Total sales and use tax collections in FY2023 increased at a strong pace, according to the State of Wyoming Economic Analysis Division’s annual publication “Wyoming Sales, Use, and Lodging Tax Revenue Report.”
In the report, total sales and use tax collections for FY 2023 reached $1.2 billion, an increase of 15 percent from FY 2022.
The state’s 4% tax collection grew 14.1%, the second consecutive year of double-digit growth.
Dr. Wenlin Liu, Chief Economist with the Economic Analysis Division, said “With this strong expansion, the amount of total sales and use taxes for fiscal year 2023 reached a new record. However, it’s still 11.1 percent less than FY 2015 level if measured in inflation-adjusted dollars.”
Wyoming’s economy continued to rally in FY 2023, with a rebound in oil & gas drilling, robust payroll job additions, low unemployment rate, and strong income growth.
Compared to FY 2022, nearly every major industrial sector experienced an increase in sales and use tax collections.
Retail trade (excluding motor vehicles), the largest industry sector in terms of sales tax collections, increased 8.7 percent. Wholesale trade, transportation, and machinery and equipment leasing and repair industries that act in tandem with mineral extraction operations each grew more than 20 percent.
Wyoming’s pivotal industry, mining, demonstrated the largest growth of 55.8 percent due to the continued rebound in exploration activities. However, the amount collected from this industry is still 14.8 percent lower than FY 2019.
As a result of increased activities in wind power projects and general rate increases in utility gas service, collections from the utilities sector grew 32.7 percent.
Finally, sales and use taxes from online shopping (a sub-sector of retail trade) increased 17.4 percent.
Across the state, year-over-year statewide sales and use tax collections increased in 22 counties, led by Converse at about 43% and Carbon at roughly 35%. Albany, Campbell, Niobrara, and Sublette counties each experienced over 20 percent increases.
Persistent and still elevated broad-based inflation across most goods and services played a large role in the overall robust sales and use tax collections.
Teton is the only county that experienced a decline in collections in comparison to FY 2022 at -0.1%).
This was mostly attributed to the reduced sales in accommodation and food services.
Yellowstone National Park was temporarily closed in June 2022 due to the unusual flooding, and then reopened with limited admission until December of 2022.
Total lodging tax collections (including the statewide lodging taxes), $57.1 million for fiscal year 2023, were down slightly from the $59.1 million collected in the previous year, or -3.4 percent. The year-over-year change for the state-imposed 3% lodging tax collections was -4.0 percent. Attributing to record breaking outdoor and park visitations, and substantial increase in lodging prices, total lodging sales in the state increased substantially, 47 percent in fiscal year 2022.
Converse County (21%) showed the fastest growth, followed by Campbell County (18%). A rebound in mining activities was perhaps mostly responsible for the strong increases. Two other counties, Natrona and Carbon also demonstrated over 8.0 percent growth rate, each.
Teton County, which collects more than half of Wyoming’s lodging taxes due to its geographical inclusion of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, experienced a decrease of 7.5 percent from FY22 to FY23.
Park County, the second in lodging collections in the state, declined 11.2 percent, and was also affected by the summer flooding event. Overall, 14 counties showed declines in lodging taxes for FY2023.
Don Day Wyoming Weather Forecast: Sunday, December 3, 2023
Chance for snow in much of Wyoming on Sunday, also windy and blowing snow in some areas. Highs mostly in the 30s and lows from the teens to the low 30s.
Casper: Look for it to be sunny and breezy today with a high near 35 and mostly cloudy and windy overnight with a low near 29. Winds could gust to 30 mph during the day and 40 mph overnight.
Riverton: Expect it to be mostly sunny today with a high near 29 and mostly cloudy overnight with a low near 16.
Shoshoni: It should be mostly sunny and blustery today with a high near 26 and mostly cloudy overnight with a low near 16. Winds could gust as high as 21 mph during the day.
Evanston: Snow mainly before 9 a.m. and patchy blowing snow is likely today and there’s a chance of snow mainly before midnight. Otherwise, expect it to be mostly cloudy today with a high near 34 and mostly cloudy overnight with a low near 29. Winds could gust up to 32 mph during the day and 30 mph overnight.
