The Boys Scouts of America play an important role in community development across the country, and the troop from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is no exception. For the past 46 years, the members of this particular troop have collected elk antlers and auctioned them off to raise proceeds that have benefited the National Elk Refuge. In 2002, the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce took the “bull by the horns” and created a weekend festival to help celebrate the troop’s efforts – Elk Fest. Maureen Murphy, Director of Special Events at the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, explains how this festival has grown over the past decade from a simple auction to an entire community event complete with live entertainment, dining, shopping and activities the whole family will enjoy.
RAL: Who attends Elk Fest and why is it so popular?
MM: On May 17th and 18th, nearly 3,500 people will flock to downtown Jackson to participate in the annual Elk Antler Auction. There is a very specific crowd of vendors that comes to bid on these unique items. Some will end up reselling the antlers, while others will use them for crafts. We also see a large number of families who participate in the festivities. Outside of the main event, the Antler Auction, there is also a Boy Scout and Cub Scout Expo, as well as a Chili Cook-Off on Sunday. The entire event is such a vital and unique part of the culture in Jackson, showcasing more than just the resort community the Jackson Hole Valley has become over time.
RAL: Take me through a day at the event…what can everyone expect?
MM: The event begins bright and early on Saturday morning when the food court, provided by the Jackson Youth Baseball Team, opens its doors at 7:00 am. From 8:00 until 2:00 pm, participants have the opportunity to experience the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Great Elk Tour, where they may just see some of the largest bull elk in the world. At 9:00 am, the downtown portion of Jackson opens up with a kids corner set up in Town Square and a private antler sale sponsored by the Rotary Club. The auction will begin at 10:00 and will run until 1:00 pm, as more than 100 antler racks are sold to the highest bidder. Saturday’s festivities conclude with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Big Game Banquet Annual Fundraising Dinner, beginning at 7:00 pm.
“There is a very specific crowd of vendors that comes to bid on these unique items. Some will end up reselling the antlers, while others will use them for crafts. We also see a large number of families who participate in the festivities.”
On Sunday, attendees have the opportunity to sample some of the finest chili the area has to offer as 16 professional and amateur chefs from near and far bring their creations to the Elk Fest for the Chili Cook Off. For only $5, you can buy a spoon and walk around tasting a wide variety of chili and beer. In all my years with this event, it amazes me how many different tastes of chili there can be. From spicy to the sweet side, it’s always fun to see what people create.
RAL: What does this event mean to the community?
MM: Our community’s biggest tourism months run from July through September, and the Elk Fest serves as a launch point in kicking off summer. All of the proceeds generated from merchandise sales during the festival go back to the community, and the funds raised by the Boy Scouts during the auction go to the National Elk Refuge. There is so much involvement from the business community, our government agencies, and non-profits including the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Teton Weed & Pest, the National Elk Refuge, the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum, and of course the area Boy Scout troops. All of these groups work together in creating amazing partnerships that benefit the entire community.
To learn more about this awesome event, head to the Elk Fest website!