The Dickinson Press: Ode to the ole West: ‘Medora Musical’ returns

The Dickinson Press: Ode to the ole West: ‘Medora Musical’ returns

The following story by Jackie Jahfetson originally appeared in The Dickinson Press on June 16th, 2021:

With a little more than 90 minutes, a cast dazzled in rhinestone-western attire stand on stage and tell a romancing story of the Wild West, rehashing historical moments of Theodore Roosevelt’s old stomping grounds in the city of Medora.

The “Medora Musical” has returned to the Burning Hills Amphitheatre. Already more than six performances into the 2021 season, Director and Producer Curt Wollan noted that the show gets better each time the lights hit the stage.

“People love to come back because it’s so unique and different. There’s not a show like this anywhere in the country,” Curt Wollan said. “Maybe (there is) in Europe, but they don’t celebrate any political figures like Theodore Roosevelt… This is such a mixture of history (and) variety show and spectacle, and what they used to call ‘epic theater’ — which is when we do the charge of San Juan Hill. It’s huge. It’s stuff blowing up all over the place. So it’s so unique and it’s become such a tradition.”

Music is meshed with contemporary to older country, gospel, patriotic and North Dakota-themed songs. With the “Medora Musical” reining in its 56th year on stage, Curt Wollan said that it has changed due to the evolution of technology, making performances more slick and professional. Each year, the music changes, costumes are redesigned and sets vary. By incorporating a new theme with every summer show season, it allows for the musical to grow, he said. This year, the theme highlights the couples that settled in Medora and played a major role in making it the city that it is today.

“… People want to see what they like and they want to see some new stuff too. So the trick in all of this is trying to do a show (and) write a show that gives them a touch of everything — the charge of San Juan Hill, the patriotic finale, the fireworks, the horses, great Teddy quotes and speeches, singing, dancing, clogging and the great songs that have been written for this show in the past,” Curt Wollan said.

For an entire summer show season, Curt Wollan and his cast begin preparation already in the winter with script writing kicking off in January, followed by auditions — which all took place virtually this past audition season. Rehearsals are approximately one month long.

With his father being the director and producer of the show, Chet Wollan has been involved with the Medora Musical for 15 years along with his wife Candice Lively Wollan that’s returning to the stage for her 11th summer in Medora.

“I love that it’s different every year, so it makes it more interesting instead of a lot of the (other) places you go and you do the same show over and over again; it gets kind of boring. But out here, it’s got the same elephants… (yet) every year it’s got different songs and different people,” Chet Wollan said.

Being involved in the show is a way for the married couple actors to hone in on their craft, and coming back to Medora every summer is like a second home for the Wollans, who live a majority of the year at their home in Tennessee.

“Every year, with it being different, you get to shine in different ways. I don’t have the same solos every year, so that’s really nice to be able to do something different… Every year is a blessing,” Candice Lively Wollan said, who is a Burning Hills singer, company manager and dance captain.

Chet Wollan was a singer/dancer for nine years. Then six years ago, he hung up his dancing shoes to play the role of the host and spent four years alongside longtime entertainer Bill Sorenson. Now, Chet Wollan hosts the show with Annie Freres.

“I think people (will) take away that we’re doing a lot of history stuff this year (and) a lot of cool stories about a lot of different people that worked and lived out here. And actually how difficult it was back then to have the gumption to just do that,” Chet Wollan said.

What started back in 1965 is still relatable in today’s world, Curt Wollan noted.

“It’s a great escape. For a family taking a trip from Connecticut… on their way through Yellowstone, it’s super family-friendly. It’s a great stop on the way and with the park, fondue and all the interesting things to do here,” Curt Wollan said. “… (When) the buildings open up, revealing the Badlands, it’s so spectacular. You can’t paint that.”

For more information on the “Medora Musical” and to reserve tickets, visit

The Dickinson Press: ‘A love affair with Medora’: Marcils honored with Bully Spirit Award

The Dickinson Press: ‘A love affair with Medora’: Marcils honored with Bully Spirit Award

The following story by Jackie Jahfetson originally appeared in The Dickinson Press on June 12th, 2021:

William and Jane Marcil show off their Bully Spirit Award Saturday, June 12, 2021, at the Medora Community Center. The Marcils were awarded with the highest honor by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation and were the fourth recipients of the Bully Spirit Award. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press) 

When it comes to encapsulating the western heritage spirit that continues to shine in Medora, there is a long list of names that generously contributed to preserve the wild West. Of those who’ve maintained that “heart of the Bully Spirit,” William and Jane Marcil are at the top of the list who fell in love with Medora.

During a special ceremony of the Rough Riders Roundup, William and Jane Marcil were honored with the Bully Spirit Award Saturday, June 12, at the Medora Community Center. The Bully Spirit Award is the highest honor bestowed by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

As Marcil finished his receiving speech and thanked the foundation, he said to the crowd, “We just love this place.” His family smiled and cheered, including his son and now, CEO of Forum Communications Bill Marcil Jr. Holding the award in his hands, a standing ovation followed after Marcil’s speech.

“It’s overwhelming. It’s a wonderful award and we’re so proud to be recognized by the foundation,” Marcil said.

The Marcils started “this love affair with Medora” back in the ‘70s when they were introduced to Harold Schafer — a major benefactor to the city and a vision for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. For Marcil and his family, Medora became not only a summer spot for camping, but it was a destination.

