and he believed that he would not have reached the heights he did, had it not been for his time here, in the Badlands of North Dakota.

Enjoy these weekly podcast installments shared with permission from our friends at Prairie Public Broadcasting.

Roosevelt and Lincoln

By PRAIRIE PUBLIC Feb 7, 2019

President Abraham Lincoln was a friend with Theodore Roosevelt’s parents. As a youngster at his grandfather’s house, young six-year-old “Teedie” (as he was called), witnessed Lincoln’s coffin procession along New York City’s Broadway.

Lincoln was TR’s presidential hero. Fittingly, these two venerated chief executives earned their destiny to be memorialized in stone, side by side on Mount Rushmore, representing two presidents unified in character and moral leadership.

Listen to episode 5

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Meet the cast of this year’s Medora Musical!

Hosts Chet Wollen and Bill Sorensen to lead star-studded Medora Musical cast made up of returning talent, new performers, and several North Dakota natives!

Each year thousands of performers audition at locations in North Dakota, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Florida to find the best talent for the Medora Musical. So let’s meet the cast!


The 2019 Medora Musical, Hosts


Chet Wollan, a Medora favorite is back to host the Medora Musical. Chet (pictured above) is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota but now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with Princess of the Prairie, Candice Lively Wollan. 

This will be Chet’s fourth year hosting the Medora Musical and his 13th year starring in the show. 


Bill Sorensen will return to the Medora Musical for his “final ride” co-hosting. Bill has been performing in Medora for the past 40 years as a magician, comedian, and entertainer. Don’t miss this dynamic duo together on stage this summer!

Read the full press release here about Bill Sorensen’s time in Medora, and what’s next for Wild Bill.

The Burning Hills Singers! 

Jessica Bradish is from Des Moines, Iowa and has starred as a vocal powerhouse in the Medora Musical for the past four years.

Andrea DeVriendt is making her Medora Musical debut from Madison, Wisconsin.

Rachel Endrizzi is coming from Cleveland, Ohio to make her debut as a Burning Hills Singer.

Misti Koop is a North Dakota native from Grand Forks and a fan favorite. She has starred as a Burning Hills Singer for the past six years with a number of featured roles during her time in the Medora Musical.

Kevin Korczynski is from Bel Air, Maryland. He has starred in the Medora Musical for seven seasons.

Taylor Leet, from Bismarck, North Dakota, is back! Taylor first starred in the Medora Musical in 2016 and is back for her fourth season.

Tryton Landsiedel, from Bismarck, North Dakota will star in his very first Medora Musical this year! Tryton has honed his skills as a Kat Perkins Rising Star Camper, then Junior Camp Director and is now ready to make his debut as a Burning Hills Singer.

Ben Massouras is from Phoenix, Arizona and first starred as a Burning Hills Singer last season.

Ken Quiricone comes to Medora from Stratford, Connecticut. This will be Ken’s eighth year as a Burning Hills Singer. Ken has played feature roles in the Medora Musical including the one and only, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt.

Gerry Williams is from Durham, North Carolina and previously starred in the Medora Musical in 2013 and 2014.

Candice Lively Wollan, the “Princess of the Prairie”, comes to us from Strawberry Plains, Tennessee for her ninth year as a Burning Hills Singer. Candice’s absolutely superb vocals have made her a fan favorite for years and audiences will again be graced by her talent in this year’s Medora Musical!

Jon Woodruff comes from White Bear Lake, Minnesota. He first made his debut in the Medora Musical last year and is back for another season of the “Greatest Show in the West!”

The Coal Diggers Band!

Andrew Crowe returns to the Medora Musical bandstand as the Bandleader and Fiddle player from Raleigh, North Carolina. Andrew also plays harmonica, guitar, and anything basically anything else you can think of. Hand him a hand saw – he’s played it before.

Junior Mercer is from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and is returning to the Medora Musical as the pedal steel player.

Perry Orfanella joins the Coal Diggers Band for his second season as the bass player from Carmel, New York.

