Frontier Village welcoming visitors and locals this season

Frontier Village
Visitors and their dogs toured the Frontier Village Monday, June 22, 2020. Keith Norman / The Sun

There are some things going on up at the Frontier Village

Most notably doors and sites are open.

"We are operating, that's what is happening," said Searle Swedlund, executive director of Jamestown Tourism. "The commitment of the tourism office for 2020 was to operate. We are pleasantly surprised at the number of travelers we are still seeing. People are still moving about - we didn't think that would change but we just didn't know the scope. We feel really good about everything that is happening."

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Frontier Village was closed until June 1. At the peak of the pandemic, Swedlund said the North Dakota Department of Transportation traffic counts were down 60% from an average year. Swedlund said the number of people regularly visiting the Village weekly is down 30-50% from an average year.

"I think everyone says the same thing," Swedlund said of the response to the downtick in traffic. "They say 'Oh I thought it would be even more than that.' What we think that means is there are fewer travelers but a high percentage of those are choosing to stop in Jamestown."


They may be stopping but are likely experiencing a different type of Frontier Village experience.

Frontier Village has shortened its hours of operation from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Signs encouraging social distancing and face-mask wearing are posted throughout the Village. The Jamestown Tourism staff has been compiling disinfecting agents cleaning the community bathrooms are twice per day and as needed.

The Trading Post and The Dakota Store have reopened their doors to the public. Mary's Store is slated to join the lineup on July 2. Four greeters are stationed in the saloon to meet and talk with visitors. Nearby Frontier Fort Camp Ground Bar & Grill & Gift Shop owner Charlie Tanata said he has caught some of the traffic coming and going from the World's Largest Buffalo and the Frontier Village.

"There are probably more people than I thought there would be," Tanata said "It's not crowded or anything but there are more travelers than I thought there would be. We started dine-in a couple of weeks ago and business has been better than I thought it would be."

In addition to the changes made to fit with the COVID-19 restrictions, there are some changes in the works for the Frontier Village as a whole.

"I think the theme for 2020 is to assess the needs of the Frontier Village," Swedlund said. "That might mean safety, that might mean development, that might mean experiences, that might mean monetary things."

Last fall, the Frontier Village Association agreed to transfer its rights to any property on the Frontier Village site to the city of Jamestown. At this time the Jamestown Tourism office is operating the Frontier Village, evaluating how to turn the 60-year-old historic sites to meet new needs.

"One thing it does mean is that after 60-plus years of management by a non-profit agency, the evolution of how that organization saw this space could be looked at with a new set of eyes," Swedlund said. "That new set of eyes - are what are the visitor and community of Jamestown's needs for that space."


Swedlund said there is a visitor survey at Frontier Village asking visitors and locals what, in their opinion, needs to be assessed and potentially restructured.

"We really have to look through the lens of the Frontier Village space and ask the question: "What do those two audiences need from this space?" That is different from what it has been in the past. The goal is to meld those things together so those new needs honor what this place has been for 60 years. It's a big question and we think 2020 is the time to ask that question."

Gerber is a sports writer for the Jamestown Sun.
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