"It" happened in 1989 - The Great Montana Centennial Cattle Drive

Updated: Feb 10

In 1989 Montana felt compelled, if not preordained to celebrate its 100 years of statehood into the United States of America with an epic centennial cattle drive.

Souvenir of The Great Montana Centennial Cattle Drive of 1989
Official Souvenir Program

"It" was birthed and inspired on a fall day in 1987, by two newspaper cartoonists Barry McWilliams ("J.P. Doodles"), Stan Lynde ("Rick O'Shay") and Montana rancher Jim Wempner, as a way to commemorate 100 years of statehood for their beloved state of Montana. It began with only three men's scribbles on the dusty hood of a truck, but grew to something that has gone down in the history books as a legendary event of a generation. The entirety of The Great Centennial Cattle Drive began on August 28,1989 with much excitement, anticipation and nervousness toward the roundup event with thousands of cowboys/cowgirls, cattle and hundreds of wagons. It was not until September 1, until this epic event kicked off just outside of Roundup, Montana.

Western Stock Growers Assoc., Cattle Drive Journal

From the moment the cattle drive officially started to its end six days later in Billings, Mt, some 60 miles away the enormity of the event simmered at epic participant and spectators numbers throughout the entire trek with a reported 100,000+ spectators along the drives route. The final counting of those that participated in event included 2397 participants, 208 covered wagons, 3337 horses, 2812 head of cattle, 79 horse wranglers, and 113 drovers representing the 56 counties of Montana as reported by Montana's News Leader KTVQ 2.

Committee members associated with the Great Montana Centennial Cattle Drive 1989
Great Centennial Cattle Drive Organizing Committee

From the idea created by the three men on the hood of a truck, to its start in Roundup, Montana to its completion in Billings, Montana, the project organizing groups needs and group participants grew exponentially in the history making event until its kickoff. There will never be another centennial celebration in Montana for obvious reasons. However, in 2023 those of us in the United States of America and worldwide will have experienced and fought our way through a negative life changing event of a pandemic. Many if not all of us have been devastated or impacted either directly or indirectly (death totals as of today reaching 400,000 in the United States) in ways that have not been experienced since 1918 and the Spanish Flu epidemic.

The time has arrived, for yet another special once in a generation cattle drive celebrating toughness, strength, fight-on and never give up battle cry that represents our nations fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

To accomplish this goal, I need the assistance of those that put together the original cattle drive back in 1989. My hope is to study their plans of implementation and action fast forward to 2023.

"The Great American Wagon and Cattle Drive"

Celebrating America's Resilient History and Strong Future

September 1 - 10, 2023

Every effort will be made to learn from the successes of the Latigo Corp and the Roundup 89'ers from the original centennial organizing groups as they did many things right and should be replicated in 2023.

Please follow this blog as progress is being made toward this goal. At this point the idea is similar to the moment of those three guys imaging an epic idea on the dusty hood of their pickup. Nothing at this point is written in stone, but rather the thoughts of a new epic celebration is just beginning, with research and gathering available information from participants and organizers available from the 1989 event.

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