Adam Vogel from Melrose, Minnesota returns as guitarist.

Carson Hooley joins the Coal Diggers Band as a drummer.

Travis Smith is coming from Columbus, Ohio to play keyboards and be the vocal captain.


2019 Featured Variety Acts

One of your old favorites accompanied by some new stars!

Every year the Medora Musical features top-notch entertainers from around the globe to wow the crowd – this year the ‘wow factor’ will be off the charts!

Jack Kalvan & Company | May 31 – June 14

As seen on TV! Sit back and enjoy a ridiculously fun evening with Hollywood’s favorite jugglers!

Jack Kalvan is part mad scientist, part world-class juggler. His wife Jeri is a circus artist and Hollywood stuntwoman. Together with their audaciously talented sons, they’ve created a one-of-a-kind show that ALL ages can enjoy together!

You’ll be on the edge of your seat and rolling on the floor laughing at the same time…if that’s possible!

Breaksk8 | June 15 – June 28

From America’s Got Talent, America’s Best Dance Crew, Shake it Up and more!

This roller skatin’, break dancin’, groovy gang has brought the hype to stages across the nation.

From the NBA to MTV, from Indiana to China and now Medora, this energetic rolling dance crew will bring favorite list Michael Jackson’s “Beat it” to life in an entertaining and fun show for the whole family!

John Cassidy | June 29 – August 10

The balloon master is back and better than ever!

John Cassidy is a professional comedian, magician, and balloon artist who holds several Guinness World Records® for balloon sculpting speed. His records include Most Balloon Sculptures Completed in One Hour and Most Balloon Sculptures Completed in One Minute.

He has appeared numerous times on television as either a stand-up comedian, magician, or as a Guinness Book of Records®celebrity. He has been a guest on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, NBC’s Today Show, and Live with Regis and Kelly!

C. Willi Myles | August 11 – September 7

Get ready to laugh! 

Comedian C. Willi Myles, “America’s Everyday Comedian,” has been combing his quick wit and a great sense of humor to deliver one of this country’s most high energy, side-splitting shows for all ages. “Keep ’em laughing” has been C Willi’s goal on the stage over the last 18 years and he isn’t about to stop now.

This standup comic will have Medora Musical fans laughing till the curtain drops on the 2019 season!


Here’s What’s Next in Medora: Point To Point Park

Originally Published in the 2019 Spring Newsletter

We’ve been looking at that big open space beside the Badlands Motel, as you first arrive in Medora, for many years, wondering “What would be the best use of that land?”

Finally, we’ve settled on an answer to that question: Welcome to Point to Point Park!

Named for Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite game, we’re creating a brand new place for families to enjoy the Badlands together—a perfect downtown Medora destination for adventurers of all ages.

The Park will have a combination of free and ticketed attractions, including all-new mini golf, Medora’s own “slant house,” a zero-entry pool and 400 foot long lazy river, a community splash pad, a kid-friendly “jump pillow,” and shade structures. And, what is sure to become one of Medora’s main attractions, a Badlands Zipline Ride.

We’ve been talking about a Medora Zipline ever since a few of the participants in our 2007 TRMF sponsored Panama Canal cruise tried one, on one of our cruise stops. We thought the North Dakota Badlands would be a perfect place for such an attraction. So here we go! The Zipline will run up and down the big butte behind the Badlands Motel.

The Point to Point Park will tuck in between the motel and the existing Children’s Park, as well as in the big vacant space beside the motel. It will be the first thing families see when they arrive in town, and for many it will be the first stop on their Medora adventure.

It’s the newest in a series of major investments in Medora to enhance and expand the experience our visitors and guests have.

The idea and concept is driven in large part by the longheld awareness of the need to create attractions and attractors for what we have come to call the “missing middle,” young people in their teens and their families. The new park is just the attraction young families and grandparents have been waiting for.

This park will also encourage the “more adventurous” members of the family to experience the picturesque buttes by taking a marked climbing route to the top of the Badlands overlooking Historic Medora, where they’ll find native geology and vegetation, and the park may one day showcase the remarkable personalities of Medora through statues or other historic preservation ideas.

