Although Lou Wyman's Living History Ranch and Museum east of Craig is not officially open, it had its first busload of tourists stop by for a sneak preview.
Thirty-five people on World Wide Country Tours didn't seem to mind Wednesday that the project was under construction. They were thrilled with the idea Wyman is trying sell and thrilled with what they saw.
"This is our seventh tour where we actually get to meet the people who really live in the area," Marion Thomas of New Jersey said. "It is so much better than the tourist-trap kind of vacations."
Wyman is well known for having owned a private elk ranch near Hayden and for his collection of unusual and historical things.
"I've been collecting things for 50 years. At some point, you need to have those things where people can see and enjoy them," he said.
Wyman said he has wanted to establish a living history museum for a long time, and he recently bought Burl Klietz's property to launch the project. Klietz, who is 97, bought the ranch in 1948 and lives there. The ranch house is undergoing renovations and will be part of the attractions.
"He's actually 97 1/2 and quite a store of information," Wyman said. "He is not a bit hard of hearing and not a bit senile."
Wyman's goal is to establish a charitable trust so the museum will fund itself.
"This is better than most museums and should fund itself forever," Wyman said.
Wyman said he has seven semi-trailers full of items and a huge building full of artifacts in boxes, not including the big things such as Army equipment and railroad memorabilia.
"We plan to rotate the exhibits so there is always some new," he said.
A barn has been resurrected and a huge building for artifacts nearly is completed. Restoration on the Old Pagoda Store is complete and soon will be filled with things the store would have carried during its prime. The back third of the building will be used by seniors to sell their crafts. Restoration of the old house dating back to 1884 is the focus.
"The logs are all hand-cut from cottonwood off the river. It is a solid old place," he said.
Wyman said he hopes to open officially on Labor Day.
Tour Director Don Bruno said his company is familiar with Wyman and his collections.
"The Wyman place was one of our regular stops. Definitely one of the best," Bruno said.
Bruno's company offers tours similar to this across the United States and Europe because more people are interested in seeing places that show and tell history.
"It gives people a chance to meet people who live here and experience the area," Bruno said.