Singing cowboys strike a bad chord



Cultural tourism may be a hot ticket in some parts of the West, but a troupe of singing cowboys is looking for a new home after their failed theater proposal divided a small northern Utah town.

The Bar-K Wranglers, a six-man ensemble that performs a dinner theater show, wanted to build a permanent venue for the group's act in Oakley, about 20 minutes east of Park City. The Wranglers were eyeing a piece of city-owned open space at the edge of town along the Weber River. Their proposal included a large barn to serve as an indoor theater, an amphitheater and a "Western village" of shops.

Some Oakley leaders were eager to accommodate the Wranglers, saying they felt the cowboy dinner theater would augment the town's rural character. "I think it would be an asset to the community," said Planning Commissioner Zane Woolstenhulme.

Others, however, didn't want to see important wetlands and moose habitat turned into an amusement park. Skeptics also doubted the viability of a tourist attraction so far out of the Salt Lake-Park City loop.

"I continue to be concerned about the financial viability of this," said Planning Commissioner Amy Regan. "The general feeling we've gotten is it's really going to be a stretch to get people out here." Regan added she didn't want to see the town stuck with an abandoned barn and parking lot.

In late March, the Wranglers backed away from the Oakley site due to financial risks of investing in the property. But band member Steve Taylor says the group is still convinced that it can attract 400 people per month to see its show in a remote location, largely by busing in tour groups. The Bar-K Wranglers are continuing to search for sites in the pastoral valleys between the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains.

"Part of the cowboy supper show is the ambience," Taylor says. "People want to have something where they get out of the city."


Copyright © 2002 HCN and Tim Sullivan

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