The long road home
Mark Walkup’s nationwide journey before settling out west
Teamwork seems intrinsic to Mark Walkup, the new general manager of the Hungry Moose: from college football to the cheerleading squad at Auburn University to playing the bass guitar professionally for popular punk bands. He has travelled nearly every nook and cranny of the nation – that is part of the reason he wants to be in Big Sky.
“I saw the different places and how people are a product of their environment. I wanted my kids to be a product of this culture. It’s healthy. There are no strip malls, they are outside. They are not inside watching T.V.,” he said, explaining that the kids will often jump from one outdoor pursuit to another before returning home.
His travels began and worldview expanded early on: summers spent in the Dominican Republic with his dad and the rest of his time with his mother in Florida.
The human psyche has been of great interest to him: his undergraduate degree was psychology with a business minor before he went to graduate school for psychology at the University of Alabama.
That coursework has come in handy in life and business, he says. People are fascinating.
With a slight southern drawl he speaks of his efforts to fully participate in life. Instead of just watching football he wanted to play it. Instead of just listening to music, he chose to perform it.
Sometimes, when driving down the highway, instead of turning on the stereo, he listens to the tires or to the wind – rhythm. Music is more to him than just noise and it is more than appreciation of skill.
His love of music goes deeper. It is the collaboration, the meshing of different opinions and talents to generate something unique, “the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of what you are creating together as a band.” He chased that artistic quest for creation; that feeling until 2000. Living in Austin, Texas at the time, he grew tired of the lack of stability found in a musician’s life.
So, he got a job with Delaware North and worked for the company for nearly two decades. Before he met his wife at the Grand Canyon, he used to escape to nearby forest service land. He traversed dirt roads with Jeeps and Toyota trucks he rebuilt himself – “miles and miles of wilderness.”
From the Grand Canyon, he was transferred to West Yellowstone and later began running the hotel division in Montana. He has no regrets of his venture west.
Dirt biking and motocross have become serious hobbies.
“My son is a little racer as well,” he said.
As the kids became more and more entrenched in Big Sky activities and hobbies, including Big Sky Ski Education Foundation, downhill mountain biking and soccer, he and his wife Ece decided to fully commit to the community: They purchased Big Sky Print and Ship three years ago, which Ece runs.
Now, the couple embraces their roots with ethnic cuisine: Ece prepares Turkish meals and Walkup shares his culinary skills learned in Hawaii, which is a melting-pot of diversity, he said.
“The Turkish culture is definitely in our household. And we have Turkish friends who live in Wyoming,” he said. They celebrate New Year’s with Raki, the signature drink of Turkey – made of distilled grapes and aniseed, it is also called Lion’s Milk.
Together, they embrace their heritage and life influences while forging a path forward in the little mountain town they love.