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Opening day at Yellowstone National Park’s East Entrance

For tourists who come through Cody, a trip to Yellowstone National Park is often a lifelong dream. Tim Austin from upstate New York said he’s been planning this trip for seven years, and drove over 1800 miles to get here.
KMVT image by Penny Preston of cars lined up to go into Yellowstone National Park in July 2016.
KMVT image by Penny Preston of cars lined up to go into Yellowstone National Park in July 2016.(KMVT)
Updated: May. 9, 2021 at 11:18 PM CDT
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CODY, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - There’s an air of excitement on the first weekend in May at the gateway to the east entrance to America’s first National Park.

For tourists who come through Cody, a trip to Yellowstone National Park is often a lifelong dream. Tim Austin from upstate New York said he’s been planning this trip for seven years, and drove over 1800 miles to get here.

“This is like the place to go in the lower 48 for wildlife photography,” Austin boasts. “So I will be here until it’s so cold I can’t take it anymore.”

Vehicles began lining up at the east entrance to Yellowstone early Friday morning, with visitors waiting for their chance to experience the wonders of America’s first national park.

Stacy Boisseau from Powell, who arrived early Friday morning with her daughter and some friends, has been the first in line for the last three years - a tradition they are proud of. And others from the region make the pilgrimage each year - like Brian Johnson from Billings. He pointed out that the long line of cars waiting to enter the Park this year is significant.

“I’ve been coming for the last ten or fifteen years on opening day,” said the wildlife photographer. “But this is the longest I’ve ever seen it, far and away.”

With the turmoil of the pandemic, Yellowstone last year was a prime destination for those who had been cooped up for too long under quarantine. This year promises to be just as busy, now that travel restrictions have been lifted in most parts of the country.

And that’s good news for gateway communities like Cody. Tina Hoebelheinrich is the Executive Director for the Cody Chamber of Commerce. Each year the Chamber hosts a “Parks and Pancakes” event to celebrate, and Tina noted that opening day is a jump start for the community.

“It sets the pace for this year,” she explained. “Those of us who live here, I think we miss the opportunity that Yellowstone represents on a day-to-day basis all winter long. So when this day finally comes, it’s such a great opportunity to get in the Park and remember why we live here.”

Hoebelheinrich added that a celebration like “Parks and Pancakes” gives Chamber board members and staff a chance to brush off the cobwebs of the winter and prepare to show off what Wyoming has to offer.

“We’re known for our exceptional western hospitality, and when you don’t have a lot of visitors all winter long, it just feels good to do what we do.”

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