Blacksmithing, trail rides & more at 22nd annual Cowboy Festival

The 22nd annual Cowboy Festival will return to the Empire Ranch in Sonoita this Saturday and Sunday to celebrate all things Western.

Faith Boice, president of the Empire Ranch Foundation, said the festival used to be a one-day event but they decided to change things up this year.

“We made it two days for this year because it was one day for a couple of hours and people began complaining because they couldn’t see everything that was happening since we had everything running at the same time,” Boice said. “We’re expecting about 3,000 people over the whole weekend.”

The program includes plenty of fun and educational activities for the whole family. In the arena, festival goers will see exhibitions of mounted shooting by the Tombstone Ghost Riders, mounted calvary by the B Troop 4th U.S. Cavalry, cattle, horsemanship and more.

“The purpose of this festival is to promote Western heritage,” Boice said.

Demonstrations of Western skills like blacksmithing, leather working, Reata braiding, trick roping and telegraph
operation will be taking place all weekend.

There will also be live music by award-winning local Western musicians, Boice said. The stage program includes performances by Mountain Saddle Band, Permafrost Road, and Carol Markstrom.

Opportunities to learn more about Western lifestyles are available through the Cowboy Conversations series, which include presentations about topics such as mining, daily life in a Spanish presidio in the 18th century, and ranching. Western authors such as Lewis Kirts and John Buzzard will be at the festival. Plus, there will be vendors and four food trucks on site — El taco Asere Hot Dogs y Mas, Craving Sweets and Treats, Willysphillys and Pasta Filipina. 

Attendees will also have the chance to participate in a 45-minute trail ride. Riders must be age eight or older and minors must be accompanied by parents or guardians. 

The registration fee for the trail ride is $50 and there are rides beginning at 10:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. A silent auction is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a bucket raffle is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Boice said there is an ATM on site.

A $20 donation per vehicle is requested for admission to the festival.

“It is a paved road and when people park their car, they could ride a horse-drawn wagon to the area where the festivities will be going on,” Boice said. “We also have handicap parking.”

Boice said the Empire Ranch Foundation is supported by donations and the festival is put on by volunteers – community members may get involved with the foundation by visiting their website.