“Dream back beyond the cramping lanes to the glories that have been
Camp smoke on the sunset plains, riders loping in
Loose reined and rowelled heel to spare the wind their only guide
For youth was in the saddle there with half the world to ride”
The above poem was penned by cowboy and poet Badger Clarke and speaks of a time when the cowboy was king in North America.
Spallumcheen’s Historic O’Keefe Ranch will host a three-day Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival and Campfire series July 29-31 to pay tribute to these kings in the saddle, cowboys.
The influence of the cowboy in British Columbia began with the gold rush into the Cariboo region. With miners flocking to growing mining centers like Barkerville, men in the saddle saw an opportunity to bring beef to these areas and so began the history of the cowboy in B.C.
The Okanagan valley was a significant part of this history as cattle were driven up from Oregon and as far as California by cowboys, many of which would become the initial ranchers in the province.
The O’Keefe Ranch festival will kick off Friday evening, July 29, with the Cowboy Dinner Show and campfire. This popular event is back for one night only. Tour the ranch and be hosted by a character from the early days of the O’Keefe Ranch. Learn how to rope like a real cowboy then sit down to Cowboy Cuisine, and let Rob Dinwoodie and band Open Range with historian, author and cowboy poet Ken Mather weave the tale of the B.C. Cowboy through song, poetry and story.
As in past Cowboy Dinner Shows, this year will include a drama that depicts real characters of the B.C. west. The cowboy evening is celebrated around the campfire as in the days of the Old West. Sing songs under the stars and hear stories that will bring the west to life.
Days 2 and 3 of the festival Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and 31, are event filled days with demonstrations and hands-on activities for adults and children to do and learn.
Animal education, blacksmith and wheelwright demonstrations, wagon rides, kids cowboy and cowgirl crafts and old fashioned games and “rodeo” activities in the afternoon. Enjoy the ranch’s roaming cowboy troubadour, Duane Marchand, a local Indigenous musician from the Okanagan Indian Band.
Of course everybody knows a good cowboy needs a cow-dog. Watch cow-dogs in action at the Greenhow Arena in the afternoons.
The Indigenous people of the Okanagan were instrumental in both driving cattle into the goldfields but also in working at the original ranches in the Okanagan. View the Indigenous cowboy exhibit in the Greenhow museum and see an authentic Indigenous cowboy teach about the tack and clothing he wore and still wears as a cowboy today.
On Saturday afternoon only, take in a poetry workshop or jump onstage in an open mike session for all aspiring poets and musicians.
Saturday evening is the highlight of the weekend with authentic cowboy poetry and music. Mather, Jocelyn Winterburn, Butch Falk and Gordie West take to the stage for a evening of poetry and song. Enjoy homemade desserts and licensed bar service. The evening will also have an opportunity to learn square and line dancing.
Sunday morning will commence with cowboy Church at St. Ann’s Catholic church on site at 11 a.m. Hear cowboy songs of faith and a down-to-earth cowboy message as you start the day.
“This years Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival is a great way to spend time with your family and support
this important historical site,” says O’Keefe Ranch. “If you have guests visiting or you haven’t been for awhile come on out and enjoy a weekend to make your summer. With everything from heritage buildings, museum exhibitions, interactive farm animals, a unique gift shop (full of local goods!), and other added special touches, O’Keefe Ranch is the perfect place to hold this special event.