Rock Springs: There’s a slight chance of snow before 1 p.m. today, otherwise it should be mostly cloudy and breezy today with a high near 39 and mostly cloudy and breezy overnight with a low near 30. Winds could gust to 29 mph during the day and overnight.
Lyman: There’s a chance of snow and patchy blowing snow today and a slight chance of snow before 11 p.m. tonight. Otherwise, look for it to be mostly cloudy and breezy today with a high near 38 and mostly cloudy and breezy overnight with a low near 31. Winds could gust to 37 mph during the day and overnight.
Pinedale: There’s a winter weather advisory in effect until Monday at 5 a.m. Snow is possible today and mainly before 10 p.m. overnight. Otherwise, it should be mostly cloudy and breezy today with a high near 33 and mostly cloudy overnight with a low near 22. Winds could gust to 22 mph during the day and 21 mph overnight.
Alpine: There’s a winter storm warning in effect until Monday at 5 a.m. Snow is near certain today and rain and snow are near certain overnight. Otherwise, expect the high to be near 36 today and the low should be near 31 overnight. Up to about 3 inches of snow is possible.
Big Piney: There’s a chance of snow mainly between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. today and there’s a slight chance of snow before 10 p.m. tonight. Otherwise, look for it to be partly sunny today with a high near 34 and mostly cloudy overnight with a low near 16.
Dubois: There’s a chance of snow and patch blowing snow today and overnight. Otherwise, expect it to be partly sunny and breezy today with a high near 33 and mostly cloudy and windy overnight with a low near 28. Winds could gust to 31 mph during the day and 41 mph overnight.
Jackson: There’s a winter storm warning in effect until Monday at 5 a.m. Snow, mainly after noon is near certain today and overnight. Otherwise, the high should be near 36 and the low should be near 29. Up to 7 inches of snow is possible.
Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park: There’s a winter storm warning in effect until Monday at 5 a.m. Snow is likely mainly after 1 p.m. today and near certain overnight. Otherwise, look for a high today near 28 and it should be breezy overnight with the low near 22. Winds could gust as high as 22 mph during the day and 25 mph overnight. Up to 6 inches of snow is possible.
Thermopolis: Look for it to be mostly sunny today with a high near 35 and mostly cloudy overnight with a low near 20.
Cody: It should be mostly sunny and breezy today with a high near 39 and mostly cloudy and breezy overnight with a low near 31. Winds could gust as high as 23 mph during the day and 29 mph overnight.
Greybull: Expect it to be mostly sunny today with a high near 33 and mostly cloudy overnight with a low near 20.
Buffalo: It should be mostly sunny and breezy today with a high near 36 and mostly cloudy overnight with a low near 24. Winds could gust as high as 31 mph during the day.
Sheridan: Look for it to be mostly sunny today with a high near 42 and mostly cloudy overnight with a low near 27. Winds could gust to 43 mph during the day and blow from 11-16 mph overnight.
Ranchester: Expect increasing clouds today with a high near 40 and it to be mostly cloudy overnight with a slight chance of rain and snow and the low near 27. Winds could gust as high as 47 mph during the day and blow from 11-18 mph overnight.
Gillette: Expect it to be mostly sunny and breezy today with a high near 36 and mostly cloudy overnight with a low near 25. Winds could gust as high as 40 mph during the day and 24 mph overnight.
Sundance: There’s a chance of snow mainly before 1 p.m. today and a slight chance after 11 p.m. tonight. Otherwise, it should be breezy and gradually become sunny today with a high near 33 and be mostly cloudy overnight with a low near 23. Winds could gust as high as 33 mph during the day.
Hulett: There’s a slight chance of snow between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. today, otherwise look for it to be mostly sunny with a high near 39 and mostly cloudy overnight with a low near 28. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph during the day and 20 mph overnight.
Torrington: Look for a slight chance of snow before 11 a.m. and it to be mostly sunny and windy today with a high near 40 and partly cloudy and breezy overnight with a low near 23. Winds could gust as high as 45 mph during the day and 30 mph overnight.
Lusk: There’s a chance of snow before 11 a.m., otherwise it should be mostly sunny and windy today with a high near 34 and it should be partly cloudy and breezy overnight with a low near 21. Winds could gust as high as 40 mph during the day and 30 mph overnight.