In 1996, William and Jane Marcil joined the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. But as Marcil saw how the city was evolving, he saw that there was a need in Medora for all of its summer and full-time employees to congregate, grow and learn from each other. So in 2016, the Bill and Jane Marcil Life Skills Center was built with the donation of the Marcil family.

With ongoing projects and preservation efforts, Marcil said he sees the city as an enduring place that will live on for generations.

“I think it’s going to continue to grow. I think the fact that the Roosevelt Library will be out here will add traffic to the area. But I’m confident too, that the city will grow in a way that doesn’t take away from the heritage of what we’re looking at in Medora,” he said.

The western heritage that is preserved in the Badlands has continued to attract the Marcils over the years as they’d go horseback riding, lend a hand with the fall roundup and relive the old ways of the West.

“We’ve just enjoyed Medora and you fall in love with the Badlands and the people… Harold Schafer got us more involved,” he said, adding, “Jane and I both like the outdoors, so it’s just natural for us.”

The Bully Spirit Award was an idea that the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation was considering for a long time before it came to fruition, President Randy Hatzenbuhler said. Then four years ago, the foundation formalized the idea to give recognition to those who have played a major role in making Medora the place it is today, he noted.

Each year, the board that selects the honorees sifts through a long list of philanthropists, benefactors and volunteers, Hatzenbuhler said, adding that it is a “robust process.” From there, the board narrows the search down to four or five names and selects the honoree.

Though it is difficult to just pick one name from the list, Hatzenbuhler said he was thrilled when the board selected the Marcils.

“… I know that they love Medora; I know they love the people that are here in this room. So to be able to do that at a point that they could enjoy it, that felt really good to me,” Hatzenbuhler said.

Medora is a destination where President Theodore Roosevelt and Schafer spent their lives giving everything they had to the city, and it carries on with the Marcil family.

When asked where does the Bully Spirit Award sit on the mantle of other prestigious awards and recognitions, Marcil said, chuckling, “Oh, we’ll find a spot for this one. It will be up in the front row.”

Engelstad Foundation Awards $1 Million Lead Grant to New “Access Medora” Initiative

Gift to the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation kicks off new efforts to improve the Medora experience for people with disabilities.

(MEDORA, ND) – The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF) is pleased and humbled to announce the receipt of a $1 million kick-starting gift from the Engelstad Foundation to support a new “Access Medora” initiative – an initiative aimed at improving the Medora experience for guests with disabilities through creative, adaptive solutions and unique amenities in North Dakota’s #1 Tourist Destination.

The first project of the initiative is a pair of high-capacity elevators at the Burning Hills Amphitheatre dedicated to guests with mobility challenges. Currently, guests who require mobility assistance are shuttled in golf carts on a walkway shared with pedestrians, and on busy nights, can experience up to an hour wait for a ride out of the theater. These new, high-capacity elevators will take up to 12guests from the top level of the theater to the midlevel plaza, and back, and should reduce wait times to just a few minutes.

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Virtual Auditions Announced for Casting of 2021 Medora Musical

Virtual auditions now open for the 56th edition of the Medora Musical.

(Medora, ND) StageWest Entertainment Inc. in conjunction with the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, is pleased to announce virtual auditions for the 2021 Season of the Medora Musical  which has now entertained over four million people since its first showing in 1965.

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PODCAST: Bringing Teddy Roosevelt to Life with Joe Wiegand

We have some amazing people in Medora — it seems like the place has a gravitational pull for great talent and passionate people, maybe the most popular in history was THE Theodore Roosevelt.

Now, we celebrate the 26th President every day in Medora and at the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation . One of the very best combinations of great talent AND a connection to TR is our own Joe Wiegand, “Medora’s TR”.

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When you play, play hard.

When you play, play hard.
-Theodore Roosevelt

On behalf of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation thank you for your impactful gift to Point to Point Park!

With the generous lead gift of $2,000,000 from the Matt and JoAnn Butler Foundation as a matching grant challenge, we raised $6,114,227 for Point to Point Park. Through everyone’s combined efforts, the challenge was accepted and fulfilled! When you choose to get in the arena, together we accomplish big things in Medora!

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Medora Finds Creative Way to Spread Holiday Cheer With Livestream Christmas Show

Former traveling Christmas show finds a new way to share in communities across the state and beyond.

(Medora, ND) – The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF) is delighted to announce, in conjunction with three sold-out weekends of live shows in Medora, A Magical Badlands Christmas will be available for the first time ever through Livestream and On Demand platforms for folks to stream in their home when it’s convenient for them. 

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Schafer, Hatzenbuhler: A Thanksgiving Like None Other

Every organization and community faced the pandemic challenges of 2020; few can feel as fortunate as the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF).

Thanksgiving for Medora and TRMF has a historic dimension this year.

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Exciting announcement from the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library!

Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation Selects Snøhetta for Design Architect Commission of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora, North Dakota.

MEDORA, NORTH DAKOTA — The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation unanimously voted to select Snøhetta for the Design Architect commission of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. Snøhetta will design only the 15th presidential library in the nation. The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library will be located in Medora, North Dakota.

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So Far, Better Than Expected — Thank you!

A letter from Randy Hatzenbuhler, TRMF President

In an April video message we shared, I said that “when you’re ready, we’ll be here for you.” Today, I just want to say, “thank you.” Thank you to our visitors, to our board, our team and our partners, and to you, our members and supporters.

Thank you, not only for coming to Medora this summer with a few “ND Smart Restart” changes, but for your support, and for the courage you showed to help us all continue doing our good work here in Medora this year.

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