It turned out to be one of those typically beautiful Arizona days. It had been raining, which is unusual for Arizona , and mountain men as well as cowboys from all over the West had to be worried as the moseyed into town for the big shindig. But not to worry, the weather turned out just as it was ordered.
The National Festival of the West is one of the largest Western events of its kind in the United States. The largest celebration of the Old West and the American Cowboy, it's held at Scottsdale's beautiful "West World" facility, where gathered vendors, cowboys, poets, Old West movie stars and a cast of characters right out of vintage Western films.
This year Michael Martin Murphy and other country western singers had concerts throughout the event.
The National Festival of the West (NFOW) provides one of the largest western shopping experiences in the country. There were over 250 exhibitors, and shoppers could find everything in western merchandise imaginable.
Western silver screen heroes visited with guests at the festival. There was a celebrity panel with discussions and one could learn, firsthand, what happened on past western movie sets. Celebrities were more than willing to autograph during sessions.
Celebrities also participated in one of the festival's most popular event, Cowboy Mounted Shooting.
Mounted shooting competition ran throughout the entire weekend. This fast-paced, six-gun shootin', horse runnin' sport is exciting to watch as cowboys from all over the USA compete against each other.
Competitors dressed in traditional Old West clothing, riding as fast as they could through an obstacle course while shooting at balloons with lever-actions and sixguns. Kind of like simulating an Old West gunfight on horseback.
Mountain men, dressed in traditional buckskin garb, set up their Rendezvous, with lodges, tents, and teepees. The rugged mountain men (and mountain women) demonstrated crafts and survival skills necessary during the era of the fur trapper. Mountain man games were staged where tomahawk, knife, and frying pan throwing, as well as other skillful games, were demonstrated. Stop for a spell and hear stories ranging from "injun battles to bar huntin" and more from these rugged mountain characters.
To bring the Old West gunfight alive a Western town is erected and visitors are able to watch authentic gunfights. Yep, real shooting and dying - well, kind of. After watching the killin', one could visit the many chuck wagons for a traditional Old-West meal. Definitely worth it.
The 2004 Festival's theme was "100 Years of Heroes" with a special tribute to John Wayne.
Each year at the NFOW a prestigious award is given to men and women who have contributed to the continuance of the Western life-style and who have demonstrated the characteristics so admired in the American cowboy. This year Jack Palance, Robert Fuller and The Western Channel (presented by Dennis Weaver) will receive the "Cowboy Spirit Award".
Make plans to come visit the 2005 National Festival of the West. For more information on this event contact National Festival of the West at P.O. Box 12966, Dept. CAS, Scottsdale, AZ 85267; 602-99603287; www.festivalofthewest.com ¤