National News

Medora Musical draws 118,000 visitors this year -- second best all-time

Posted September 12

— Watching the sun dip below rolling badland buttes helps draw thousands to the Medora Musical every summer, yet there is a group of people at the musical who don't see a single sunset the entire summer - the Burning Hills Singers.

The musical celebrated its season finale on Saturday, which closed the show's second most popular summer ever with over 118,000 attendees in total.

Six-year Burning Hills Singer veteran Ken Quiricone said, "I'm truly excited to be able to see the sunset. I'm jealous of the audience members that get to see it in the background of the theater."

Longtime singer Candice Lively-Wollan said watching a sunset would be a "lovely activity" that she and her husband, musical co-host Chet Wollan, could finally enjoy after completing the summer's rigorous nightly performing schedule.

For the performers, the end of the summer brings about a range of emotions, but many were excited about working on new projects in the musical's offseason

"Our bodies need a break, our voices need a break, but it's kind of sad because the people that you live and work with every day you won't see again," Lively-Wollan said.

However, Lively-Wollan and her husband won't get much of a break following the musical's Saturday finale. Immediately following the performance, they planned to drive to Illinois for rehearsals on a new production.

With four years of Burning Hills experience, Dickinson-raised singer Damon Fichter said this has been his most "enjoyable" and "carefree" summer as a performer.

Following the musical, Fichter plans to spend time with family and friends in Dickinson, but afterward he is excited to pursue some creative projects.

"I'll end up moving to Minneapolis and pursuing some film stuff, more art-based work, living the eclectic lifestyle," he said. In particular, he said he'd like to work on "experimental abstract art, whether that's painting or music composition."

Quiricone said it felt "bittersweet" that the musical was coming to a close, but also that he was excited to start performing in a play in Atlanta this fall.

However, the Medora Musical's performers weren't the only ones preparing for the end of the musical.

Marketing coordinator Daniel Gannarelli said due to some interns going back to school, closing the musical would "involve a lot of long hours for very few people."

While the permanent outdoor set stays in place, costumes and set pieces need to be stored and disassembled, retail items need to be packed up and everything else needs to be cleaned and winterized.

Medora Musical manager Kinley Slauter anticipates they will begin work on replacing about 1,700 seats in the amphitheater in the next week.

"In the fall we do almost all of our facility work," he said. "In the spring we focus more of our energy on stage."

Gannarelli said the end of the musical felt "weird, sad exciting at the same time."

Going from 3,000 people in Medora on any given summer weekend to 125 after the musical closed definitely felt a little weird, Gannarelli said.

Dozens of restaurants and shops run by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation will close up for the season this week in Medora. Brenda Liu travelled from her home in Taiwan this summer to work in Marquis de Mores, an ice cream shop on one of Medora's main drags.

Liu said working at the shop has been great for her English language skills.

"It helped because my co-workers are from different countries, so I had to speak English with them," she said.

Though the ice cream shop will soon close, Liu plans to continue working for TRMF until her contract runs out in late September. She then plans to travel around the U.S. and Japan before returning home to Taiwan later in the year.

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