It will also offer the community and its visitors nearly 100 new paved parking spaces. Although geared toward a younger crowd, the entire experience will be enjoyed and utilized by young and old.

It will be a place to socialize, to relax, to exercise and simply play together, surrounded by the beauty of the Badlands and the history of Medora.

As with our other major projects, we’re seeking sponsors for this new attraction. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Joslyn Tooz, our Major Gifts Officer at: 701-223-4800, or e-mail her at joslynt@medora.com

To read the rest of the Spring 2019 Newsletter follow this link.

Bill Sorensen’s Final Ride

Long-time Medora entertainer to co-host the Medora Musical for a final time

(MEDORA, ND) Bill Sorensen is a household name around Medora, and this summer, you’ll get to see him on stage at the Medora Musical one last time, co-hosting for his final season alongside a star-studded cast.

“Medora has been a place of great importance to me. I watched my daughters grow up here, I myself have grown in this place with these people, and whether I’m performing for five people of 2,000 people I am always grateful for the experience,” remarks Bill.

Bill first stepped on stage as co-host in 2013 with Queen of the West, Emily Walter. One of his favorite memories of co-hosting came from him sharing the stage with Emily. One hot night they were performing a scene in which Emily shot his pants off and come to find out he had forgotten to wear his long johns underneath that night – he says he has never seen Emily laugh that hard while on stage.

Bill began a battle with cancer which removed him from the stage for the 2016 season but in 2017 he returned guns a blazin with a new co-host, Chet Wollan. He and Chet have a natural on stage chemistry that is the perfect mix of humorous and playful.

“Sometimes Chet gets this little glimmer in his eye and it reminds me of when he was a little kid and I just think to myself, here we go, we’re going off script,” Bill recalls.

While this is his last season in the Medora Musical, he plans to still be around this awesome little place in different roles. In 2015 he started the hit Magical Medora Christmas show that tours during the holiday season and this summer, he is opening a brand new attraction, “Perception: a Magical Slant House” for kids and families in Medora. Bill’s partner in this attraction is “High Diving Fool”, Don Otto. The two met many years ago when Don was a featured variety act in Medora and they have had the idea for this addition since.

“We both love illusions and tricking the brain and that is exactly what this experience will be. Showing people that their perception is the difference between the truth and what their mind is believing will make this attraction in Medora so much different than anything that already exists there,” says Bill.

Beyond his work in Medora, Bill has held some unique jobs such as his time spent managing boxing champion, Virgil Hill and working with folks like Don King. He founded the Bismarck Wizards Basketball team; and was the Mayor of Bismarck for 12 years.

Bill is excited for his final season as a co-host of the Medora Musical and looks forward to the ways he will continue impacting Medora in the future.

The full cast, band, and featured variety acts of the Medora Musical will be released next week.

Sheriff Bear Leaves Medora

Breaking News

In a twist of unforeseen events Sheriff Bear has announced his resignation from the Medora Musical. Sheriff Bear has been with the show since the early 2000 and is the longest recurring cast member to date.

Sheriff Bear being poked fun at by current Medora Musical host Chet Wollen.


Official Sheriff Bear translator, Ken Quiricone says that Sheriff Bear says, “After being passed up over and over for host of the Medora Musical and as a member of the clog I have decided to follow my dreams elsewhere.”

Sheriff Bear is heading to New York City to pursue his dreams of performing ballet and continuing his sheriff background as a horse mounted officer in Central Park.

Published April 1st – the most foolish day of them all!

Women of Medora: Emily Walter

This article was originally posted in Inspired Women Magazine and was written by Stephanie Fong.

Emily Walter has spent a three-decade career traveling the world as a professional vocalist and actor. She’s served as a singer in the U.S. Air Force Band, entertained in shows on cruise ships, and —among many other things — has personified the title of Medora’s “Queen of the West.”

Her first professional job in music materialized after enlisting in the United States Air Force.

