Posts by TRMF

Construction of Accessible Elevator at Burning Hills Amphitheatre Has Begun!

Construction of Accessible Elevator at Burning Hills Amphitheatre Has Begun!

The Burning Hills Amphitheatre in Medora isn’t exactly a busy destination in December, but we sure are excited about some activity that’s underway there this winter!

Ground-moving and construction work is officially underway on a high-capacity elevator—a major piece of our Access Medora initiative. Here are a few photos of the project as it stands in early December:

And here’s a rendering of how the elevator will look once it’s complete:

This project is incredibly important to us at the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. Why? Because it’s set to vastly improve the Medora Musical experience for guests with mobility challenges.

For years, those guests have depended on golf carts to enter and exit the amphitheatre. The carts shared a walkway designed for pedestrian traffic and becomes too congested when shared with carts. On busy nights, the wait to exit the amphitheatre can be as long as 45 to 60 minutes.

But once our high-capacity elevator is installed and ready, wait times will be drastically reduced—and the experience for our guests with mobility and sensory needs will be much improved. It will provide a safer, quicker, more enjoyable way to get into and out of the Burning Hills Amphitheatre.

We can’t wait to watch this project unfold over the coming months. And we’re grateful to the Engelstad Foundation, which provided a generous gift of $1 million to get the elevator project off the ground!

Click here to visit the TRMF website and learn more about Access Medora.

“It Never Felt Like Work”: UND Alumni Magazine features TRMF President Randy Hatzenbuhler

“It Never Felt Like Work”: UND Alumni Magazine features TRMF President Randy Hatzenbuhler

Friends of Medora will see a familiar face in the pages of the latest University of North Dakota Alumni Magazine:

The President of our organization (and 1985 UND graduate), Randy Hatzenbuhler, shared his journey to the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation—and why 34 years later, he’s still in love with Medora.


“You’re going to die in Medora.”

That was Randy Hatzenbuhler’s wife’s blunt assessment after he gave a third three-year commitment to continue working for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF). The nonprofit organization runs the Medora Musical and dozens of other business enterprises in the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota.

Now, after nearly 34 years with the organization, Randy, ’85, admits with a chuckle that she may have been right.

“I knew at that point (after six years with the organization) that I loved it,” said Randy. “It’s more work than people might understand, but it never felt like work. Hours didn’t matter. You are in a place where people are having fun. They love being here and you’re getting to help take care of them.”


That’s just a snippet of the UND Alumni Magazine’s piece. Click here to read the entire feature story on Randy!

Rise Up: Celebrating Our TRMF Volunteers—and the Bright Days Ahead in Medora

“You are the embodiment of every value that the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation holds dear.”

That message from TRMF Volunteer Coordinator Peg Gunther was central to the 2021 Volunteer Appreciation Events, held in Fargo and Medora at the beginning of October.

The events—with the theme “We Rise”—capped what was a historic summer in Medora, largely thanks to the tremendous help of more than 600 passionate volunteers.

After months of wonderful work by these folks, we were glad to have the opportunity to serve them—to share laughter, memories, music, gratitude, and good news.

Good news like this: a $100,000 challenge donation from Dr. Lana and Warren Schlecht to pay for renovations at the Spirit of Work Lodge for volunteers in Medora!

Volunteers also heard the great news that longtime volunteer Marlene Hoffart made a significant six-figure donation to put Point to Point Park over the finish line—and ensure the new addition of a lazy river, a splash pad, pickleball courts, and much more is ready for families to enjoy by summer of 2022!

We also had the pleasure of sharing some special volunteers’ own stories with the group. They heard from Mike Johnson, a 15-year volunteer with a passion for sharing Medora with children:

And they heard the emotional story of Lonnie Bonner, who suffered a stroke in February—then persevered to volunteer for her 15th year in Medora:

At the conclusion of the events, Peg Gunther reminded our volunteers that they defy all preconceptions. “Many of us are retired or semi-retired, and at a stage in our lives where we can be made to feel like our best years are behind us,” Gunther said. “Well look around! You blow that stereotype out of the water.”


It’s impossible to overstate how much TRMF values its devoted team of volunteers. We can’t wait to see you all again in 2022!

Here’s a message of thanks to our volunteers on behalf of the whole Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation Team:

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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