The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame (NDCHF) was conceived along a stretch of Highway 83 in October 1994 as seasoned western icon Evelyn Neuens, her sister Goldie Nutter, and 40 Years of North Dakota Rodeo author Phil Baird drove home from the 40th Anniversary of the Y’s Men’s Rodeo in Minot. En route, the trio realized that the state’s rich rodeo history was scattered to the wind and that faces and facts were fading with each aging generation. Baird proposed that they initiate an organization to honor North Dakota rodeo competitors. “Let’s do it! I’d rather wear out than rust out,” the 83-year-old Neuens said with a determined smile.
With Evelyn Neuens and Phil Baird tending the reins, gatherings were held in Dickinson and Mandan in early 1995 to assess public interest. Attendees noted that such an organization needed to include North Dakota ranchers and indigenous Native American people. Quickly, “the horse” became the rope that tied the groups and the history together.
The NDCHF was formally established with a board of directors in February 1995 and was officially incorporated in March. Fundraising, logo selection and non-profit status followed. An intense site selection process ensued. Veteran broadcast journalist Darrell Dorgan, Bismarck, became the first executive director in October 1997 and fund-raising continued.
In May 2005, the barbed wire ribbon was cut and the dream of a facility to recognize and honor North Dakota’s western heritage and culture became a reality.