The Heart of the Hole

It is a square at the center of Jackson Hole’s community.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY Ryan dorgan

The annual lighting of the Town Square is the official kickoff to winter and usually happens the Friday evening after Thanksgiving. In addition to turning on all the holiday lights, the evening includes Christmas carols, cookies, and hot chocolate.

THE OFFICIAL NAME is George Washington Memorial Park, but to Jackson Hole residents and visitors, it’s the Town Square. Or just the Square. “It’s the hub of our town and the choke point from roads to the south and west up to Grand Teton and Yellowstone,” says photographer Ryan Dorgan. “With all of that traffic, you’re always bound to meet someone or see something interesting.”

That wasn’t always the case. The Town Square started off pretty dingy—a patch of dirt that didn’t even have so much as a tree. Cows, and sometimes elk, would wander through. That was around 1912, before Jackson was even incorporated. The first trees were planted in 1924. It was in 1932—when the state was looking to establish parks to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington—that significant upgrades began on the Square. These upgrades were funded by public donations ($150) and by funds from the New Deal’s Civil Works Administration (more than $6,000). In 1933, trees were planted in the newly named George Washington Memorial Park. (A plaque with that name wasn’t added until 1976.) In 1953, the Rotary Club built the first elk antler arch with shed antlers from the nearby National Elk Refuge. The arch was so popular that over the next sixteen years arches were erected on the three other corners.

“I tried to show the Town Square very simply for what it is,” Dorgan says. “It’s where we go each spring to catch a free concert. It’s where we take our families and friends to show off the boardwalks and western trinket shops and elk antler arches. It’s where we go to relax with some ice cream on a warm summer afternoon. It’s where we hold demonstrations and auctions and fundraisers. The Town Square—as much as locals do their best to avoid it during these busy summer months—really is the center of our little world here in Jackson Hole.” – Lila Edythe

During the annual ElkFest, private vendors sell shed antlers and mounts, but the event is most famous for the Boy Scout Antler Auction.

The Jackson Hole Shootout is the longest-running staged western gunfight in the country. It happens at 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.

Thousands of locals and visitors pack the Town Square for the annual fundraiser Old Bill’s Fun Run for Charities. Old Bill’s is the biggest fundraiser in the valley (in terms of money raised and number of participants).

The Town Square is perfect for concerts. The annual spring event Jackson Hole Rendezvous has held two Town Square concerts. In 2016, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats performed.

Once only a dirt field, the Town Square now has one of the nicest lawns in town and is a frequent spot for summer naps and picnics.

 

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