“My position as a vocalist with The Strategic Air Command Band was my first full-time singing job. I was just out of college and I never dreamed that I would become a veteran of The Desert Band, performing for the troops in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. It was an incredible honor and my training in the SAC Band critically developed the musical, professional, and disciplinary skills I have to this day. I couldn’t have had better training,” Emily says.

Fast forward to the early 1990s, when Emily wowed fans of the Medora Musical as a Burning Hills Singer best known for crooning Patsy Cline tunes each night under a starry Western sky.

Emily Walter is third from the left.

“I sang my first Patsy Cline song on the Burning Hills Amphitheatre stage in 1993. It was ‘Sweet Dreams.’ The response was so overwhelming that the following year, the producer gave me a choice between ‘Crazy’ and ‘She’s Got You.’ I chose the latter,” Emily recalls.

Those successful summers singing Patsy Cline in Medora led to something bigger that holds a major place on Emily’s resume — the Patsy Cline estate named her one of the few entertainers approved to portray Patsy Cline, leading to performance tours across the country and internationally. She continued to perform in a variety of genres and locations, adhering to her personal formula for success: hard work, dedication to her craft, and willingness to travel.

SHE CAME HOME TO NORTH DAKOTA

Emily returned to Medora in 2010 to host the Medora Musical, and the character she portrayed that year soon became a part of her identity for years to come.

“When I returned to Medora nearly two decades after my time as a Burning Hills singer, the producer Curt Wollan and I were talking about me taking the host position in the Medora Musical, and he popped out with, ‘Emily Walter; Queen of the West!’ I loved it from that very moment,” Emily says.

Emily’s “Queen of the West” character combined the elegance of a pageant queen — complete with tiara-clad cowgirl hat and sequined gowns — with the strength of an Air Force veteran and the voice of a Broadway star. Little girls attending the Medora Musical soon started buying and wearing pink cowgirl hats with tiaras, becoming Queens of the West in their own right. 
“That was my favorite tie to the show…seeing a child walking downtown in their ‘Queen of the West’ hat! I can’t tell you how many photos were taken in those hats. Sometimes they would show up with one they’d had for five years, and it looked so loved,” Emily says.

HER OWN LOVE STORY

And at the current point in her incredible journey, Emily has found herself planting deeper roots in Medora, explaining: “I fell in love with Medora in 1993. I fell in love in Medora in 2011.”

Of her own Medora love story, Emily puts it simply.

“I enjoyed (the traveling performer) life very much, and it enabled me to see the entire world doing what I loved, but when I met Rolf (Sletten) in 2011, I was ready to slow down. The result was that I truly ‘came home to Medora,’” Emily says.

Rolf Sletten was the Bully Spirit Award winner for 2019 – this is the highest honor the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation awards.

After hosting the Medora Musical for several seasons, Emily took on new challenges as part of the Medora team — helping launch and grow Medora’s popular Gospel Brunch and the Magical Medora Christmas Tour. 
In addition to these popular Medora productions, Emily continues to pursue other favorite projects including Patsy Cline and Karen Carpenter Tribute shows and performances with the Bismarck/Mandan and Bemidji (Minnesota) Symphony Orchestras.

Whatever musical project she is dedicated to, and wherever travels with Rolf take her, Emily continues to embody the Queen of West role. 
“It’s just me, that Queen of the West persona,” Emily says. “Me, with close ties to the town, the music, the people, the history, and the legacy that Harold and Sheila Schafer built. Rolf wrote two books about Medora and Theodore Roosevelt. This stunning place is deeply embedded in both of us and it’s great to share that passion together.”


Interview with TRMF Business Member, Railway Credit Union

We sat down with Railway Credit Union President, Paul Brucker to get his thoughts on what Medora has done for his company, creating a workplace people want to work at, and what he learned from his parents.

Paul Brucker, President of Railway Credit Union


Paul, why join the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation Business Membership Program?

Being a patriotic ND based business, Railway Credit Union (RCU) initially joined the TR Medora Foundation because it seemed like the right thing to do.

