LARAMIE — The Buckhorn Bar and Parlor has been waiting for ESPN to come to town.
Staff at the historic venue — “Laramie’s oldest standing bar,” it boasts — had hoped ESPN’s College GameDay crew would bring their studio show for the 2016 Mountain West Football Championship Game between Wyoming and San Diego State, or when Wyoming hosted Pac-12 power Oregon last fall.
Neither happened. But, thanks to one of the main reasons Laramie was even in that discussion, “The Buck” is finally getting its wish.
ESPN will have cameras at the bar Thursday night for the first round of the NFL Draft. Former Cowboy quarterback Josh Allen is all but a lock to go in that first round, and most believe that UW fans won’t have to wait long to hear his name. Their reaction will be broadcast live on the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.”
“It’s kind of a long time coming,” bar manager Jason Tays said, “over the last couple of years something that we’ve been looking forward to.”
If GameDay, a weekly college football pregame show, had come to UW, Tays said the Buckhorn staff had hoped the bar would have figured into its plans.
“Whether they came downtown to get a pregame thing going, the Buckhorn always has the ‘Breakfast at the Buck,’” he said of the establishment’s own football pregame festivities. “So we figured that would be a good thing just to show Laramie and the Wyoming football culture.”
You can find more than just football culture at the Buckhorn. When Allen is drafted, the Buckhorn can boast that one of its own patrons is on the draft stage in North Texas.
“We saw him right after the end of the regular season,” Tays said. “He came down. He’s always super friendly. Any time you have the personal connection with the players, it’s extra special. The last few years between just Josh Allen and (Wyoming men’s basketball players) Josh Adams, Larry Nance, any of those guys that would come down to visit here and there, it’s always good to see them move on and do something else.”
Allen, Wyoming’s starting quarterback the past two seasons, is believed to be in consideration for the draft’s first overall pick, which is held by the Cleveland Browns. Former Natrona County defensive tackle Taven Bryan, who played college football at Florida, is also expected to be a first-round pick.
The Buckhorn also is a frequent host for UW athletes returning to Laramie, Tays said, including wide receiver Ryan Yarborough, a second-round NFL draft pick himself, and UW basketball standout Brandon Ewing.
“It’s always kind of nice when you know them during their playing days,” Tays said. “A lot of times when they come back to town as alumni, they’ll reach out to the Buckhorn. They know that something’s always going to be going on down there.”
The Buckhorn’s Facebook event for the draft party has 313 people “interested” and 88 “attending,” but Tays is expecting numbers larger than that.
“We’ve already reserved basically every table we have,” he said. “We’re planning on blocking off the street in front of the bar. We’re going to have a stage with a DJ outside and a beer garden outside. I talked to one of the owners today and he said from what he’s saying at least 500 people are already planning on it.”
Capacity for the bar is around 750, including the added capacity the outdoor area allows. The Buckhorn recently expanded its parlor section, adding a “mezzanine room” and installing a new staircase.
The Buckhorn opened in 1900 and has been owned by three different families, Tays said, with the current ownership dating back to 1969. The bar was moved to its current location in 1914.
It has served as a filming site for events and music videos in the past, Laramie band Teenage Bottlerocket’s 2017 “Why the Big Pause” video being the most recent.
“But not really any actual live kind of TV stuff,” Tays said. “This is the first thing I’ve been a part of.”
Tays said ESPN is expected to film in the historic front bar area. The network is not sending a reporter, owner Tyler Hopkins said.
The draft party begins at 2 p.m. The NFL Draft itself begins at 6 p.m. The first round is the only round held Thursday. Admittance is $5 for the 21-plus event, and attendees will receive a full pint and swag with their cover charge. Weitzels Wings will be serving at the event.
Tays said because that the Buckhorn doesn’t typically serve food, it’s not “traditionally a sports bar, by any means.”
“But when we do plan them out specifically,” he said, “we usually get a pretty good crowd for sure.”
It’s hard to imagine that won’t be the case Thursday.
“It’s just going to be kind of nice to do another event supporting UW football,” Tays said.