Some would think the new manager of Deadwood’s Outlaw Square would be the sheriff, but Bobby Rock is settling in after being tagged in March as the director of the town’s newest outdoor entertainment venue, slated for opening this fall on historic Main Street.
The 55-year-old Rock was reared in Fargo, and even though he’s never watched the hit Coen brothers’ film of the same name, he distinctly remembers the North Dakota community’s frigid winter weather where, “the north wind blows straight south out of Canada down through the Red River Valley.”
Rock worked as a printer through high school and while attending two years of college at the North Dakota State College of Science, where he majored in graphic arts and, when not in the classroom, was putting out newspapers, cards and letterheads. After nearly nine years of “ink under the nails, on the clothes and an oily, smelly look,” Rock became a nightclub DJ, which led to a radio broadcasting career that lasted nearly 30 years.
The radio career brought him to the Black Hills and introduced him to Deadwood in 1998. Rock spent a short stint in Sheridan, Wyo., in 2010, but returned to the Hills to assist with sales and marketing at the Golden Hills Inn in Lead. In 2013, he got back into radio management in Cody, Wyo., where he spent five years before coming back to Deadwood in 2016, as a hotel sales director.
“I jumped at it because, well, it’s Deadwood,” Rock said. “Deadwood is like family and I have friends who are here that I consider family. It’s such a tight-knit community filled with great people and that’s what attracts me to this town, plus it’s so active, always something going on.
“Very rarely is there a dull moment in Deadwood, but not only that, it’s the hub to so many wonderful things the Black Hills has to offer. I mean what other community has over 320 miles of groomed snowmobile trails right outside their door or a 109-mile graded hiking/bike trail that stretches from one end of the Hills to the other? Along with that we have countless opportunities to get outdoors, hike, bike, boat, fly fish, motorcycle riding. No one can ever claim there is nothing to do in or around Deadwood.”
Now, Rock finds himself in the midst of securing sponsors and planning schedules for Deadwood’s new $5 million Outlaw Square, an entertainment venue currently under construction in the famed National Historic District. So, we sat down with the new sheriff to find out what attracted him to the job and what residents and visitors should expect from the town’s newest attraction.
Q: What attracted you to the Outlaw Square position and personally, what do you hope to bring to the new job?
A: I was attracted to the Outlaw Square when the first discussions occurred about a gathering place and the two possible locations. Deadwood’s Main Street offers so much, but the one thing it lacked was green space, a place where locals and visitors can gather with their families and friends and enjoy some special entertainment outside of gaming. It represents an opportunity to help create something new and exciting in Deadwood and this location made the most sense because of the size of the space and the offering of the generous swap that was presented by the Silverado/Franklin, which made it possible for the project to move forward. Having volunteered emceeing onstage, behind the scenes and being a part of all of Deadwood’s major events for many years, I have a great understanding on how the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce operates and also how things work in Deadwood City government. That knowledge will help me in leading this project when it is completed. I’ve got a firm grasp on the marketing and creation of events and ideas that people want to see take place and help draw more people to Deadwood and help with our continued growth.
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Q: Tell us about this new entertainment venue in terms of the range of programming and what visitors and residents should expect when it opens this fall?
A: Well, I can tell you this won’t be a place that sits empty or quiet. It won’t be wasted space — this will be a venue that will have something going on the majority of the time, whether it is music on the stage, concerts, maybe school productions, lectures or talks in the gazebo, movie nights, skating in the winter, maybe even skating in the summer, farmers markets, early morning yoga sessions, just a wide variety of activities are being planned. Along with that, Outlaw Square will be available for private or local groups to use on a rental basis, whether as a part of the square or the whole square, they can rent the space for their event. What’s unique right now is that it’s a blank canvas and myself, along with others, get to create so many things. As it was put to me, I’ve been given an empty living room. Now it’s up to me to fill it with fun furniture.
Q: What do you believe will surprise visitors to Outlaw Square the most when it’s completed?
A: I think they’ll be most surprised by the look of the square. In keeping with the history of Deadwood, it’s going to have that gallows look, with a fun water feature, and a sluice box on the corner of Main and Deadwood streets. The stage will be built with large wooden beams and the bricks will resemble the old brick buildings that used to be on that corner.
Q: So many local boosters supported this venue, working for nearly five years to bring it to fruition. Why go to all the work?
A: This vision started long ago with some locals and all that hard work and efforts by those was to create the idea of having a gathering place for people and families to enjoy a variety of different activities that will enhance Deadwood as a whole. Deadwood is a great gaming town, but now we are creating a great all-around community and that’s the vision those individuals had and I applaud them, because their vision is happening and, furthermore, that vision is being supported by so many businesses within both the gaming and retail sectors. They’ve all come together in their support of Outlaw Square and in helping it become a reality.
Q: In your fondest dreams, looking a decade down the line, what do you hope is accomplished with Outlaw Square and what do you hope visitors will walk away knowing about Deadwood and its rich history?
A: Looking a decade down the line, I hope we’ve accomplished the initial dreams and visions that the original group had and that Outlaw Square is the place where locals gather and a place where visitors enhance their Deadwood experience. Not only will they learn about Deadwood’s grand past by visiting the museums and reading about it on the interpretive signs throughout town, but also know that, yes, Deadwood is a great gaming town, but it’s also a community that has so much more to offer and that it’s a place that you want come back to because you had so much fun.