It was not until later that we realized the benefits that the membership provided to our credit union members, staff, and volunteers.

It has been a great benefit to be able to send four folks to the musical every night throughout the season.  We have also used the golf passes as a thank you to our credit union volunteers who enjoy golf. 

How was the program received by your employees and customers?

Our employees, volunteers and members have all enjoyed the opportunity to attend the Medora Musical as a benefit of being a part of our credit union family as RCU is a member of the Foundation. 

We have also hosted bus trips for our Senior Express Club at the credit union. It is always one of our most popular destinations and a great goodwill experience for being a part of our credit union’s Senior Express Club. 

Any noticeable benefits?

Visiting Medora and attending the many wonderful events is like stepping back in time while getting back out in nature amidst the badlands.  It is always a patriotic, refreshing and rewarding experience that everyone looks forward to while recharging their work & life batteries.

Railway Credit Union teammates enjoying a day of fun!


Now for a little more about Railway Credit Union. What should people know about RCU that they can’t find out on your website?

We are a financial family striving to build individual solutions for all of our members to lead them to achieve financial success while enriching their lives.

From what I’ve seen and heard, you have a great company culture. Why prioritize this?

At RCU we work hard and we play hard.  We are always looking forward to some fun team-building activities to blow off a little steam and have some fun.  We did hold a staff “goofy” Olympic competition that we had broadcast over our web site. It was awesome and drew a huge audience.

We gotta hear a little about you personally. What’s the best lesson your parents taught you?

Honesty, Integrity, and hard work can carry you a long way in life.

Is there a set back in your life that set you up for your future success?

I had an issue with my hip that landed me in a wheelchair and on crutches for a year around 1st grade. 

This threw me head first into adversity and social challenges, as I had to figure out how to deal with that and still try to be a normal kid.  Fortunately, my hip healed over time, and I learned a lot about life through those lessons during the process.

What was it like to lead the merger with Genie-Watt Credit Union?

A business merger is like a marriage, you need a lot of upfront honesty, transparency, and hard work to make it work successfully.  If things digress and you end up with an us vs them situation, trouble will soon follow. 

We have been fortunate to have had many successful mergers that have greatly expanded RCU’s footprint in the Bismarck – Mandan area over that past 10 years.

This summer, we’ll share this conversation with over 300 seasonal employees from all over the world — many of them on the cusp of joining the workforce. Any advice?

Find something you enjoy doing or discover what is your life’s passion.  Chase it hard through your education, then on into the work world.  Once there, realize the only way to move forward in your career path is through honesty and a driven work ethic. 

Go above and beyond the minimum requirements your job calls for. Realize there is no one there waiting to anoint you to the next coming executive. This is only achieved through what you bring to the table each and every day through hard work.

Thanks for taking the time to talk, Paul. If you want to learn more about becoming a Business Member like Railway Credit Union get ahold of Annual Giving Director, Daniel Gannarelli at danialg@medora.com or 701.223.4800

Want to learn more about Railway Credit Union, check out their website here and their Facebook Page here!

Get to Know Your TRMFamily

Meet Annual Personal Members, Char and Duey Marthaller

With over 1,200 Annual Personal and Business Members, the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation is a large family. So large that many of you may have never met another Annual Member.

As a “family that values family”, we can’t let this stand! Which is why we invite you to sit down and get to know Char and Duey Marthaller of Mandan, ND.

Besides being Annual Members since 2012, Char and Duey have shared their wood working talents on a number of Medora projects. Most recently they refurbished the Sheila Schafer Wishing Well in 2017 (pictured above).

Their passion for Medora inspires our staff of over 350 each and every summer. Get to know this wonderful couple below.

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2019 Medora Musical Auditions!

Auditions are coming up at the end of January, don’t miss your chance to star in the Greatest Show in the West, the Medora Musical! Performed live and outside 100 nights in a row this western musical complete with history, live animals, fireworks, and some good ‘ol downhome country music is a show unlike any other!

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