After nearly 10 months of working with communities around the state, Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center officials have selected Big Timber to be their new home to the disappointment of many in Twin Bridges and Madison County.
Hall of fame officials made their announcement Monday morning. Sam Korsmoe, executive director of the Madison County Economic Development Council heard the news on his way to Missoula to look at a collection of western artifacts that could potentially be available for the hall of fame.
Korsmoe spearheaded the proposal for Madison County, which ultimately settled on the Doncaster Round Barn north of Twin Bridges. The barn and 30 acres were donated to the project by owners Tony and Amie James.
Beyond the barn and land, Madison County’s proposal contained a commitment of both money and manpower to making the hall of fame and western heritage center a reality in Madison County.
Madison County’s proposal advanced in the process to the very end along with proposals from Big Sky, Livingston and Big Timber.
However, Big Timber’s proposal of land, a building and infrastructure needs already in place ended up making more sense financially, said Aaron Lyles, director of finance for the MCHF.
“It was a difficult decision and as it probably should, it came down to what was the best financial stewardship decision,” Lyles said.
While Lyles said the MCHF officials are excited to settle on a site, they know the decision is disappointing for the other finalist communities.
“I can honestly say we could have built and been successful in every one of these communities,” he said.
In Madison County, Korsmoe and the group of people that came together to support the project were exceptional, he said.
“They were fantastic to work with,” Lyles said.
The decision was a surprise to Korsmoe.
“I was kind of surprised because the nature of our proposal was such as it would lend to so much creativity that a piece of bare ground with a regular building would not do,” he said.
However, the process of developing the proposal has demonstrated how people in Madison County can really come together, Korsmoe said.
“It does not end now,” he said. “Too much has happened and too much synergy has occurred and too many people came together that I want to see us continue. To what end or where or how, that I don’t know yet.”
The important thing for Madison County is to take advantage of the energy and momentum generated during the process of developing this proposal. The county would be foolish to just drop everything, Korsmoe said.
“We will go forward,” he said. “You don’t go through this process without learning about yourself and without getting a lot of things together. Not taking advantage of that and going forward, even though you lost, would be insane.”