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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
“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.
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.”
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, 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.
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 701.223.4800
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!
Women of Medora features inspiring women who have made an impact on the world through their time living and working in Medora.
Candice Lively Wollen, an Inspiring Woman
Candice Lively Wollan may be a Tennessee girl at heart, but North Dakotans have warmly claimed her as one of their own since she began performing as a Burning Hills Singer in the Medora Musical in 2009. (In fact, when the Musical rolled out a newly penned song about North Dakota in 2011, Candice was chosen to sing the ballad night after night—if every single North Dakotan who heard her sing “Always North Dakota” didn’t get a little choked up and want to invite her home for a hotdish dinner, then I don’t know what’s wrong with them…)
Last performances of the Medora Musical, and the Medora Gospel Brunch season mark transition to brand-new fall and winter events
(Medora, ND) – The summer season in Medora comes to its wonderful conclusion this Saturday and Sunday when the Medora Musical wraps up September 8 and the Medora Gospel Brunch closes on September 9.
In celebration of finale weekend, TRMF has invited First Responders (police, fire fighters, etc.) and EMS personnel to see the Medora Musical for FREE on either September 7 or September 8.
TRMF marketing and communications specialist, Daniel Gannarelli says, “We’re excited to host First Responders and EMS personnel for free during the last two Medora Musical performances of the year. They serve us so well in their respective capacities. It’s the least we could do.”
Gannarelli continued, “The end of the year is always an exciting time in Medora. It’s fun to serve guests from all over the world who are trying to take in one more show — whether it’s seeing A TR Salute to Medora at the Old Town Hall Theater, the Medora Gospel Brunch or, most typically, catching one more Medora Musical at the Burning Hills Amphitheatre.
Finale weekend in Medora will also feature the 15th Annual Medora Hot Air Balloon Rally and Kite Fest September 7 – 9. This traditional event that brings in photographers and guests from across the region to view the mesmerizing spectacle.
The fun continues after the season finale of the Medora Musical, too.
Bully Pulpit Golf Course remains open through most of the month of October, and enthusiasts can enjoy the Maah Daah Hey Trail and activities in Theodore Roosevelt National Park all year. Additionally, a full schedule of family-friendly events is planned for folks to enjoy the Badlands throughout the fall and winter season.
Many of the events coming from suggestions from guests in Medora, the schedule of entertainment and events is as follows:
The Fall and Winter events schedule is as follows:
September 21 & 22: Church of Cash concert in Medora
September 22 – 27: Maah Daah Hey 150 Mountain Bike Race
September 29: Medora’s Beer and Bacon Event, hosted by Little Missouri Chiropractic
October 26 & 27: Wild West Fright Fest and Haunted House
November 17: Wine and Dine — a Theodore’s Dinning Room Event
November 30 & December 1: A Magical Medora Christmas Show LIVE in Medora (full tour November 24 – December 22)
December 7 – 9: Medora’s Old-Fashioned Cowboy Christmas
December 15: Bold St. Nick’s Fat Bike Race
February 8 & 9: Romance in Medora — a Valentine’s Day Event
Winter Shows at the Old Town Hall Theater — To Be Announced
Gannarelli concluded by saying, “These fall and winter events are the highlights. But folks from all over come to Medora in the fall to explore TR National Park without the crowds… or play Bully Pulpit when it’s at its prettiest.”
“In the winter, many love to snow shoe, cross country ski, ride fat bikes on the manicured trails at Bully Pulpit. With this entertainment lineup added to the mix, there really is more to explore in Medora than ever before.”
Guest can get more information about Medora’s fall and winter events schedule — and purchase tickjets for the Medora shows remaining this summer — at Medora.com.
Brand new endowment will help more families enjoy Historic Medora, funds first trip for recipient John Wright
The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation is wonderfully-pleased to announce the first ever recipient of a fully sponsored trip to Medora, John Wright, will experience the Badlands and more this weekend, August 31 – September 2, thanks to a new fund created by TRMF supporters called The Medora Wish Endowment.