Despite the coronavirus pandemic and controversy last fall, the Frontier Village in Jamestown had a good summer, according to Deb Lee, manager of the Dakota Store which operates a shop at the Frontier Village during the summer.
"I only have good things to say," she said. "There was an extraordinary number of out-of-state cars that spent time at the Frontier Village this summer."
Vendors at the Frontier Village opened their stores June 1 after delaying due to the coronavirus pandemic. A dispute between the board that previously operated the Frontier Village and the city of Jamestown became heated last fall and ended when the Frontier Village board deeded its ownership in buildings and artifacts to the city of Jamestown.
Searle Sedlund, director of Jamestown Tourism, which managed the Frontier Village this summer, said they didn't accumulate any statistics detailing where the travelers came from.
"Just looking around up there," he said, "you unquestionably saw more out-of-state cars."
Lee said at one point she saw license plates from New Hampshire, Texas, Ohio and Washington parked at the Dakota Store at the same time.
Swedlund said visitor numbers were low early in the summer when the coronavirus pandemic was just beginning. During the months of May and June, total visitation at the Frontier Village was about 13,600 people compared to nearly 21,000 during the same months in 2019.
Then things seemed to pick up. Swedlund said the number of travelers increased to the point that both August and September had slightly higher numbers of visitors this year than last. Overall, from the first of the year through the end of August, visitation at the Frontier Village was down about 11%.
"I think they spent more time and money in North Dakota," Lee said, referring to the out-of-state visitors. "Our volunteers enjoyed being there, and the people seemed to enjoy the experience."
The Dakota Store usually closes after Labor Day weekend but this year stayed open until the middle of September because of the added visitor traffic, Lee said.
Workers also made progress on repairs and updates to the Frontier Village this summer. Work was done by staff from the Jamestown Civic Center, Street Department, Water Department and Jamestown Parks and Recreation, Swedlund said.
Workers were able to correct 12 items listed by the North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund as potential liability issues.
Swedlund said there are many factors to consider as the Frontier Village moves into the future. Tourism employees worked this summer to gather information about the visitors and what they wanted to see. Future plans involve creating a detailed plan of what the Frontier Village should look like and how it can be operated in the future.
"There are a lot of cosmetic issues on the repair list," he said. "Underneath the surface on some of the buildings are some other issues."
Some of the first priorities could include paint and other repairs to the major buildings in the Frontier Village, including the depot and the general story. Repairs to other buildings in the Frontier Village will have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Some of the smaller buildings were placed "temporarily on old railroad ties, 60 years ago," Swedlund said.
He cited the building that houses an old jail cell as needing a new roof, siding and a permanent foundation.
"We have to talk about what the next 60 years will look like," Swedlund said. "It is all on the table."