From 1870 to 1885, Ogallala, Nebraska, was a bustling stopover for cattlemen to haggle over prices. Money changed hands quickly in these boom times, and just as quickly was spent in any number of local saloons, like the Cowboy’s Rest and the Crystal Palace.
The cattle trade, and Ogallala’s position at the end of the Texas Trail cattle drive, also meant that it was a tough place filled with tough guys. During these boom years, there were reportedly 17 murders, earning the little town a big reputation, some calling it the “Gomorrah of the Cattle Trail.” This reputation would only be bolstered by a 1877 Union Pacific train robbery by the infamous Black Hills Bandits—a plan that was hatched in the bandits’ camp in Ogallala.
There’s a sense of danger about the Old West. Gunslingers mingling with dancehall girls rubbing elbows with rich cattlemen side-by-side with saloon owners. It made for some wild bedfellows and even wilder times. But thanks to the Front Street Crystal Palace Revue, visitors can relive those times in a much safer way.
A replica of that boom town of old, Front Street has a museum, gift shop, steakhouse, saloon, and is the home of the Crystal Palace Cowboy Revue—a live show recreating the past that has been running for nearly 60 years—the longest-running summer theater in the state.
Front Street was opened in 1964 as a way to bring the town’s history to life. And the Cowboy Revue is a big part of that. It’s a sweeping musical production, styled in period costumes, and true to the town’s history, includes gunfights. It’s also a huge part of the community as local high school and college students make up the bulk of the cast. It’s a big production for an equally big location; Front Street spans 16,000 square feet, and takes up a full city block.
Know Before You Go
Although Front Street is open year-round, the Crystal Palace Revue only runs from Memorial Day weekend to mid-August. Tickets are required and are available on the Front Street website. The Front Street Cowboy Museum offers free admission.