Silversmith Byrd Moss demonstrates his craft at the Empire Ranch Cowboy Festival. Photo by Chris Leon

The historic Empire Ranch came alive again for the 20th Empire Ranch Cowboy Festival on November 6-7. For the first time, the Festival was expanded to two days, and over 2,400 excited participants enjoyed the beautiful weather and wealth of activities.

B Troop 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment (Memorial) provided precision riding performances in the arena. Lanny Leach, Joel Eliot, and George Masek demonstrated horsemanship and cattle handling techniques. Working cattle dogs, The BLM Wild Horse & Burro performances were enjoyed by all. Demonstrations by the Spanish Barb Horse Association allowed a close look at these historic horses. And the skilled and colorful riding of the Charros y Modelos de Tucson and Copper State Renegades Drill Team never cease to impress.

Performers on the Music Stage included Dan McCorison, the Broken Chair Band, Randy Huston, Jon Messenger and Way Out West. The Dance Group of Tucson performed traditional Mexican dances.

Western skills demonstrators included Bill Schock (branding), Osuna Boots (boot making), Phil Parks (leatherworking), Dick Schorr (reata braiding), Brad Faulkner (saddlemaking), Byrd Moss (silversmithing), and Jeff Eppley (vintage engines). 

Author Nancy Turner and musician Janice Deardorff perform “These Is My Words and Music,” based on stories of Arizona Pioneer Sarah Agnes Prine. Photo by Kevin Deardorf

The Cowboy Conversations were led off by author Nancy E. Turner and musician Janice Deardorff. Their presentation, “These is my Words & Music,” featured Turner’s stories of her great grandmother, Arizona pioneer Sarah Agnes Prine, and Deardorff’s songs inspired by Sarah. 

Bunker DeFrance, Marty Freese, and Gene Freese spoke about Western movie making and the movies filmed in Empire Ranch territory. Authors and podcasters H. Alan Day and Russell True entertained with their Cowboy Up stories. Faith Boice and Ian and Addie Tomlinson provided personal perspectives on Empire Ranch history. Local history stories were shared by Charles Hancock (Buffalo soldiers), Doug Hocking (train robberies), and JJ Lamb (the story of Vail, AZ).

Rex Dalton’s EZ Cattle Company Cow Camp Café & Chuckwagon demonstrated chuckwagon cooking during the day and served up a steak dinner on Saturday evening to 150 guests. Joel Eliot serenaded the dinner guests with his guitar and Western songs. On Sunday morning Pastor Larry Whitney of the Mustang Mountain Cowboy Church led the Cowboy Church service, with music provided by the Broken Chair Band.

Livestock exhibitors included Horse’n Around Rescue Ranch (Steve Boice & Theresa Warrell), Susan Shea’s mini horses, ‘Dinky Donkeys,’ Forever Home Donkey Rescue & Sanctuary, and the Sahuarita 4-H Club. Nine authors and 17 vendors reported brisk sales, and 18 nonprofit organizations provided exhibits and educational opportunities. 119 riders enjoyed the 45-minute trail rides of Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. 

Over 200 presenters, demonstrators, authors, and volunteers made the 2021 Cowboy Festival possible. The Empire Ranch Foundation is so grateful for their contributions.