Hundreds of bubbles filled the arid afternoon Tuesday outside the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site bulwark.
“This is the only Wyoming statehood celebration that happens every year on July 10 — the day Wyoming became a state,” Wyoming Territorial Prison Superintendent Deborah Amend Cease said. “We’ve been doing this at the prison for six years.”
Built as a territorial prison in 1872, the institution became Wyoming’s first state penitentiary when Wyoming became the 44th state in 1890, Amend Cease said.
While a prison might seem an odd place to celebrate the birth of a state, she said it was integral to settling the area.
“A state prison, despite the negative connotation, has the same purpose as a school or a church,” she said. “Civilizing the west.”
Celebrating statehood has long been a part of Laramie Jubilee Days, but in recent years, Amend Cease said the Jubilee Days Committee needed a new place to the host the celebration.
“When (the committee) approached us about hosting the event here, we said, ‘Absolutely,’” Amend Cease recalled. “So, this event became a partnership between Jubilee Days and the Territorial Prison.”
More than a free tour of the grounds, the statehood celebration provides a small classic car show, a rain gutter regatta for racing toy sail boats and free lunch.
“We start preparing for this about six months out,” Amend Cease said. “And every year, we try to add something new. This year, we added the science of bubbles.”
Next to the carriage house, Territorial Prison Cultural Resources Specialist Renee Slider helped children make bubbles with a massive wand dipped into an outdoor pool filled with soapy water.
“We call this bubble-ology, and we’re trying to teach people the science of bubbles,” Slider said as a boulder-sized bubble popped against the activity sign. “Bubbles are a thin layer of liquid enclosing air or another gas, such as carbon dioxide.”
In addition to the pool, the exhibit also featured a dry ice bubble maker. By pouring warm water over dry ice enclosed in a cooler, Slider said the resulting affect would push air through a hose connected to the top of the cooler, creating softball-sized bubbles.
Strolling through the cluster of activities, visitors toured the prison, chatted with Jubilee Days royalty and watched Craig Ingram bring his cow rope to life.
“It’s a lot like dancing,” said Ingram, twirling the rope in captivating patterns. “Except, you’re dancing with the rope instead of a partner.”
Clad in a cowboy hat, neckerchief and leather chaps, Ingram looked every bit the character he came to play.
“I’ve been doing shows for about 25 years, but I’ve been trick roping since I was 13,” he said. “I grew up on a ranch and rodeoed a lot. I’d watch guys do amazing things with ropes, and I decided I wanted to give a shot. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
A Coloradoan, Ingram said he’s traveled with his wife up to Jubilee Days and the Territorial Prison for about eight years.
“I make trick roping a hobby, but I’ve traveled throughout the country doing what I love,” he said. “By day, I’m a diesel mechanic, because you can’t stay alive simply by trick roping.”
A smile spread beneath his wide-brimmed hat as a crowd gathered to watch the man with the rope.
“It’s a special art,” Ingram said. “Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of people doing it anymore.”