By Guest Blogger, Debbie MacRae
The Kamloops Cowboy Festival held annually in Kamloops, BC, celebrated its 20th anniversary this past March 17-20. The festival stuck to its roots, bringing back many of the same fabulous entertainers who have brought the sparkle to this musical feast and story-telling celebration for two decades. Having attended the 20th anniversary, an overwhelming appreciation of BC’s Cowboy culture emerged from the experience. Here are a few highlights from the 2016 event. We also pay tribute to the minds behind the magic.
Over a span of twenty years, with organizational ideology which included the likes of Connie and Butch Falk, Linda and Mike Puhallo, Hugh and Billie McLennan, Frank Gleeson and innumerable others, the concept of an enduring festival which would immortalize the cowboy heritage has become an iconic reality.
No festival is complete without the entertainers and competitors – the musicians and artists who showcase their ideas, manifest their lyrics into songs, and accompany their vocals with instrumentation. Without the entertainers and artists, there would be no Art Show or Rising Star Showcase.
Behind the scenes are the numerous contributions that bring this event to light. There\’s the poster and pin design and development: the production of event pins are done by Laurie Artiss out of Vancouver, BC. There\’s also the coordination of over 80 volunteers with hundreds of collective hours of service and dedication.
Shuttle drivers such as Sassy Six Gun, who dress the part, provide the service, sacrifice the hours, and ensure a memorable experience for entertainers and attendees. Volunteers like Red Allan, Trade Show Manager and his wife, Helen Allan, volunteer coordinator whose selflessness ensure a seamless experience; pushing carts, arranging the space and making endless phone calls for support.
The Guitar donated by Lee’s Music epitomizes the junction of western heritage with an illustration of First Nations totem artwork and cowboy persona. The Keeper of the West Award is provided in the form of a Sterling Silver Belt Buckle awarded to the entertainer with the best new song or poem reflecting the Festival’s mandate. The Joe Marten Memorial Award is offered for the Preservation of Cowboy Heritage in BC.
We recognize contributors to the Silent Auction, which funds are directed to ongoing financing of expenses; and the judges, without whose efforts the competition would not have merit; whose talents and voices echo the experience of their own cowboy contribution.
In the words of entertainer Tim Hus, “Being a judge is easy – until you try it… As an entertainer, people judge you. It’s a paradigm when you become the judge.”
Then there is the competition. This year the scores were incredibly close – with some judges awarding scores for one artist, and another scoring equal points for a competitor, creating a unique sense of competition and accomplishment.
Pastor Don Maione has been an integral part of the festival as he has so willingly offered his Calvary Church to performers; not only to showcase their talents, but also to share their collective appreciation for the gifts which have been bestowed upon them. Pastor Don approached the festival and said, ‘You have a need, and we have a facility.’
The cooks, the chefs, the attendants in concessions, the hostesses, and the chef in the breakfast bar – all contribute to make the Kamloops Cowboy Festival a memorable and unique appreciation of cowboy heritage – in a modern day environment. This year there were 48 booths and 4 tables in the trade show, all collectively marketing their innovations, decorations, and presentations. Everyone in attendance captures the Cowboy image in its best light and preserves that light to enhance the awareness of the urbanite; in song, word, color and deed.
“Cowboys are gentlemen,” to echo Leslie Ross. \”We need to carry on the message of the Cowboy ways.”
Gary Fjellgaard laments, “Whatever happened to my heroes? They don’t make ‘em like they did in \’44. But they were there when I needed them. I wish they’d all come back again, cuz I don’t have no heroes anymore…”
The heroes are the ones behind the scenes, the ones we don’t thank everyday – but we should; the minds behind the magic, like Mark and Kathy McMillan, who work on their ranch from dawn to dusk, and then pick up their pens and their pencils, their guitars and strings, and telephones and work the magic so that we can appreciate and preserve what some of us take for granted; the Cowboy heritage of the last frontier, in beautiful British Columbia.