Kaycee: Watch for patchy blowing snow between 10 a.m. and noon today, otherwise it should be sunny and breezy with a high near 33 and mostly cloudy and breezy overnight with a low near 21. Winds could gust as high as 26 mph during the day and 22 mph overnight.
Cheyenne: There’s a high wind warning in effect until Monday at 5 p.m. There’s a chance of snow before 11 a.m. today, otherwise it should be mostly sunny and windy with a high near 36 and windy with increasing clouds overnight with a low near 30. Winds could gust as high as 50 mph during the day and 45 mph overnight.
Laramie: There’s a high wind warning in effect today until 2 a.m. Tuesday. There’s a chance of snow today and a slight chance before 11 p.m. tonight. Otherwise, look for it to be partly sunny and windy today with a high near 32 and mostly cloudy and windy overnight with a low near 26. Winds could gust as high as 55 mph during the day and 45 mph overnight.
Pine Bluffs: There’s a high wind warning in effect today until 5 p.m. Monday. There’s a slight chance of snow before 11 a.m. today, otherwise expect it to be sunny and windy today with a high near 39 and partly cloudy and breezy overnight with a low near 24. Winds could gust as high as 45 mph during the day and 30 mph overnight.
Rawlins: There’s a high wind warning in effect until 5 p.m. Monday. There’s a chance of snow mainly before noon today and a slight chance overnight. Otherwise, it should be partly sunny and windy today with a high near 32 and mostly cloudy and windy overnight with a low near 29. Winds could gust to 50 mph during the day and 55 mph overnight.
Encampment: There’s a winter weather advisory in effect until 11 p.m. tonight. Snow is likely with blowing snow mainly before 8 a.m. today and snow and patchy blowing snow are likely overnight. Otherwise, look for it to be windy today with a high near 34 and cloudy and breezy overnight with a low near 30. Winds could gust to 45 mph during the day and 35 mph overnight.
Wamsutter: There’s a slight chance of snow and patchy blowing snow today and overnight. Otherwise, expect it to be partly sunny and breezy today with a high near 32 and mostly cloudy and breezy overnight with a low near 28. Winds could gust to 29 mph during the day and 30 mph overnight.
Wyoming’s Infamous Dam Bar With A Speaker In The Women’s Outhouse
There’s a post-World War II building boom happening across Wyoming and you step into an outhouse overhanging the Wind River and settle in to do some business. Suddenly, a loud voice shouts out from the chasm underneath you, prompting an acceleration of that business, and you run out in terror and embarrassment.
From a nearby bar, a man laughs as he puts down a microphone.
Many Fremont and Hot Springs County residents didn’t have to imagine. They witnessed it firsthand at the Dam Bar and Privy, a notorious watering hole at the southern end of the Wind River Canyon near the Boysen Dam.
There are many crazy but true stories associated with The Dam Bar and Privy, a relic of the Old West that had a brief, but colorful, history in the 1940s and 1950s.
“It was a very busy period, a very colorful time,” said Jackie Dorothy, tourism director for Hot Springs Travel & Tourism. “Some people still remember their parents going to it. They said kids were sent to the café while the parents went to the bar.”
‘The Best Damn Bar By A Dam Site’
The Dam Bar and Privy was the enterprise of Barney Smith, one of Hot Springs County’s most colorful characters. Smith was a member of the Farlow Family, which included Albert “Stub” Farlow, the man depicted riding Steamboat in Wyoming’s trademark bucking horse and rider.
The Farlows have a long history of Old West debauchery going back to the 1870s when the family settled in Lander. At least one Farlow was a known associate of Butch Cassidy’s gang of outlaws.
Barney Smith reveled in the family history while building his own reputation in the region. He was already running a bar and pool hall in Thermopolis when he embarked on a more ambitious venture at the southern end of the Wind River Canyon.
“He had quite the business going on,” said Dean King with the Hot Springs County Museum. “And I think he did really well. He was quite the promoter for his time.”
Several structures, most likely built by the Farlow family, were already standing at the southern end of the Wind River Canyon near the tunnels on U.S. Highway 20 between Thermopolis and Shoshone. They housed the workers who built the original Boysen Dam in 1908.
Smith acquired and rebuilt the structures to accommodate more customers and offer myriad ways they could spend their money. The Dam Bar opened for business in 1947.
