For 20 years, cowboys and cow folk have made their way into Kamloops, British Columbia, for the annual Cowboy Festival.
BC’s pioneers come to life during the Cowboy Festival Dinner Theater.
Drifting down into Cowtown
This year from March 17-20, the Kamloops Cowboy Festival will take over the Calvary Temple and the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Centre in Kamloops. Saddle makers, cowboy poets, musicians, fine artists and local ranching legends, will all align in the city to celebrate the legacy of the working cowboy.
The entire list of on-stage entertainment is guaranteed to be authentic. According to radio host Hugh McLennan, it really says something if you have the BC festival on your resume. Those who are hand picked to be part of the entertainment take great pride in delivering a unique cowboy show.
McLennan has been a fixture of the event since it’s inception at the Kamloops Bull Sale, almost two decades ago. He explained that the essence of this festival is to immerse the audience in the working cowboy life. Good cowboy poetry is all about delivering the most captivating picture of this unbridled lifestyle.
“You can just see a picture of what the poet is reciting,” explains McLennan. “The images you see with the horses galloping down the sides and their hearts pounding. It’s just amazing.”
Good poetry, he comments, will put you in the saddle. According to McLennan, the entertainment and audiences at the BC Cowboy Festival tend to really know what ranching and cowboying is all about.
“We hear that the Kamloops audience gets it. Some of the material could get lost in an urban audience, however the terms and lifestyle presented on this stage is understood. People who are superstars in the industry, find that Kamloops offers an enthusiastic crowd. People leave on a high. They are proud to be a part of it.”
As McLennan points out, a lot of festival newbies quickly realize that this style of life is pretty much alive and well in this part of Canada.
“It still happens here. One thing that makes ranching possible here is the large grazing permits and you can’t move cattle with a quad. You had better make sure you have a good horse and cow dog.”
The lure of being a ranching cowboy is a given. This lifestyle provides a certain freedom that no one else may be able to experience. Here at the Kamloops Cowboy Festival, one will discover that ranching cowboys have not yet painted their last chapter in the history book.
Long before the BC Cattleman’s Association was formed at Kamloops in 1889, the city was known as the hub of the province’s interior cattle operations. Originally, the Kamloops Cowboy Festival was founded during the annual Kamloops Bull Sale in March. The first festival was held conveniently held right in the middle of the sale ring.
Bill Miner was a reowned train robber through the last 19th and early 20th centuries. He was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but made his way up through the northwest, robbing trains and stage coaches. As legend has it, he as the first to use the phrase, “Hands up!” Miner eluded the authorities until his capture near Kamloops at Monte Creek in 1906. To this day, locals believe that the hills around Kamloops may still hold Miner’s hidden stashes of hijacked treasures.
Arid rolling hills, bunch grass and jack pines – this was the environment that spawned the imagination of the pioneers in BC’s cow country. Today you will find remnants of the cattleman who cultivated the rugged terrain of BC’s ranch lands.
Take a drive out into the country and discover the region’s cattle history. The Quilchena Cattle Company at the Quilchena Hotel, Hat Creek Ranch and the prestigious Douglas Lake Ranch, are some of the province’s most renowned ranching operations and historical sites. All three locations can be found within an hour and a half of Kamloops and are worth the drive.
If you are in the mood for some downtown activities, shine up your boots and take a guided tour through the Kamloops Museum. Encounter traces left by those who pioneered the Thompson Nicola region. Chinese Legacies: Building the Canadian Pacific Railway, is the museum’s temporary exhibition running from January 10 to April 30. The exhibit will be showcasing the story of Chinese laborers who helped build the Canadian Pacific Railway through Port Moody and Craigellachie, BC.
Kick off your cowboy boots, put your skis or hiking boots on, and see what’s nestled in the hills at Sun Peaks Resort. In March, you will find everything from snowshoe campfire cookouts, World Cup skiing and first class dining experiences.
If you are in the mood to take in some more cowboy’n, take a ride into the sagebrush at the Tod Mountain Guest Ranch. Or stay close to town and spend a couple nights at the South Thompson Inn. Nestled along the shores of the South Thompson river, this sensuous escape offers activities such as golfing and guest ranch retreats.