How Fort Worth's rhinestone socialites bushwacked the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame

Then in March, the collection in Hereford was loaded up and brought over to Cowtown.

In a May 17 letter to Boecker, Hereford Mayor Robert Josserand asked if the now-empty building in Hereford, which is still owned by the hall of fame, might be donated to his city for building a local cultural and tourist center. "We would think that a portion of the display area could be used for a traveling Cowgirl Hall of Fame exhibit," he wrote.

Good luck on both counts.
Says Moncrief of the building, "It's for sale."

Nobody from the original Hereford crowd works in the hall's office now, or holds any place of much authority on the board.

"Those girls had no idea who the honorees are. They'd have to look up names in the SideSaddle [the organization magazine] when they have them on hold," says Shelly Burmeister, the Weatherford honoree.

The new management didn't renew Burmeister's one-year marketing contract in June, an outcome she considers "a real slap in the face."

Burmeister made a lot of friends in cowgirl circles as a rodeo organizer for Adolph Coors Co., where she worked to equalize prize money between the women barrel racers and the men on the broncos, and continues in the sport as a commentator and publicist.

"I don't want to come off as some pissed-off cowgirl," says Burmeister, who named her daughter after Fern Sawyer, the late cutting-horse champion. "But there's a pattern in the way they've treated people. You'd expect a little honesty and integrity. That's the cowgirl way. But that's not what you get."

Along with the new faces have come some very big plans.
A freestanding, 20,000-square-foot state-of-the-art museum is planned for Fort Worth's cultural district. And the new name will be rolled out soon, according to Boecker. Take a deep breath: It will be called the "National Museum of the American Cowgirl, Home of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame."

Washington-based architect David Schwarz, who designed the Ballpark in Arlington and several projects for the Bass family, was enlisted to do a site plan, due in December. Van Romans, a Walt Disney Co. vice president, was brought in in May as an advisor to the project, which promises to include the latest in visual technologies.

"We as an institution have started getting comfortable with the creative end, the story we are trying to tell. We'll start seeing some visualization of what that concept is," says the new executive director, Pat Riley, who had worked in New York as a film and television producer before she married into one of Fort Worth's horsiest families.

Her father-in-law, one insider confides, has from his Aledo ranch "sold a horse to every rich guy in the city." Her mother-in-law, Mitzi Lucas Riley, is a former rodeo competitor and daughter of the famed Tad Lucas, an eight-time overall world champion rodeo rider from Fort Worth, and one of the hall's most illustrious honorees.

Riley talks about the new museum as if she were pitching a film concept--giving a hint at the Disney approach. "The first step is to write a script, and we have been coming up with a storyline since the end of May," he says.

"When a person walks into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, what do we want them thinking?...Whether they are from India or Indiana, they will in their mind have a picture of what the cowgirl is, the image formulated by the media...When they walk through the door and come out of the museum, they'll have an understanding that the mythology is true. There are live women who are the basis for it."

Says Kit Moncrief, when asked a less abstract question about what the museum will cost: "It will be 7 or 8 [million dollars], depending on how much interactive technology you put in."

She says fund raising will begin early next year, and the museum will open sometime in 1999.

With Fort Worth's abundantly successful record of building museums, hospitals, and other big projects with private philanthropy, it wouldn't be wise to bet against those promises. But, possibly mindful of criticism from Hereford that nothing appears to be getting done, the organization has more than once overstated what it has accomplished.

Both Moncrief and Riley say Burbank-based BRC Imagination Arts has been hired to design the new museum, but a call last week to its president, Bob Rogers, found that to be a surprise to him.

"We're talking with them," says Rogers, who designed the $70-million Space Center Houston, which opened in 1992. "We'd love the project."

Also, reporters have been told for almost a year that the museum will mount some sort of traveling display. That too has yet to materialize.

Three years ago, Sherry Delamarter had big plans, too. With the backing of millionaire investor Peter Soros, she was ready to take her Cowgirl Hall of Fame Bar-B-Q restaurants nationwide, a kind of Hard Rock Cafe meets Little Miss Sure Shot.

"He wasn't about to put in his millions unless my licensing agreement was tightened up with the board," she says, referring to the group she'd dealt with back in Hereford.

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