At first sight, it looked like any other highway rest stop. The Bar Café served meals to locals and tourists, who could also buy gasoline and groceries there. Dorothy said the buildings must’ve been deceptively large for the area.
“I stare at that place, wondering how they had a huge café, a huge bar and an outhouse all in that area,” she said. “I think must have been built into the hillside, but I’ve never seen a picture of (the buildings) from the back.”
When the original Boysen Dam was removed and construction on a new dam started in 1948, Smith was ready to cash the checks of the workers building it. King said his uncle worked at a Thermopolis bank and made a cash run to the Dam Bar every week for this purpose.
“They had housing by the lake and couldn’t make it into town to cash their checks, so Barney would cash them at the bar. I’m sure they stayed around and had a drink or two afterward,” he said.
The business was seemingly nothing out of the ordinary. However, locals knew the Dam Bar and Privy for what it really was: “The best damn bar by a dam site.”
During the heyday of the Dam Bar and Privy, it was well-known that anyone who wanted to find a game of chance could “go to the tunnels” at the southern end of the Wind River Canyon. This was a constant irritant for local law enforcement, covered by the Thermopolis Independent Record in a 1948 story headlined “Gambling Stopped in the Canyon.”
Smith wasn’t deterred by the heavy hand of local law enforcement. The Dam Bar’s amenities included a pool hall, poker games and slot machines.
Smith was long suspected of hosting a high-stakes poker game at the Dam Bar and a gambling hall he built on the Adel Homestead, located inside the Wind River Canyon in Hot Springs County.
None of this was legal, but who would tell and ruin all the fun? And even if someone did, Smith had an ace up his sleeve.
Whenever the Fremont County Sheriff came to raid the Dam Bar, Smith moved the poker games and slot machines across the county line to Hot Springs County to the Adel Homestead. And when the Hot Springs County Sheriff came to raid that gambling hall, he moved everything back across the county line to Fremont County and the Dam Bar.
Smith was never caught in the act, nor did he face any gambling charges. Nearly everybody saw him as an honorable businessman.
One account from a Thermopolis resident recalled Smith as “a good neighbor and created much humor around the area. We always wondered where he stashed the cash to keep from paying taxes.”
“Some of our biggest businessmen would be seen today as crooks, but (back then) people looked the other way because they were good for business,” Dorothy said.
King said Smith found another lucrative enterprise he operated from his home in the canyon.
“He had a whiskey still in his Wind River Canyon gambling hall,” he said. “He’d take the whiskey to the Dam Bar and sell it there.”
King said a tribal elder from the Wind River Reservation confessed they regularly bought whiskey from Smith, often drinking it at his gambling hall before going home.
And then there’s the story of the “setters” and the speaker.
Pointers And Setters
Anyone who needed to use the Dam Bar’s bathroom would have to cross U.S. Highway 20 to reach The Dam Privy, which hung over the Wind River. One was marked “Pointers” and the other “Setters,” designating their use by respective genders.
Even here, Smith had an enterprising way to engage in skullduggery.
“He ran a speaker wire from inside the bar, underneath the highway, to the outhouse,” King said. “He had a microphone in the bar. When a lady would stop and use the facilities, he’d pick up the microphone and say something like, ‘Hey, I’m working down here!’ And they’d almost always get in their car and drive away.”
It’s more than an urban legend. King said several accounts of this prank have been verified, and eyewitnesses have attested to seeing it happen — the speaker was located on the wall beneath the toilet seat.
In the 2000s, The Hot Springs County Museum found a poem in its archives. “The Old Gas Station” was a poorly written but accurate chronicle of how Smith operated the scheme that lines up with primary sources from Dam Bar patrons.
The outhouse prank is crazy enough to be true, but there is another urban legend associated with Smith. He made plenty of money through his various enterprises and was very particular about what he did with it.
“Every week, he would come to the bank with his cigar box full of cash and make a deposit,” King said. “He did not trust the banks, so he deposited it in his safe deposit box.”
But Smith only deposited his cash. He never brought his coins to the bank, which started the urban legend of Barney Smith’s buried treasure, a fortune of coins supposedly buried near the Dam Bar.
