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Mini hot air balloons? New organizers weaving community ideas into plans for NIC Fest’s return

Andy Couch, executive director of the Nicolaysen Art Museum, looks at ideas from the community for NIC Fest 2022. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — Some fresh faces are helping organize NIC Fest’s return to Casper this summer and are weaving ideas gathered from the community into plans for the event.

“We got a ton of ideas from people,” Andy Couch, who came on as executive director of the Nicolaysen Art Museum in October 2020, said Thursday next to a NIC Fest idea board in the lobby of the museum. “Some of these are great and super fun.”

Ideas from the community that are being incorporated include everything from face paint to an “Art on Wheels” car show to a new “Battle of the Bands” in which musicians will compete for a cash prize and a new electric guitar donated by Rockstar Music. There will also be mini hot air balloons.

“We’re going to have some hot air balloons, weather permitting,” Couch said. “They’re smaller ones, but they’re really incredible. They’re remote controlled. They’re coming up from Albuquerque.”

Museum donor Nancy Boston’s daughter Blythe is helping organize the hot air balloons, which will be an activity kids can try out in the Family Fun Zone. Another new feature of the June 10–12 NIC Fest will be sand castles by Catherine Morris, who recently won some awards at the Texas Sandfest for her creations.

There will also be four muralists painting exterior and interior walls of the museum during the festival, according to Couch. Those artists are Jesse Bell, Conor Mullen, Kim Breed and the spray paint artist who goes by the name Rugie, who puts on summer camps at the museum.

“Some of them have expressed interest in working towards the evening, but I think there’ll be more of demonstrating throughout the festival,” Couch said of the mural artists.

While there will still be artists outside in the big tent, NIC Fest will feature part of its Artist Alley indoors in the McMurry Gallery for the first time.

“We’re trying to move NIC Fest a little bit inside this year in a way because we really want people coming in and checking out our great exhibits,” Couch said. “We’re really excited about that because we’ll have the opportunity to bring people inside and cool down and check out what we have going on.”

Organizers are also working with Skull Tree Brewing, Gruner Brothers Brewing and Oil City Beer Co. to ensure local craft beers are available during NIC Fest. Skull Tree is brewing a new beer specifically for the event. The beer will likely be named something like “Kopposaurus” in honor of artist Jim Kopp, who designed the dinosaur logo for this summer’s NIC Fest, according to Couch.

Couch has helped organize big events at other museums, but this will be his first NIC Fest.

“All I’ve heard since I’ve moved to Casper is, ‘When is NIC Fest?’ and then, ‘When is NIC Fest coming back?'” Couch said, “so I’m really hopeful that it’ll be one of our best ones. We’re working on all the merch right now with Jim Kopp’s design.”

The committee organizing NIC Fest includes artists and brewers and people like Trinity Attaway, the museum’s new events coordinator.

Trinity Attaway, new events coordinator at the Nicolaysen Art Museum, is bringing back some past activities and weaving new ones into plans for NIC Fest 2022. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

“It’s really interesting to work with the whole group of people, watching something where all of your ideas come together,” Attaway said Thursday. “I’ve had help from a lot of really awesome people and I’ve made a lot of really cool connections.”

“We’ve got a lot of different things happening for it.”

In addition to bringing back things from the past like the car show and adding new activities like the Battle of the Bands, Attaway is paying attention to some of the more subtle aspects of event planning. She has attended NIC Fest events in previous years and knows that people enjoy checking out things like music and the artists’ tent, but would like to see a little better circulation between different parts of the festival.

“One of the things that I did was instead of having food truck alley where they’re all lined up is trying to place them around so that it flows a little bit better,” Attaway said.

The idea is that spreading food trucks out might lead to people asking where someone got a particular food item that looks tasty and then going to check out that part of the festival — a way to encourage people to check out more of what is going on. The Family Fun Zone, for instance, was historically an area that Attaway said seemed a little isolated from the rest of the festival.

“Hopefully the Family Fun Zone really comes together, because if I can get the elements that I want in it, it should be pretty interactive and inclusive,” she said.

Attaway said organizers are still looking for some artists and musicians to participate in NIC Fest and that anyone interested can reach out anytime up to the week before the event. There is also a need for volunteers to help with things like setup and cleanup. NIC Fest is getting some help from Serve Wyoming to recruit volunteers, but anyone interested in helping out can also check out the NIC Fest website to see ways to get involved.

Attaway is hoping this year’s NIC Fest is a hit and will look to learn lessons for the future.

“I’m really excited to hear feedback after it and see what everybody thought,” she said.

More information about the music lineup for NIC Fest 2022 is available in this story.