For most people, parking is a small — if not insignificant — part of Laramie Jubilee Days, but for Rick Colling, the event begins and ends in the parking lot.
A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper, Colling spends most of his time dealing with traffic in one fashion or another. When his wife, Terri, a Jubilee Days board of directors member, was looking for volunteers, he knew just where he could fit in.
“I agreed to help orchestrate the parking at the (Albany County) Fairgrounds so it’s more streamlined and efficient,” Colling said. “It’s gotten a lot better, because there’s not a line all the way into Laramie before an event anymore.”
Although the state trooper wears his uniform and takes his patrol vehicle to the event, he said he doesn’t get reimbursed for his time.
“I do this off the clock, but they let me use the vehicle and the uniform to have a presence,” Colling said. “I’m very appreciative of the mindset of the Wyoming Highway Patrol towards troopers getting involved in their community. Our mindset is troopers need to get out of their cars and interact with their community.”
By getting out of the car and helping out the community, Colling said he is able to become something more for the residents than a starched shirt under a trooper hat with a ticket book.
“Because you make so many personal connections with people, it’s amazing how it makes these people want to interact with you and become your eyes and ears on the street,” Colling said. “We get a lot more personal calls about drunk drivers. (People are) out there wanting their community to be safe.”
In addition to his work as a state trooper, he said he draws on his experience as a business owner to help direct traffic at the fairgrounds.
“My wife and I owned the Snowy Range Ski Area for 26 years,” Colling said. “We did some very extensive things with parking up there. After running the ski resort, I fully believe parking has a lot to do with enjoying an event.”
While Colling has volunteered for three years and plans to continue volunteering for the foreseeable future, he said he’s trying to create a parking strategy that could stand the test of time.
“We are orchestrating this thing so there will be a parking layout for people to follow in the future,” Colling said. “We’re planning to have some creative signage out there that will be part of the permanent plan. People look at signs more when the signs are interesting.”
Colling’s parking efforts were so appreciated by the board, they named him the 2016 volunteer of the year.
“I enjoy it,” Colling said. “Parking is not something everyone wants to do, but I find it calming.”
As the state trooper continues to make changes, he said the parking continues to improve, which means one less thing participants, rodeo hands and other volunteers to worry about.
“When it’s show time, I believe it starts with getting folks in the gate,” Colling said. “Then the other folks can do their thing. When it’s over, I get the folks back out of there.”