“Barney never told his wife where he buried the money,” King said. “And only one nephew knew.”
Privy To History
Smith died in 1953 while attending a funeral in Adel, Iowa. His wife ran the Dam Bar for a time after his death, but later sold the property. By then, much of the Dam Bar’s reputation had transitioned to memories and anecdotes.
It’d be only fitting that the Dam Bar and Privy met an infamous end, which it did in August 1963, when the structures were destroyed in a fire. Only the foundations remain, which can still be seen near the Boysen Dam.
“That (fire) was suspicious, too,” King said.
The news of the Dam Bar’s end might have been bad for many, but not everyone. King said a woman from Fort Washakie had told him how much women hated the business.
“She told us, ‘I hated that place. Most women did. Anytime I came around the corner, the place made me sick.’ She knew what went on there,” he said.
King said she had a secret wish fulfilled when she learned of the bar’s destruction.
“She’d always say, ‘I wish that place would just burn down.’ One day, she turned the corner, and it had,” he said.
And for anyone wondering, King said the nephew who knew where Smith’s buried treasure was located died within a year of Smith’s death.
“No one ever found the money,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it makes for a great story.”
For Dorothy, the colorful story of the Dam Bar and Privy adds to the luster of Thermopolis’ Wild West legacy. In many ways, the spirit of those days persisted in the region long after the Old West was relegated to history.
“I don’t think the Wild West left Thermopolis until the 1970s,” she said. “We might still be experiencing a bit of it.”
Meeteetse Chocolatier Takes Annual International Safari For Unique Confections
Waistlines across Wyoming might be in trouble next year, with the Meeteetse Chocolatier’s latest European find.
Every year, Meeteetse Chocolatier Tim Kellogg heads to Europe’s vibrant chocolate scene for a peek at the latest trends. He brings them back to the U.S. a year, and sometimes even two years, before they would normally make it here.
It’s part of his personal quest to always be learning new skills and bring ever more interesting chocolate confections home to his Wyoming shop in Meeteetse, as well as his occasional pop-up shop in Cody.
Snacking bars, his latest find, are mind-blowing confections built from multiple layers of adventurous flavors, encased in a smooth, bar of rich chocolate.
“It’s like a long, narrow bar with multiple layers of flavors inside,” Kellogg told Cowboy State Daily. “It could be praline or like a fruit gel, or ganache, you know, a caramel.”
The chocolate shell that keeps all the creamy insides together might look very minimalist on the outside.
But bite into the bar and “there’s all these flavors and colors and textures on the inside,” Kellogg said.
A Vibrant Chocolate Scene
Kellogg discovered the London chocolate scene while looking for answers to all of his confection questions, when he was first starting out.
He was watching the Food Network, YouTube videos and reading everything he could get his hands on, but America didn’t yet really have a thriving artisan chocolate scene outside of New York or maybe Chicago.
“The London Times has this great food section, and there’s almost always an article about desserts or chocolate,” Kellogg said. “And so one Sunday there was an article about a chocolatier in London who was doing what I was trying to do and was very, very successful at it.”
When he saw all the amazing flavor combinations, he knew he just had to make a trip across the pond learn more. When he got there, he realized it wasn’t just this one chocolatier. There were four, five, six chocolatiers trying unique flavor pairings with fresh ingredients that have short shelf lives and aren’t mass-produced, which was exactly the path Kellogg was on.
“There just seems to be this chocolate vibrancy there that I didn’t see anywhere else,” Kellogg said.
Stores like Aneesh Popat, for example, which is doing water-based ganaches without cream or butter in incredible flavors and combinations, or London chocolate, which has made a name for itself in the bean to bar, small-batch chocolates.
Charbonnel & Walker, meanwhile, are renowned for their rose and violet creams, while Buck’s Fizz has a champagne and orange chocolate that inspired a flavor combination in Kellogg’s own store.
“Both Harrod’s and Selfridge’s department stores have a dedicated choologate hall, filled with case of chocolates from a variety of chocolatiers,” Kellogg said. “These are great areas to pick up on emerging trends, as well as try a wide variety of chocolates.”
Kellogg has made a European chocolate adventure a tradition every year since the first to check out the London chocolate scene and absorb everything he can about the latest trends. It brings inspiration and innovation to his store. He’ll also attend a class or two at the Chocolate Academy for working professionals to learn new skills.
