Historic O'Keefe Ranch holding Cowboy Festival, starting July 29

A cowboy tradition is born

An O'Keefe Ranch event is being hailed as the beginning of a tradition.

The three-day Historic O’Keefe Ranch Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival and campfire series kicks off July 29.

There was a time when cowboys were the kings of North America, as captured in a poem by cowboy and poet Badger Clarke: “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 influence of the cowboy in British Columbia began with the gold rush into the Cariboo region. With miners flocking to growing mining centres 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 was a significant part of this history, as cattle were driven from as far away as California by cowboys, many of whom would become the initial ranchers in the province.

Friday evening kicks off the weekend of activities 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 and then sit down to cowboy cuisine and let Rob Dinwoodie, the band Open Range and 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, by singing songs under the stars and hearing stories that will bring the Old West to life.

Saturday and Sunday are filled with demonstrations and hands-on activities for adults and children.

Animal education, blacksmith and wheelwright demonstrations, wagon rides, kids cowboy and cowgirl crafts and old fashioned games and “rodeo” activities in the afternoon.

Cow-dogs will be also in action at the Greenhow arena in the afternoons.

Roaming cowboy troubadour Duane Marchand, a local indigenous musician from the Okanagan Indian Band, will also be at the North Okanagan ranch.

The Indigenous people of the Okanagan were instrumental in driving cattle into the goldfields, but also in working on the original ranches of the Valley.

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 mic session for aspiring poets and musicians.

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