A Train Of Delicious Thought
Snacking bars are something Kellogg has tried before.
“I’ve never been able to make them on my own,” Kellogg said. “I didn’t know how to do them properly, but we spent several days working on that, and I was actually quite pleased with the way they turned out.”
Kellogg posted a delicious train of snacking bars he was making in the UK at the Chocolate Academy this year.
There was a hazelnut, almond and pistachio confection dipped in Belgian dark chocolate, followed by a pistachio praline with cranberries and Belgian white chocolate dipped in Belgian ruby chocolate. Finally, there was a tropical concoction that had pineapple, yuzu, and coconut, topped with apricots and caramelized popcorn, dipped in Callebaut Gold chocolate.
Kellogg, though, was modest about his progress.
“All the really good-looking photos were of Mark and Claire’s (snacking bars),” he said. ”They were not mine. Some of mine were just like, well it’s a good thing that tastes good. I just have to serve them to my friends when it’s very dark.”
Mark and Claire were fellow students in the snacking bar class Kellogg took this year while he was in London.
While he was modest about his own program, a simple glance at photos of candies from Kellogg’s store shows he clearly has very high standards for the chocolates he serves.
When he says they’re just “OK,” you can bet they’re actually exceptional.
They’re A Speed Test
Making a snacking bar is a demanding task that requires both insane organization and speed, especially since Kellogg is not using any fancy machinery to speed things up. He does it all by hand.
“You start with kind of the inside, and you build up the layers,” Kellogg said. “So, if you’re doing a ganache layer, you’d make that, and it goes into kind of like a square pan.”
On top of that, the next layers are built, whether fruit gel, caramel, ganache, or something else.
“When it’s set, they’re cut into kind of rectangle shapes and then dipped,” Kellogg said. “Then it’s dipped again, so you have like a double layer to hold everything together on the inside.”
Kellogg has to keep his store at a particular temperature, so that the inside of the bars won’t soften too quickly before they’re dipped.
“If they’re at room temperature too long, they’ll obviously kind of revert back to a cream state,” Kellogg said. “That’s why, when you bite into them, they’re nice and soft on the inside. But they’re impossible to enrobe or dip at that point. It’ll just blend with the chocolate.”
The other speed factor here is the temper of the chocolate, which only lasts so long.
“I don’t have massive machines that have a constant flow of tempered chocolate,” he said. “These are literally done by hand and dipped right away. Once the chocolate starts to go out of temper, I have to stop and then kind of start over with the next part of the batch.”
New Enrobing Method
The other cool trick Kellogg worked on learning this year is how to enrobe chocolates. This new technique will allow him to make chocolates that are just a little more durable and last a little bit longer than his signature truffles.
“Truffles have been kind of my main items and those are like a chocolate ganache with a very thin chocolate shell,” Kellogg said. Enrobed chocolates “have a much thicker shell and, because of that, you can do layers on the inside.”
It’s also a little more stable, so will last a few days longer than truffles.
“The shell is also thick enough that it can support multiple layers within it if you want to do that,” Kellogg said.
In addition to the new enrobing technique, Kellogg learned a new technique for decorating the surfaces of these enrobed chocolates. Now, not only can he play with lots of new layered flavors inside a truffle-like ball, but he can give the balls interesting new patterns like speckles and colorful clouds.
Kellogg has already added some of the new flavor combinations this new technique will allow into his holiday lineup.
There’s, for example, a mulled wine chocolate, which is pinot noir with orange peel, clove, and warming spices, as well as a gingerbread caramel, a four-spice chocolate candy, and a new candy cane chocolate.
“After the holidays, there’ll be a lot more time to kind of present a whole new collection in addition to what I’m doing now,” Kellogg said. “During Christmas, it’s just so overwhelmingly busy, it’s hard to do a whole lot of the new stuff.”
And, too, Kellogg is planning his next chocolate-buying trip to Belize, where he’ll once again be looking for one-of-a-kind chocolates for his bean to chocolate bar tasting parties.
“I’d like to concentrate more on the bean to bar, you know, making my own chocolate and doing more with that,” he said. “Just finding new, unique, and creative flavors to put out for my customers to enjoy.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.
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